Lake Metroparks Bioblitz Yields a New Ohio Cladonia Lichen Species

Hidden Lake Bioblitz Group

A couple of weeks ago, on June 7, I was invited to participate in a bioblitz at Hidden Lake, a 440-acre property owned by Lake Metroparks in northeast Ohio. The primary goal of the bioblitz was to survey the property and record as many of the animal and plant species as possible during the one-day event. About 20 people attended, including experts on plants, dragonflies and damselflies, butterflies, moths, fungi, and lichens. I decided to focus my search on lichens. In the photo above, Lake Metroparks Environmental Planner Allison Ray briefs the group in the Shelter House at Hidden Lake early in the morning of the event.      

Cladonia Site, Hidden Lake, Lake Metroparks

I started with a hike around Hidden Lake, and found several common lichens on trees along the trail, including Common Greenshield, Flavoparmelia caperata, Hammered Shield, Parmelia sulcata, and Lemon Lichen, Candelaria concolor. Later that morning, Lake Metroparks biologist John Pogacnik and his son, Shaun, guided me to a field with some open areas, shown in the photo above, in which the soil had been colonized by several species of fruticose lichens in the genus Cladonia. There are about 120 species of Cladonias in North America, of which 36 have been found in Ohio.    

Cladonia Lichens, Hidden Lake

The photo above shows 4 Cladonia lichen species growing together. The most distinctive is British Soldiers, Cladonia cristatella, which is easily recognized by the bright red apothecia covering the tops of the yellowish-green stalks, which are called podetia. This striking lichen is named after the bright red uniforms worn by British troops during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). A close-up of British Soldier lichen is shown below.      

British Soldier Lichen, Cladonia cristatella, Hidden Lake

The photo below is a close-up of another striking lichen, Ladder Lichen, Cladonia cervicornis. Like the rungs on a ladder, each podetium has another podetium growing out of the surface of the cup at the top of the column.   

Ladder Lichen, Cladonia cervicornis

The most exciting find, shown in the photo below, was Bronzed Pixie Lichen, Cladonia gracilis ssp. turbinata, a rare lichen that has never been recorded in the Buckeye State. With the help of John Pogacnik, I obtained a sample of this lichen and delivered it to Tomas Curtis, an expert on Ohio’s lichens. Tomas confirmed the identification as Bronzed Pixie Lichen, in which the rim of the cups at the top of the podetia are ringed with brown apothecia. 

Close-up of Bronzed Pixie Lichen, Cladonia gracilis ssp. turbinata, Hidden Lake

In total, we found 9 species of Cladonia lichens at the Hidden Lake site, which represents 25% of all the Cladonia species known to exist in Ohio.

Obtaining close-up photographs of these lichens is challenging, for several reasons. First, Cladonia lichens grow on soil, so the camera must be positioned at ground level. Second, the podetia (stalks) of the Cladonia lichens are less than one inch tall, necessitating the use of a macro lens and a tripod without a center column that can be set up close to the ground. Third, the Cladonia lichen colonies can extend for several inches along the ground, making it impossible to render everything in sharp focus with a single exposure. Fourth, there are numerous blades of grass, twigs, and other items that clutter up the composition and need to be meticulously removed prior to taking the photograph. Finally, the sunny skies that we had during the bioblitz created contrasty lighting with bright highlights and black shadows that are the kiss of death in close-up photography, requiring the ground and lichens to be shaded during the photography. Each of the photos shown above was made using a Nikon D7200 SLR camera with a 150mm Sigma macro lens, mounted on a Gitzo tripod used at ground level. For each photo I took 10-15 separate exposures, varying the focus point slightly, with mirror lock-up and an electronic cable release. Back home in my office, the separate “stacked” exposures were imported into my Adobe Lightroom catalog, then exported into Helicon Focus, which merged the separate exposures into a composite image that was saved back into Lightroom and fine-tuned for tonality, color, and sharpness. Adobe Photoshop was used to remove a few grass blades and other clutter that was missed during the photography session at the site.

More than 250 species of animals, plants, and lichens were recorded during the Hidden Lake bioblitz. For more information, visit and query the location “Hidden Lake.”  

If you would like to learn more about lichens, how to find them and identify them, stacked focus photography and other lichen photography tips, meet several of Ohio’s top experts on lichens, and take part in the first lichen survey of The Holden Arboretum, join us on Saturday, June 29 at Holden for an Introduction to Lichens workshop, from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. For more details, check out this earlier blog article:

Who knows, you may discover a new Ohio lichen species during our lichen survey at The Holden Arboretum!     


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