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A Little Lichen Curiosity

This little one wanted to peek at what the “spots” were on the rocks. He got a closer look at the colorful lichens that adorn the rocks with the help of my hand lens . His excitement is the sort of excitement I get when I meet a new plant, key a plant out or learn something new.

I became interested in lichens when I began to explore the PNW and when I was in school studying in the field in the PNW where I met many lichens unlike what I was familiar with here in the desert. They come in many growth forms, from the leaf-like lichens called folios, branched tree-like lichens are called fruticose and flat lichens like the one is this picture are are called crustose. I’ve yet to dive deep into the world of lichens but keying them out and learning more about these individuals is on my list.

These slow growing, long lived lichens in the Mojave Desert grow less than an inch a year and are impacted by the lack of moisture and disturbance i.e climbing routes, walking on, fire, and off road vehicles. I’m guilty of climbing routes in the past where I placed my feet or hands on a hold that had lichens on it not knowing my impact. While I can’t take that back I am more aware of these sensitive species especially here in the Mojave. There are 53 genera and 145 species of lichens in the Joshua Tree National Park some of which are new to science and new to California all the more reason to respect and leave them intact.

Now I am not lichenologist but if the world of lichens peek your curiosity as they do mine visit my post on the foliose (leaf-like) lichen, Lobaria pulmonaria pictured below. This lichen does not occur in the Mojave much less anywhere near here. It was one of the many lichens I met during my time in the PNW when I was a student studying field botany and ecology.

Lobaria pulmonaria