Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fence Row Lichens

The most difficult part of clearing work is making sure you leave things that should not be removed.  My work often proceeds at a slow pace because I spend so much time learning about what’s in the path before me.  I always check out the lichens and am especially fond of the fluffy type that grows into what’s known as the fruticose form.

Branches of a half dead Wild Plum lean into the field from the old fence row.  It would be much easier to work here if the branches were removed, but that neat little fruticose lichen is growing near the end of a low hanging branch.  The lichen is left in place, even though working around the branch takes more time.

Here’s a branch that dips so low to the ground a professional Limbo Dancer would have trouble getting under.  This Wild Black Cherry only has two main limbs and both of them grow horizontally out over the field.  It takes a lot of backing and maneuvering to work the mower through here.

Once again, it’s lichens that keep me from removing the branch.  The horizontal surface is covered with lichens.  My knowledge of lichen identification is limited, so I’m not really sure what species I’m dealing with.  I wonder if the species composition found on a horizontal limb differs any from the collection on a similarly sized vertical trunk.  When I find the time to work on lichen identification, this branch will be a very convenient horizontal surface with which to work.

There are some advantages to not knowing about lichens.  I’m free to enjoy the colors, patterns and textures of a lichen mat without being disturbed by thoughts of identification and classification.

The cherry limb is not especially healthy.  Life is expressed by only a few feeble sprouts from the main limb.  Dead limbs have not been well contained and allow rot to enter.  One of these years I expect to find the entire thing lying on the ground.  Until then, I’ll just leave it alone and enjoy viewing the lichens.

I do sometimes wonder just how many lichen species I’m viewing in a situation like this.  I can imagine this being the various forms of a single species just as easily as imagining a dozen species in this one collection.  I know that lichens are valuable indicators of ecosystem health and that they play an important role in ecosystem functions, but I’m not sure how you would incorporate lichens into a landscape management plan.  I hope for now that I’m safe in just being aware of their existence and trying to maintain as many diverse populations as possible.


  1. I love that you pay attention to stuff like lichen when cleaning up your land.

  2. Hi Nellie. The first step to learning is awareness, so I at least try to be aware of what's around me.