Friday, June 07, 2013

And now, trouble with lichen*

. . . and other imponderables.

A timeworn branch plays host to a variety of lichens and mosses, against a background of yellow irises with their feet in Bear Creek.

Branched lichen, probably Cladonia. The "leaves" (thalli) along the branch may be the same lichen. And a moss.

Blue?? Blue??

The cottonwoods are "snowing". Sometimes, the fluff is shed still adhering to the twigs. Lying in the duff at the base of a stand of mixed cottonwood and pine, we found many of these. Some still hold onto their downy blankets; a few are denuded, showing the seeds still on the twigs.

And here, something has gathered a heap of the white fluff. Odd. What would do that?

And more oddly still, it's all turning blue. This I have never seen. And what would do that? All I can think of is some mold or fungus.

In the same small woodlot, some unidentified slime or mold has turned a piece of downed white bark yellow and dingy grey-green.

The trouble with lichen*, molds, and fungi stems from their variability. No two lichens, even from the same species (of which about 20,000 have been identified, so far), are quite alike. Their shapes and colours vary depending on where they live, what materials they are attached to, even the weather. Even more, every small woodlot or forest, every tiny section of brush, may have developed its own variant, found only in that spot.
Approximately 1100 species of lichens have been reported to occur in British Columbia (B.C.). Although this figure may appear impressive, lichens are among the most poorly documented elements of the province's macroscopic flora. Judging from the rate at which new species are being added to the lichen flora, it seems likely that hundreds of additional lichens await discovery in this province. (The Lichens of British Columbia Illustrated Keys)
Mushrooms are as "bad" as lichens; a recent (2010) estimate in the American Journal of Botany suggests that there may be over 5 million species in the world. I wouldn't be surprised to find a higher number soon.

And then there's the molds, assorted algae, mosses ("true",peat, and club), and liverworts; a lifetime's study in each category.

So much we don't know! So many beauties we never see!

*Remembering Trouble with Lichen, a science-fiction book by John Wyndham.

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