Lichen

May 01, 2008


Ever since I saw a photo of a hummingbird's nest, I have been enchanted by the tiny, mysterious beauty of lichen. The nest was covered in at least a couple different species of lichen, the majority of which was a type of shield lichen (see link below). I rode my bike over to my favorite book store,Bookman's Alley, and haunted the natural history section hoping to find a used lichen field guide. No such luck, so I broke down and bought a new copy of "Lichens of the North Woods" by Joe Walewski, and its been difficult to keep my nose out of it. Lichens are actually 2 (sometimes 3) different organisms living cooperatively: algae and/or cyanobacteria, and fungus. While algae can exist on its own, the specific species of fungi that have developed the ability to "lichenize" cannot. It's gets more complex, but that is a very, very basic explanation of a lichen. Lichens can also act as bio-indicators of air quality, as they are collectors of airborne substances. Good air quality may be signified by the lichen diversity in a given area. While walking the dog a couple of days ago, I picked up a small fallen branch and identified Powdery Goldspeck, and Mealy Rosette Lichen (not 100% sure about that). Wee! The painting above is of Cladonia fimbriata or Trumpet Lichen. For more information, and photos of lichen mentioned in this post:

Lichens of North America

8 comments:

  1. I love lichens! Can't id a single one but find them extremely beautiful. I'm fortunate to live in the midst of woods that haven't felt the touch of humans in 80+ years (well, except for my house). I've come across some rocks/cliffs that are covered thickly with very old lichen colonies. I'll have to send you some photos one of these days - they're gorgeous!

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  2. I bet you have beautiful lichen diversity! And I bet some of them are very old, indeed. I just read that there are lichen colonies up to 4500 years old! Identification seems pretty complex, especially since many can only be identified by chemical testing.

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  3. ohhh beautiful diana!! the watercolor bleeds are so whimsical, just like your subject :)

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  4. There's a great Alice Munro short story called 'Lichen.' It's not actually so much about lichen, but that image acts as a very powerful metaphor. I think you'd enjoy it (once you finish reading about the donkeys, that is). Kirby!!

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  5. And Alice Munro is Canadian, is she not? They have many lichens in Canada.

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  6. oh diana, how I have longed to wax all poetical on lichens! They make me totally geeky with delight! The day after you posted this, I went in to work to discover a new shipment (??) of moss and lichens, including some species of Cladonia that is red and nubbly and swells up when spritzed with water. (well, who wouldn't?) And while I am technically opposed to lichens in commerce, I do now have a small specimen on my front porch... Love that painting and hope to see more from our friends the lichens!!!

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  7. Diana:

    Elly and I spotted a blue-gray gnat catcher nest at Knob Noster S.P. here in Missouri last week. It was larger than a hummingbird nest, but still tiny, and was also lichen encrusted. I photographed some lichens on a hawthorne I found in the park. I'll post them on my blog in the next few days.

    Fiske

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  8. Gorgeous watercolor! I love lichens, too.

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