Hairy Trees and Edible Lichen

Some of the trees here appear to have rough brown hair draped from their branches. This is a type of lichen, specifically one from the genus Bryoria. Some Native American tribes have stories about how Coyote got stuck in a tree and had to cut off his fur to get free, creating this lichen in … Continue reading “Hairy Trees and Edible Lichen”

Reindeer Lichen

Where I’m from in Ohio, lichen grows on trees and rocks, sure, but you don’t commonly see mounds of seafoam-colored lichen growing directly on the ground. What is this stuff? It’s reindeer lichen, a common ground cover in boreal forests. (Note, though, that there are two related lichen species – Cladonia rangiferina and Cladonia portentosa … Continue reading “Reindeer Lichen”

Likin’ Lichen

Once there was a fungus and an algae. The fungus had a really big, nice house with way more space than he needed, but he was a really terrible cook. The algae was a great cook, a gourmet chef, and he was looking for somewhere to live. So, they moved in together… and they took … Continue reading “Likin’ Lichen”

Links for Your Entertainment and Edification

Yucky wet rain/snow stuff falling outside right now, no way am I going out to take photos, so instead here are some nature and conservation links from the last week. Enjoy. Gunnison Sage-grouse (a very cool, very threatened bird) are being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act, and the public comment period has … Continue reading “Links for Your Entertainment and Edification”

Life in the Dead of Winter (Part 1)

Dead snags always seem to catch my eyes lately – probably because they always harbor signs of life, even on the coldest, snowiest days. (When I got up this morning it was -26ºF. Even after noon, when it finally made it into double digits above zero, walking in the snowy woods for half an hour … Continue reading “Life in the Dead of Winter (Part 1)”

On the Tundra

Leave the montane zone behind and climb high enough, and you reach the alpine tundra – “alpine” to distinguish it from arctic tundra, although the two ecosystems are much the same. After looking up at the treeless tops of the mountains for so long, it was incredible to actually be up in them. You reach … Continue reading “On the Tundra”

What Is Cryptobiotic Crust?

There were signs everywhere at Arches warning people to stay on marked trails, because if you left them you risked stepping on and destroying the soil’s cryptobiotic crust. Wait, cryptowhat? Isn’t that something to do with bigfoot? No, that’s cryptozoology. Cryptobiotic crust is a black layer that forms on the surface of the soil in … Continue reading “What Is Cryptobiotic Crust?”