Montana Outdoors

February 26, 2018

River bank lichen

Filed under: Lichens, Winter — Tags: — montucky @ 11:47 pm

On the river bank the other day there were several bare rocks among all of the snow-covered ones about 50 feet up from the water, and some lichens seemed to love that environment, living with the snow in a very pretty way.

Snow and lichen

Snow and lichen

February 6, 2018

Rhizoplaca & Candelariella?

Filed under: Lichens — Tags: , , — montucky @ 11:10 pm

Along an old road on which I walk very often there are remnants of a rock wall, probably built by men in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930’s when the road was a US highway through northwest Montana leading to Idaho and on to Washington state (US 10A). Over the years the rocks in the wall have become the homes of many species of lichens and add bright splashes of color, very welcome in winter.

One of the aspects of lichens that makes them largely ignored is that many are so small that their details can hardly be seen by the unaided eye even though a large number of them growing together may provide a pleasant color in their surroundings.

I was considering that today when I passed this section of the wall which contained a rock which is about a half foot tall and a foot wide, a large section of which is colored gold by a lichen colony.

Rock wall, circa 1930

Here is a closer look at that rock and you can more easily see a small circle of another species of lichen in the lower left.

Candelariella rosulans

An even closer look in which you can begin to see the individual lichens in the circle.

Lichen-covered rock

And a close-up of the colony in the circle (which I believe to be Rhizoplaca melanophthalma lichens).

Lichens ~ Rhizoplaca melanophthalma?

And finally a close-up of some of the lichens in the gold colored section (which I believe are Candelariella rosulans).

Lichens ~ Candelariella rosulans?

While lichens are not true “species” in the conventional meaning of the word because each lichen is a composite of a fungus and an alga, they are categorized similarly and I’ve read that there are up to 25,000 “species” or “mutualisms” of them worldwide. It’s understandable but a little sad that most of them are either overlooked or ignored.

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

February 1, 2010

Crystal gazing

Filed under: Lichens, Winter — Tags: , , , , , — montucky @ 7:33 pm

I would be a fortune teller, wear a headscarf embroidered with “Gypsy Rose” and tell everyone’s fortune, except that my mustache would probably give me away.

However, I did find a cool crystal ball today:

Crystal ball

(Actually a drop of melted snow on a club lichen, possibly a Black-foot Cladonia, Cladonia gracilis)

About the photo:
Nikon D80 with Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D lens, 1/60 sec @ f/32, EV -2/3, Manual mode, ISO 400, hand held at about 4 inches. The water drop was less than 1/8 inch diameter.

March 16, 2008

Springtime in the Rockies

Filed under: Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Spring — Tags: , , — montucky @ 8:10 pm

When I was a small boy, a song was popular with the older folks in my family, especially my Grandfather and two of my uncles. It was titled “Springtime in the Rockies”, was recorded by none other than Gene Autry, and remained popular in this area for many years. Although I’ve long ago forgotten the lyrics, I can still remember the tune, but most of all I remember those old folks and the springtime they always loved so much here in this part of the west.

Those old folks have been gone for many, many years now and so many other things have changed over the passage of time since the mid 40’s,  yet there are some things that so far have stayed the same.

The buttercups remain the first blossoms to open in spring along the edge of the meadow above the house.


There’s still a pine squirrel or two foraging on pine cones on the steep hillsides that lead up from the river.

Pine squirrel

And bright colored lichens still decorate the rocks on that little pine covered shelf just above the river.

Lichens along the Clark Fork

If we have any wisdom left with us at all, we won’t ever let those things change.

March 10, 2008

More on lichens – a word of caution

Filed under: Lichens, Montana, Nature, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures — Tags: , — montucky @ 12:27 pm

In the world of outdoor lore, much of which is undocumented or poorly documented, it has always been said that as a survival technique one could boil lichens and make a nourishing broth that would, in a dire situation, sustain life. That is true, but with one major caveat: some lichens are toxic.

After my post yesterday about lichens, I found it interesting to see this story in the news today from Wyoming where several elk have died recently, apparently from eating lichens. This happened in the Red Rim area southwest of Rawlins in the last week. The story goes on to say that in 2004, several hundred elk died from eating a rare form of poisonous lichen in that area. It did not mention the particular lichen involved, but although it can kill elk, antelope can eat it with no ill effects.

If the author of the story had done a little research, he would have found this USDA Forest Service website Celebrating Wildflowers which sheds more light on the same subject. It says a poisonous lichen, “Parmelia molliuscula (also known as “ground lichen”), was determined to be the cause of death for 300 elk in Wyoming in 2004. Visiting elk from Colorado ate this lichen, which caused tissue decay and eventual death. The native elk were not affected, simply because their immune systems were already equipped to deal with this toxic lichen. This is another example of wildlife and plant life evolving with each other. This lichen has also been known to poison sheep and cattle. “Ground lichen” can also be used as a dye for clothing.”

Another poisonous lichen, the Wolf Lichen Letharia vulpina got its name because it was used in Europe to poison wolves and some native American Indian tribes even used it as a poison on arrowheads. Interestingly, other tribes made a tea from it. This particular lichen is very common in my area and until recently I had thought it to be a moss rather than a lichen. In fact, I can see some from our kitchen window growing on a small dead branch in a pine tree in the yard. I find it colorful and attractive, but fortunately I have never had any inclination to eat it. Here are several photos Wolf Lichen that were taken back in January:

Wolf lichen

Wolf Lichen

Wolf Lichen

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