The World of Lichens – The Holden Arboretum, Kirtland, Ohio – Sunday, February 25, 2018, 2-4 pm

Baton Rouge Lichens, Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida

For the past few years, I’ve been honored to participate in The Holden Arboretum’s Fireside Lectures, which are held on Sunday afternoon, from 2-4 pm, during February. Past topics have included Dragonflies & Damselflies (2017), Mushrooms of Ohio (2016), and A Photographer’s Guide to Ohio (2015). This year, on Sunday, February 25 I will present a program on a new photographic interest of mine, The World of Lichens.     

Common Greenshield Lichen, Secrest Arboretum, Wooster, Ohio

Lichens, which are an association of at least two organisms, a fungus and either an alga or a cyanobacterium, are estimated to cover about 8 percent of the world’s land surface, but are largely overlooked by most of us. Lichen experts estimate that there are more than 15,000 different kinds of lichen worldwide, including about 3,600 lichen species in North America and roughly 500 lichen species in Ohio. The trees and shrubs in your garden are probably home to several kinds of lichen, which may also be growing on the walls and roof of your house and on the sidewalk of your local street.  

Maritime Sunburst Lichen, Rhode Island

Some lichens are brightly colored, like the orange Maritime Sunburst lichen shown above, and the red Baton Rouge lichens growing in the swamp forest at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Florida, shown in the photograph at the beginning of this article. Although a few lichens turn bright green when wet, most lichens are not green, but varying shades of gray, brown, red or yellow. 

Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s nest, camouflaged with Common Greenshield and Hammered Shield lichens

Many species of animals, especially insects and some birds, are associated with lichens, including the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, which disguises its tiny cup-shaped nest with pieces of Common Greenshield and Hammered Shield lichens.  

Powder Puff Reindeer lichens carpet the sandy ground at Fort Pickens, near Pensacola, Florida

Lichens come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some are leaf-shaped, like the Common Greenshield lichen shown in the photo above. These lichens are “foliose.” Other lichens resemble tiny trees, shrubs, sponges or beards, like the Powder Puff Reindeer lichens shown above and the Sinewed Ramalina, Methusaleh’s Beard and British Soldier lichens shown in the photos below. These are called “fruticose” lichens. The third type of lichen, found on rocks and sometimes on tree bark, look like a crust or a layer of spray paint and are known as “crustose” lichens.        

Sinewed Ramalina lichen, Adele Durbin Park, Stow, Ohio

During the program, we will meet some of the common lichens you are likely to encounter on rocks, tree bark, and soil around the Buckeye State. Learn how to find lichens, essential equipment for studying them in the field and at home, the best lichen field guides, reference books and other useful resources, including some of Ohio’s lichen experts and the Buckeye State’s premier organization for lichen lovers, the Ohio Moss and Lichen Association (OMLA).        

Methusaleh’s Beard lichens, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Lichens have been called the “fungus that invented agriculture”, and you’ll learn some of the ways that allow lichens to survive and thrive in the world’s coldest polar regions, hottest deserts, and tallest mountain ranges. We’ll review the use of lichens in the making of dyes, as winter food for mammals like reindeer, and for monitoring air pollution. 

British Soldier lichen, Oak Openings, Ohio

For more information or to register for this program, visit the Holden Arboretum’s website.


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