At the end of the summer dry spell there are few wildflowers blooming, couple that with 4 years of drought and “few” becomes “almost none”. So in desperation I look around for other things to notice. Last year I started checking out ferns (and liverworts) at this time, but this year has had less rain than last and the ferns aren’t doing much either.
So when the California Native Plant Society organized a talk on identifying mosses at the Botanic Gardens I got excited.
Unfortunately there was a mixup on the date, and the one they posted was not the one on which the talk was given. So I missed it. I went to amazon to try and find a book on the mosses of California, but there was none. However, in trying to be helpful, amazon pointed me at A Field Guide to California Lichens.
If you had prodded me I would have recalled that I grew up with raindeer lichen and there was that weird scraggly stuff that grew on the oak trees on the East Creek Ranch in Los Olivos.
Neither of which is round and flat. So clearly lichens were a bit more varied than I tended to think.
The book did not have a key, but did have lots of photographs. Unfortunately, to my untrained eyes many of the photographs were indistinguishable from one another. What help it did give toward identification seemed to depend on chemical tests, and I’m not going to carry a bunch of vials of chemicals with me when I run.
I also turned up a species list for the Santa Monica mountains. Not exactly here, but close. So I could use that to winnow through the pictures. A bit.
Lichens grow on different substrates. Rocks are a common one. But I can find adjacent rocks where one is covered with lichens and the other is bare. They look the same kind of rock to me. Trees are another substrate, oaks especially, but again I can find adjacent trees, of the same species where one has lichens and another doesn’t. Some species (Sycamores, Eucalypts, etc.) never seem to have any, flaky bark probably doesn’t encourage growth. Even shrubs can be covered, chamise, toyon and Ceanothus spp. seem to make good lichen homes while the sages, sumacs and gooseberries don’t seem to have any. Sometimes lichens grow on the ground. Even my car grew lichens when I lived down by the beach…
In the area where the Gibraltar Fire burned I see no lichens, the rocks have been scoured clean, and the shrubs burnt up. In the Cold Fire area I also find no lichens (except for one rock which may have been in an open patch where there wasn’t much fire). Even in the Jesusita/Tea Fire area I find no lichens except in places which were probably unburned. I think the drought may be partly to blame, lichens appeared on my car in about as much time as it has been since the Jesusita Fire.
There are also roundish whitish lichens with dark patches in them
And ones which curve around branches
And there are bushy lichens
Some of which are colorful
Some are kind of cute
And many just look like odd nubbly bits
And form rather intricate patterns
I’m not sure that I’ve identified any of these properly. But they still look nice even if I’ve got the names wrong…