Montana Outdoors

January 29, 2010

Club lichens

While I was walking this afternoon in a deep canyon the sun came out very briefly and illuminated the firs and cedars on the south side of the trail, showing off their greenery in a splendid fashion. Being a little slow on the uptake, I got the camera out just a tad too late for the colorful shot. However…

On the other side of the trail, growing among the ice clumps on the steep, north-facing slope of the canyon in a place that never, even in mid summer, receives the direct rays of the sun, was a large patch of lichens, with bright colors of their own: I tentatively identified three of them as club lichens.

Club lichen
Devil’s matchstick (Pilophorus acicularis)

Club lichen
Sulphur cladonia (Cladonia sulphurina)

Club lichen
Horn Cladonia (Cladonia cornuta)



  1. the fact that anything grows amid ice and snow always amazes me. And growing with beauty, too!


    Comment by Cedar — January 30, 2010 @ 8:02 am

    • Lichens are always amazing. They grow in some of the most (one would think) inhospitable places and don’t seem to be disturbed by the weather, although it that most are shade-loving. There are over a thousand different kinds living in this area.


      Comment by montucky — January 30, 2010 @ 7:36 pm

  2. Interesting things…aren’t they?


    Comment by Stacey Dawn — January 30, 2010 @ 9:01 am

    • They sure are! Many have very vivid colors, some are incredibly old, many are food for the various wild animals, and on, and on. The large leaves with the black speckles are leaf lichens called “Freckle Pelt”.


      Comment by montucky — January 30, 2010 @ 7:37 pm

  3. Now that’s a cure for the wintertime blues: seek out the green microcosms in the cedar forest! Also, if you haven’t seen Avatar in 3D…… 🙂


    Comment by Maureen — January 30, 2010 @ 9:09 am

    • The lichens and mosses seem to be at their peak of beauty this time of year. Observing them in among the cedars is of course a special treat.


      Comment by montucky — January 30, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

  4. Ah, the tiny world that few even know exists. Love these little plants, and hey – green is green in my book1


    Comment by Bo Mackison — January 30, 2010 @ 9:33 am

    • No, they don’t get a lot of attention. So many folks don’t know even what they are and tend to overlook them, but they are important and fascinating.


      Comment by montucky — January 30, 2010 @ 7:40 pm

  5. What a a beautiful triptych these would make. They are wonderful.


    Comment by SuzieQ — January 30, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

    • They would, especially since these are all club lichens and quite similar in appearance. Maybe I can remember next time to shoot they so the photos could be used that way.


      Comment by montucky — January 30, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

  6. The resiliency of lichens should spur us all on.


    Comment by scienceguy288 — January 30, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

    • They are certainly beings worthy of respect and study.


      Comment by montucky — January 30, 2010 @ 7:44 pm

  7. Beautiful photographs! The colors and clarity are wonderful. Though my eye is really caught by the sparkle of the ice (?) in the one-looks like crystal.


    Comment by victry1 — January 30, 2010 @ 7:19 pm

    • Yes, these are growing right among patches of ice from snow that has partially melted and refrozen many times. They don’t seem to mind the cold, indeed it looks as though they prefer it.


      Comment by montucky — January 30, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

  8. Interesting. It’s so amazing the diversity in nature…everything so unique.


    Comment by Candace — January 31, 2010 @ 10:05 am

    • Yes, the diversity is incredible. I would think that lichens could be an entire field of study for someone, there are so many different ones. There are even some that were used for food by the Indians, and are still important winter foods for deer, elk, moose, flying squirrels and caribou.


      Comment by montucky — January 31, 2010 @ 10:24 am

  9. Terry! How delicate! Wonderful shots and colors! Fantastic. Nice job.

    It does not take forest plants or wild plants to grow in the snow. I once had a plant box on my deck railing that had primroses planted in it. It snowed – do not remember now what month it was, but I think it was February – and these lovely primroses kept right on growing in the box. This was North of Everett, WA (which lies north of Seattle) where the weather was much milder. But all the same, I was amazed even then (early 60’s)that the snow did not effect the flowers.


    Comment by Iona — February 2, 2010 @ 12:58 am

    • Yes, flowers, especially the early varieties are amazingly hardy. There’s a wildflower here called “Spring Beauty” which will bloom right at the edge of a melting snow bank in the high country.


      Comment by montucky — February 2, 2010 @ 10:23 am

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