Montana Outdoors

April 27, 2013

Lichens and moss

Filed under: Lichens — Tags: , , — montucky @ 10:16 pm

In my wanderings on a rainy day last week I encountered an area along a creek in a very narrow canyon where the rocks and cliffs were simply covered with moss and lichens. I personally know very little about most lichens, but thought someone might be interested in seeing them and so I am posting the following photos with no narrative except a possible identification of two of the lichen species.

Lichens and moss

Lichens and moss

Lichens and moss

Umbilicaria phaea Tuck.

Lichens and moss

Lichens and moss

Lichens and moss

Lichens and moss

Lichens and moss

Umbilicaria mammulata

Lichens and moss

Umbilicaria mammulata

Lichens and moss

Umbilicaria mammulata

Lichens and moss

Umbilicaria mammulata

Lichens and moss

Umbilicaria mammulata


  1. I clicked on the pictures to enlarge them and found that they’re more beautiful than I expected. What a whole fascinating mini-world these plants make.

    Comment by wordsfromanneli — April 27, 2013 @ 10:56 pm

    • I’m sorry that I know so little about them, although I think I have a lot of company there. One would think that they would be studied more than they are because some of them can live for up to 10,000 years.

      Comment by montucky — April 27, 2013 @ 11:40 pm

  2. Fascinating pictures. Such great beauty here that we often miss because we’re attracted to larger things.

    Comment by Malcolm R. Campbell — April 27, 2013 @ 11:17 pm

    • I see lots of lichens, far more than wildflowers, but for some reason I just haven’t become familiar with most of them. Must be a mind set based on flowers and other plants. I also haven’t studied mosses although I see lots of them too.

      Comment by montucky — April 28, 2013 @ 9:53 pm

  3. Beautiful photos! These are exactly the things that Colin likes to photograph. He ends up with very wet knees! We don’t know much about lichens either, I think you have done well to name those few. But they are extremely beautiful, and there seem to be many varieties here in Scotland too.

    Comment by Jo Woolf — April 28, 2013 @ 1:43 am

    • Wet knees and holes in the knees of my trousers. I sure go through a lot of trousers. Also cuts and scratches on my elbows from using them as a tripod to shoot tine flowers growing in rocky terrain.

      Comment by montucky — April 28, 2013 @ 9:55 pm

  4. Lobaria amplissima is one of the lungworts and much more branched and “crinkly.” What you have is rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata.) The first part of the scientific name comes from the way these likchens attach themselves to rocks at a single point that resembles a human navel, or umbilical cord.This leads to another common name of “navel lichen.” you can see this feature clearly in your 9th photo from the top.
    The underside of these lichens is black and you’ll see small round bumps called papillae. The second part of the scientific name refers to these bumps that someone thought resembled human breasts.
    These lichens like moist places and even grow where water constanly drips down rock faces. When i see them in the woods they tell me that there is some kind of water source nearby-even a pond, stream, or lake that raises the humidity is enough. When they dry out they get as crisp as a potato chip. Nice shots!

    Comment by New Hampshire Gardener — April 28, 2013 @ 6:26 am

    • Thank you for the correction! These were growing in exactly the kind of place you described. There are lots of places like that here where there are very deep canyons with small streams in them. That’s probably why there is usually some kind of moss along with them.

      Comment by montucky — April 28, 2013 @ 10:06 pm

    • Yes, mosses have no roots so they like moist places. Usually out of full afternoon sunshine.

      Comment by New Hampshire Gardener — April 29, 2013 @ 4:33 am

  5. What terrific variety there is. And the structures in some of the first photos are amazing. The rock tripe looks almost like leather, and the green “branchy things” in the first photo are just cute. They look like miniature Christmas trees. I didn’t know until fairly recently that squirrels adore fungi, and will store varieties of them for winter food. New Hampshire Gardener’s comment about them getting crisp as potato chips when they dry out may help to explain why. Squirrels may like to snack, too!

    Comment by shoreacres — April 28, 2013 @ 8:55 am

    • Yes, there is incredible variety in lichens. They are on nearly all of the rocks I see and most of the trees in the roadless areas where there is still old growth forest. The mosses are fascinating too.

      About 20 years ago I had a winter-long feud with a squirrel who insisted that our little pump house was his winter abode and that it should be filled with food items including many pounds of fungi.

      Comment by montucky — April 28, 2013 @ 10:10 pm

  6. That is a whole other world, isn’t it? When you think of all the bazillions of life forms, most of which we are unaware of or ignore, it’s kind of overwhelming. Those latter ones look mushroom-y.

    Comment by Candace — April 28, 2013 @ 11:45 am

    • You know, I usually don’t regret having gotten old, but when I consider things like lichens and mosses and fungi and wildflowers and realize how little I know about them I wish I were at least 30 years younger so I would have longer to study them.

      Comment by montucky — April 28, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

  7. It’s another world when you observe such things as lichens and moss. These are beautiful shots. -Maureen

    Comment by twoscamps — April 28, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

    • Sometimes I get to thinking that I belong to a superior species, and then I realize how much the wild creatures of the forests know about the plant life that surrounds them, what is good to eat and what isn’t and how little I know about the same array of life forms, it puts me back in my place.

      Comment by montucky — April 28, 2013 @ 10:15 pm

  8. Hi Montucky, I am clueless about Lichen but will say that they are pretty in your pictures. Have an excellent Monday tomorrow!

    Comment by wildlifewatcher — April 28, 2013 @ 6:05 pm

    • Thanks wildlifewatcher! I really should know more about them too since there are so many around me every day. I hope you have a good Monday too!

      Comment by montucky — April 28, 2013 @ 10:17 pm

  9. Nothing like wet lichen and moss for perfect photos! Lichen. of course is a composite organism between fungus (providing structure) and a photosynthetic algae or bacteria, providing energy. One of nature’s finest miracles!

    Comment by WildBill — April 29, 2013 @ 11:58 am

    • They are miracles. They thrive where most other life forms couldn’t live and so many are very beneficial. Hair lichens are very abundant here and I know many deer and elk survive tough winters because of them.

      Comment by montucky — April 29, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

  10. Terrific photographs Terry. It’s been a while since I visited ‘Montana Outdoors’ and now I’m kicking myself! You’ve captured so many species of fungi, lichen and other microflora growing on these rocks. Great colours, great shots!

    Comment by Finn — April 29, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

    • Thanks Finn. Yes, we are blessed with a tremendous diversity of life here. Amazing to see.

      Comment by montucky — April 29, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

  11. […] see scenics, river pictures, and hundreds of wildflowers. Most recently, he showed us the beauty of Lichens and moss. Montucky makes frequent posts, and I have found a lot of serenity in stopping by his blog of late […]

    Pingback by Miscellany: New, upcoming, and around the Net | Malcolm's Round Table — April 30, 2013 @ 10:30 am

  12. I don’t know much about lichens either….but they are very interesting!

    Comment by Mary Strong-Spaid — April 30, 2013 @ 8:46 pm

    • They sure are. I plan to pay more attention to them this year.

      Comment by montucky — April 30, 2013 @ 11:03 pm

  13. I took a class all about Bryophytes (mosses and lichens) in college. Amazing how they break down hard rock and create new growing surfaces for other plants.

    Comment by Scott Thomas Photography — May 1, 2013 @ 6:52 am

    • I could have used that course! They are amazing life forms!

      Comment by montucky — May 1, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

  14. they have a visual beauty all of their own.. .I have something vaguely similar to the red pointy one (’tis a technical term *cough* ;-) ) .. … on my rock garden, mayhap it’s a distant relative, .I think it’s called a sea cabbage?…. whatever it is, it’s gorgeous….xPenx
    (dropping by via other sites.. and hoping not to slip ont’ wet rocks!!)

    Comment by penpusherpen — May 1, 2013 @ 9:22 am

    • They do indeed, and I suspect the more I learn about them the more beauty I will see.

      Comment by montucky — May 1, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

  15. i love these close up looks, thank you ~

    Comment by Tammie — May 2, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

  16. Very interesting. I am not sure, but those in two first photos might be also here, but as I said, not sure. There is so big variety in them. Great photos.

    Comment by Sartenada — May 2, 2013 @ 11:17 pm

    • I don’t really know, but I suspect that we might have many of the same species of moss and lichens.

      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2013 @ 10:16 pm

  17. I think of the world of mosses as the place where small meets damp. That can make photography difficult, but I’m glad to see you gave it a shot (actually several).

    Comment by Steve Schwartzman — May 3, 2013 @ 5:02 am

    • Our deep canyons here all have a plentiful supply of moss and lichens. Dark and wet and usually cold.

      Comment by montucky — May 3, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

  18. Gosh they are beautiful. I love the texture and colors although, like you, know little about them.

    Comment by Tammy — May 4, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

    • I enjoy seeing them and am familiar with lots of the in that I can recognize them, but I still know very little about their lives. I will have to work on that!

      Comment by montucky — May 4, 2013 @ 10:54 pm

  19. I do not know very much about lichens although we also find them here. Your fantastic pictures make them look like small natural jewels, truly magnificent. Thank you.

    Comment by isathreadsoflife — May 5, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

    • Thank you Isa. Though usually quite small, I have a feeling that they are very important to the natural balance or else why would they be everywhere?

      Comment by montucky — May 5, 2013 @ 9:41 pm

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