Friday, February 14, 2014

I'm A Lichen You!

This Valentines Day most of the Mid-Atlantic is under a deep blanket of fresh snow.  As the snow cover melts, however, keep an eye open for the brilliant colors of lichen, refreshed and moistened by the thaw. There are three substrates to look for: bare ground, rock, and tree trunks. Each surface will host its own lichen species which sounds very specialized and unique, until we learn that 8% of the earth's terrestrial surface is colonized by lichen!

Common goldspeck (Candelariella vitellina) brightens a garden of white rock shield (Xanthoparmelis sp.)

Yellow rock tripe flecks a dark background of dust lichen, spangled by patches of rock shield lichen.

Smooth rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata) embellishes a landscape of dust lichen (Lepraria sp.)

On siliceous rock, such as this quartzite, entirely different lichens grow - compared to granite substrates above.

Trees host many species of lichens not found on rock at all! These derive particular chemicals found only in oaks.

Rock tripe is edible and nutritious. Many native northerners and Appalachian tribes used it liberally in stews.

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