For our October 30 Nature Outing, Sarka Lhotak, Rhonda O`Grady, Grant Danielson, and Judith Holm visited Valleycliffe’s Crumpit Woods in sunshine!!!!!!!
Lichens were one focus. The Coastal Western Hemlock forest here is well enough ventilated to find some. An amazing new discovery about lichens was published just three months ago and we wanted to note and celebrate, while the news is fresh, that lichens have been re-identified!
Lichens have long been considered as the only fungi able to cultivate their own food, owing to their symbiotic relationship with algae. The fungus partner provides the safe home and the alga photosynthesizes to provide the nutrients.
The mystery: with genetic research, lichenologists discovered that Brown Horsehair Lichen (Bryoria fremontii), an important traditional food source in British Columbia and Washington , is genetically identical to poisonous Yellow Horsehair Lichen (Bryoria tortuosa)! How can this be??
The discovery: Dr. Toby Spribille and his team discovered and now have proven that lichens can have a third partner – yeast! To read more here is one source: https://www.ou.edu/cas/botany-micro/ben/ben506.html . Do open the “plate” link in the first paragraph to see the photographs.
On our hike we held one of the lichen species newly proven to have a yeast partner, Evernia prunastri, Antlered Perfume (see photo).
A practical and straightforward way to distinguish lichens is by growth form: Dust, Crust, Scale, Leaf, Club, Shrub, or Hair. (See Plants of Coastal British Columbia, by Pojar & MacKinnon).
We also appreciated the lush display of bryophytes, ie. the mosses and liverworts. One photo shows an example of ways a liverwort differs from a moss. In brief, liverwort leaves (a) have no midrib, (b) often are rounded and folded and (c) are attached like shingles on a roof.
Grant alerted us to the bird species, such as the Hairy Woodpeckers. He taught us to distinguish their call, a “peek” that stays an even tone, from the Downy Woodpecker’s “pic” that descends.
With each outing, new possibilities open.
Submitted by Judith Holm
Photos by Judith Holm