Thursday, April 1, 2010

Do you like lichens?

A guest post by Ken.

And so to Currabinny woods, in search of lichens. Remembering my old lichen groups from college (and looking them up on the Internet as a reminder) Crustose, Foliose and Fruticose, I thought the identification would be a doddle. Not quite so.
Lichens are fungi that form stable self-supporting associations with either green algae or cyanobacteria. In lichens the fungus (mycobiont) is distinct from its free-living relatives both morphologically and in the production of unusual chemicals and is incapable of independent existence. The thallus, mostly consisting of the fungal hyphae, envelop the individual cells of the algae (photobiont) and it is the configuration of this thallus, crust-like (crustose), leaf-like (foliose), scaly (squamulose) or bushy (fruticose) that gives the first level distinction. Lichens can lie dormant in a dessicated state allowing them to survive the harshest habitats on Earth but they are extremely sensitive to air pollution. (The Diversity of Living Organisms R S K Barnes, 1998 Blackwell Science p124)

The first 6ft of different tree species was surveyed for different species of lichens.

The following observations were made:
The beech tree (Fagus sylvatica). On this tree we found a crustose lichen called Lecidella elaeochroma f. soralifera. Also present was Pertusaria hymenea (Pore lichen) and Phaeographis dendritica.

Beech tree (Fagus sylvatica)

Phaeographis dendritica

Lecidella elaeochroma f. soralifera with his friend, the beetle (Order Coleoptera)

Pertusaria hymenea

On a birch tree (Betula pendula) we found Lepraria incana (Dust lichen).

Silver birch (Betula pendula)

Lepraria incana on silver birch

On a fallen beech tree was the foliose lichen Parmotrema perlatum (Ruffle lichen), a woodrush (Luzula sylvatica) and the moss Polytrichum commune (see previous blog-entry on this moss).

Parmotrema perlatum on a fallen beech

Woodrush (Luzula sylvatica) and common haircap moss (Polytrichum commune)

On another fallen tree, this time a Japanese larch (Larix kaemferi), were Parmotrema perlatum again and two fruticose lichens Usnea subfloridana (Beard lichen) and Ramalina farinacea (Farinose cartilage lichen). These types of lichens were higher up in the tree but as it had fallen we were given the opportunity of photographing them up close.

Japanese larch with pink female flower

Usnea subfloridana

Ramalina farinacea

On an oak tree (Quercus sp.) we had more Pertusaria hymenea and some Lepraria incana.

Oak (Quercus sp.)

Pertusaria hymenea on oak tree

On Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) we had more Lepraria incana.

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris)

Lepraria incana

Overall the most common lichen, present on three of the tree species was Lepraria incana. This lichen species is found on shaded trees and this would be the case for a lot of the Currabinny trees. Or maybe we just like the quiet places.
We also saw a few varieties of fungus, one of which is an old friend of mine, Trametes versicolor. Another favorite was the plant Montbretia or St. Anthony's lily (Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora) which we had to confirm by unearthing its bulb (the woodrush had no such bulb) as none of its orange flowers were yet visible. We shall have to wait until July.
A fungus

Trametes versicolor (removed and placed on trunk)

Trametes versicolor a white-rot fungus

Montbretia (note the bulb)
Anyway until next time,

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