Every year about this time the first wildflowers in this part of western Montana begin to bloom, months ahead of the rest. They are Sagebrush Buttercups (Ranunculus glaberrimus) and on a thin ridge that juts out from some cliffs a dozen miles upriver the first of blossom opened today. There was just one today, but in a few sunny days there will be many more. For whatever reason their success strategy tells them to open so early, it works.
The tiny cup lichen are also still doing well and displaying their bright red fruit.
Either I have not seen lichens growing on glass before or just not noticed them, but today an old bottle caught my eye. It not only is nicely decorated with lichen, but there are two different kinds of them on it. I wonder if perhaps there may be a little greenhouse heating effect inside the bottle, making the glass a little warmer than the surrounding air because the lichens seem to be extraordinarily robust. (The decorated bottle was so pretty that I wanted to take it home, but I certainly couldn’t destroy their little world.)
Nearby there frost crystals on some barberry leaves, but I saw no frost on the bottle.
On the Clark Fork River, a half mile down stream from where I live there are two sets of rapids visible from the highway, much admired and often fished and photographed. A mile down stream from them is a third set of rapids but not visible and hardly known, but it can be reached by a mile hike through a section of state land from the far side of the river. I enjoy fishing there and visit at other times of the year also to enjoy the scenery and wildlife.
Today the temperature was about 20ºF and an icy breeze was blowing down river, but the sky was clear and it was pretty down at the third rapids
but what I found most interesting was the variety of lichens ( most of which I could not identify) growing on some exposed rocks and trees.
Green map ~ Rhizocarpon geographicum?
And a few photos of one I recognize, Brown-eyed Sunshine ~ Vulpicida canadensis.
About a mile further up the mountain from the cliffs in yesterday’s post there is a rocky, south-facing, open ridge often frequented by Big Horn Sheep, elk and deer. There were none of them in residence yesterday, but I noticed some very pretty lichens and some small mosses which seemed to be thriving there on the rocks, none of which I can positively identify. For those who are knowledgeable in such things, here are some photos (and a couple of guesses about what they are).
Possibly Yellow-green cushion moss (Dicranoweisia crispula) That little moss was about the size of a quarter, and I noticed that there is a whole botanical garden around it in the space of just a few square inches.
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.