Lichen meadow

pineypointpineypoint2In a low winter sun: Cladonia lichens growing around a sandstone outcrop on the Cumberland Plateau, Sewanee, TN. Few plants can survive the thin soil and extreme summer heat near these outcrops. Masters of difficult conditions, lichens move in.

Further north, this genus of lichen blankets parts of the tundra (and feeds caribou). The tundra is another place that is too challenging for most plants, as are mountain tops, rocky coasts, bare cliffs — all places that lichens spread their slow-growing algal-fungal fingers. Another winning mutualism.

16 thoughts on “Lichen meadow

  1. flatland57

    The meadow is lovely. I’ve been looking at lichen patterns on trees in the woods where I walk, and also noticing a darkening of the bark that looks like an oil stain, but it’s patchy. Is this a precursor to lichen or a disease? Any idea?

  2. John Van Benthuysen

    Your post reminded me that I had taken some photos of lichens during many of my hikes through the Pisgah National Forest. Well, I found the negatives and have scanned them. One I’ve titled ‘Lichen Flowers’ as I think that the emerging pink tuber-shaped items might be the lichen’s way of getting ready to spread some spores. Do you have any suggestions as where I could turn to find out more about this? By the way, I recently read ‘The Forest Unseen’ and really appreciated your take an selecting a spot and returning to it over a period of time. It was like reading notes from a friend who knew what the heck we were looking at!

    1. David George Haskell Post author

      Hi John, Thank you — I’m very happy that you enjoyed The Forest Unseen. About lichens: there are lots of identification helps out there (listed at Brodo et al’s Lichens of North America (Yale University Press) is beautiful — great pictures. It is detailed, but does not get into as much technical detail as many other sources. Your description makes me think of Cladonia fruiting bodies (the places where spores are made — I use the term “fruiting” loosely here!). A Google Image search for Cladonia fruiting might be a first step. Chris Parrish’s pages may also be helpful to you: He has an impressive collection of images. For a collection of images specific to Sewanee, TN (that might cover taxa from NC also), see his page:

      I hope something there will be helpful!

  3. Pingback: Powerpoint begone! Welcome, scorpions. | Ramble

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