Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wild Wednesday ~ Lichens Tree

A week or so ago, I was walking in the woods and came upon this tree that appeared to be covered in every type of lichens imaginable. Lichens are organisms up of members of two or three different kingdoms. Fungi form the structure of the organism and either algae or cyanobacteria, or both, create food for the organism through photosynthesis. We just brushed over lichens in our Master Naturalist training, and to be honest, I have not pursued the subject with a great deal of vigor (I can't even find my lichens key—need to do some organizing). But I do remember that license are divided into three major groups based on their form and this tree had specimens of all three.

Crustose lichen holds tight to the surface it grows on, almost like paint; i.e. it forms a "crust" that is virtually impossible to separate from the rock or bark it attaches to.

Foliose lichen are more leafy in appearance (think "foliage"). The leafy bits are called "lobes" and they're either attached to their substrate with rhizines or, in the case of umbilicate lichen, from one central attachment point. 
Fruticose lichen grows in a shrubby, branching pattern. The shrubby part is called the "thallus" and the attachment point the "holdfast."

This tree was a festival of life. Along with the many types of lichen, it had this little patch of moss.

And this little guy, which looks like it could be a lichen, but is actually a liverwort, which is a type of nonvascular plant.

So what kind of tree was this that so bloomed in February? I must confess I almost forgot to notice (you might say I couldn't see the tree for the micro-forest). But I did remember to arch back and look up at the branches—opposite—and I snapped off a twig, just to be sure: red maple (it's hard to tell in this picture, but red maple twigs and buds are red and the buds grow opposite of each other.

As my college bio teacher used to say, "Life is so cool; it goes anywhere!"

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