Tag Archives: lichen

September 16 – The Mighty Naturalist ain’t so smart

29 Sep

Being an armchair naturalist actually takes some work and study – the more you learn, the more need to learn.  I am now in the position of knowing how much I don’t know.  I assumed that since they were all so distinctive, mosses, mushrooms , lichens and fungus would be easy-peasy to identify.  Ho-ho-ho – apparently nothing is easy in the world of identification.  After a session with mum and I both looking through a foot-high stack of nature guides on plants, mushrooms, wetland plants, amphibians and others, we managed to identify the grey frog and brown cockroach (see previous post) as well as the following;

cortinarius cinnamomeus for blog 

polyporus versacolor for blogfalse pixie cup for blog

I really love the false pixie cup – here is a closer look at some.  It is a bit dryer that the selection above so it looks slightly different – fascinating though…no?


Not much identified – at this rate I’ll have to work all winter on this!


September 15 – Fungus, mmm

26 Sep

Did you know … that there are BILLIONS of spores in a single mushroom and spores can remain dormant for up to 20 years.

Did a bit of washing and gathering of kindling in preparation for rain tomorrow…hard rain…all day.


It sounds like a day spend under a big woolly blanket  going through several hundred photos taken of trees, plants, mosses, and other species and doing some serious identification.  A day inside will give me the quiet time needed to start organizing some of the main components of the Managed Forest Plan.

In advance of any rain, I made a quick trip to the glade to catalogue some fungi.


mlf-25mlf-81These stunning fungi are growing in great profusion in the glade on the carcases of some large hardwood trees lying on the forest floor.  The colors change drastically, depending on how wet the fungus is.  The next time I saw this one it had rained and the fungus looked drab and greyish with only a hint of the blue-green you see here.

mlf-83 mlf-98

OK, here’s a question for you – is this one a lichen or a fungus?mlf-43

Since these pictures are only a fraction of what I have, it looks like I have a lot of work to do with the Mushrooms of North America guide.

By afternoon, Mum and Tim arrived and the rain has not come!


24 Sep

Structurally, lichens are among the most bizarre of all forms of life. That’s because every lichen species is actually composed of two, possibly even three,  distinct species of  organisms. One species is a kind of fungus. Usually the other  species is an algae, but sometimes it can be a photosynthesizing bacterium known as a cyanobacterium. Sometimes all three organisms are found in one lichen. 

In this amazing association the fungus benefits from the algae because fungi, having no chlorophyll, can’t photosynthesize their own food. A lichen’s fungal part is thus “fed” by its photosynthesizing algal part. The algae benefit from the association because the fungus is better able to find, soak up, and retain water and nutrients than the algae. Also, the fungus gives the resulting lichen shape, and provides the reproductive structures.  Very cool!

Our property has a number of areas that are resplendent with lichen.  The best lichen spots are the areas with large areas of rock.  Here are just a few examples;





Think these are lovely?  Just wait until you see the fungus!

The Enchanted Glade to the Turtle Pond

24 Sep

If you follow the driveway from the cottage down to the first big dip or change in elevation, on your left will be a lovely low area filled with birch and poplars.P1030794a 

Most of the live trees in this area are tall and healthy and create a thick green canopy above , but  enough light filters through to the forest floor to encourage a profusion of ferns and some of the more exotic native wildflowers like trillium and jack-in-the-pulpit.  Mum tells me that in the spring, the entire right slope is filled with trilliums. 


I call this area “The Glade” because if you see it in the morning with the sunlight dappling the many shades of  green beneath your feet – the whole area seems to have a magical glow, just like an enchanted glade from a childhood storybook.   Step off the drive and into the glade for about 50 feet and you’ll find that the “walls” of the glade are made of solid rock, gently softened by layers of cushiony moss.

P1030797 P1030554

In this area you’ll find old trees, long since fallen to the forest floor, being reclaimed by mushrooms and mosses and fungus of all colors and sizes. 

View fungus

Even though the trees have fallen, their shape and snarls still put on a good show, as well as providing shelter to small birds and mammals.

 P1030534 Travel a little farther and you come upon “The Turtle Pond”.

P1030502  This is as far as I got into the pond, because I had Sydney with me.  Is it still a pond in the spring?  What species does it support?  are there any turtles here? I’ll go back and do some serious investigating soon.

September 12 – Identification

22 Sep

I spent some time entering the species mentioned in Dad’s notes and in “the cottage books” into a spreadsheet to attempt to get a  central record of every species seen on the property.  Here’s a little excerpt I found that I just love –

July 8, 1979 – (entry by CJ in the cottage book)  “Saw the “bird of the year” this AM near the sand pit – a black billed cuckoo!! A life first for C.J. 

Talking with Roy Peters yesterday, he insists that each spring the government drops dragonflies from planes to combat black flies.  Home in the afternoon”

That’s a beauty!

And I call myself the Mighty Naturalist…  There I was tramping through the forest, blithely pulling individual leaves off of trees thinking I would bring them back and flip, flip, flip… the books would tell me what they were.  Shows how much I know – without information about if the leaves were growing simple or compound off the twig and how many leaves, if there was fruit or flowers etc, how can I identify them?  Dolt.

A few groups Dad did not mention in his  lists are the mosses and lichens, mushrooms and fungus.   I only have a portion of all that he documented, so perhaps he listed them in some book or database that has been lost.  As the mosses and lichens are my personal favourites, I shall identify as many as I can this week.  Here’s a start;

moss 1

Lush and green and soft.  Some monks hood lichen mixed with peat moss… Look closely there in the lower right.. here I’ll magnify it for you… what is that?  moss 1a

Could it  a bit of false pixie cup peeking through?

A truly good book is something as wildly natural and primitive, mysterious and marvelous, ambrosial and fertile, as a fungus or a lichen.

-Thoreau, Henry David

Mosses and Lichens

21 Aug

One class of plants that is often overlooked are the mosses and lichens.  I’ve always been fascinated by them – how do they cling to life year after year on those rocks at the cottage.  In the spring, they are lush and soft and puffy.  In the fall, they crackle under your feet as you walk.  Look closely, very closely and you’ll see complicated patterns and structures and real beauty… 

Let’s take a look at 2 mosses and a lichen we find at the cottage. 

Close-up of pin cushion moss - lovely isn't it?

 What is a lichen?

Lichens are not a single plant. 

A lichen is a complex group of plants depending on a close association between a FUNGUS and ALGAE – a symbiotic relationship.  A lichen consists of an upper part of interwoven fibres related to the fungus and a layer of more loosely fibrous structures related to the fungus that surrounds the algae. The algae can carry out photosynthesis and feed the fungi. The fibrous structures that make up the fungi adds support to the algae and keeps the algae from drying out.  in the Language of Flowers, Lichen means “dejection” and “solitude”.   



 This is a photo of reindeer Lichen. Lichen can survive for long periods of time without water. They just dry out and go dormant when there is little water or light. They can begin to grow again even after very long periods of dormancy.  Animals such as Reindeer and Caribou feed on lichen during the coldest periods of the season. It has lots of carbohydrates that give the caribou energy to make body heat. Caribou have special microorganisms in their stomachs which let them digest lichen. Very few other animals eat lichens.   


 What is a moss? 

A moss is a class (Musci) of plants without flowers or roots. Moss usually grows as low, dense, carpet-like masses on tree trunks, rocks, or moist ground. In the Language of Flowers, Moss means “maternal love”.  



Fire moss sends up stalks in early spring, usually as soon as the last snow melts. At first the stalks are green but they turn red as they mature. Cylindrical spore capsules form at the ends of the stalks and mature by late spring. Changes in humidity cause the stalks to twist and turn thereby aiding in spore dispersal. By mid summer the capsules decay and the stems break off.  


Check out the photo of Sydney below – what kind of moss or lichen surrounds her?  Fire moss?