Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Lichen on dark rocks

with 49 comments

Lichen on Rocks 4184

You don’t think I’d go all the way to New Zealand and not photograph any lichen, do you? This view, which includes the darkest rocks I’ve probably ever seeing lichen growing on, is from February 8th on the island of Tiritiri Matangi.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 19, 2015 at 5:42 AM

49 Responses

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  1. That dark rock is perfect for showing off the colors of the lichen.
    They say that you can go anywhere in the world, from arctic to antarctic and everywhere in between, and find lichen.

    Steve Gingold

    March 19, 2015 at 6:31 AM

    • Your first sentence says what I felt too. Why can’t lichen be more considerate and grow on dark rocks all the time?

      I also thought about how widely distributed lichen is around the world. That’s a good thing for us nature photographers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2015 at 6:39 AM

  2. Very attractive lichen. Nicer than the lichen on my driveway.


    March 19, 2015 at 6:50 AM

    • I wonder if there’s anything you can do to enhance the lichen in your driveway. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone “cultivating” lichen the way they do a plant, but perhaps it’s possible.

      That thought made me curious, so I searched online and at


      found an article saying “the most commonly practiced lichen growth formula is to spray or paint milk, yogurt, or rice water onto the surface where lichens are desired. This will usually darken the surface in a matter of weeks or months, and within a few years many lichens often appear. We prefer fresh milk in a spray bottle for the ultimate ease of application.” The article mentions other formulas as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2015 at 7:04 AM

      • That makes sense, because one of the most commonly used ways to add a mossy look to new clay flower pots is to spray them with milk, or paint them with a milk and moss spore concoction.


        March 19, 2015 at 7:44 AM

      • Hmmm……. I will let nature take its course. However if I accidentally spill milk outdoors, I won’t cry over it. I will sprinkle it with lichen flakes and wait and see what happens.


        March 19, 2015 at 10:43 PM

        • Well said. We saw many signs for gluten-free foods in New Zealand, so I can imagine you putting up one outside your house that says “This is a lactose-free yard.”

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 20, 2015 at 7:14 AM

          • Ha! Which all makes me wonder if NZ dairy farms have abundant lichen. Apparently we have over 2000 lichen species. We don’t know the exact number because we have too few lichenologists searching for them. http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/lichens/page-2


            March 20, 2015 at 7:49 AM

            • Somehow I don’t think lichenologists are painted in the media as romantically as vulcanologists (assuming lichenologists appear in the media at all). The question of whether NZ dairy farms have abundant lichen strikes me as a theme for a graduate student in need of a thesis topic. Perhaps you should suggest it to the biology departments at some of your universities.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 20, 2015 at 9:12 AM

            • By the way, I’ve started putting links to The Encyclopedia of New Zealand in some of the posts I’ve been preparing. The page from it about lichen that you linked to coincidentally answered a question I’d had about something else, namely the green color I saw on many dock posts in New Zealand. From your link I learned that the posts have been treated with CCA, or chromated copper arsenic, to give them extra resistance to the elements. The pine trees from which the posts are made aren’t native there, of course, and the coating certainly isn’t natural, the way lichen is, but I took pictures anyhow because as an abstract photographer the patterns and colors of the posts appealed to me.

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 20, 2015 at 9:16 AM

              • It’s interesting to see New Zealand through your eyes. I don’t even think about the fence posts as being attractive. I must take another look.


                March 20, 2015 at 6:29 PM

                • I was hoping it would give you as a native a different perspective on some things. Partially that’s me as an individual with my idiosyncrasies, partly it’s me as an American, and partly it’s me as a long-time photographer. There could be other “partly”s that I’m not aware of.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 20, 2015 at 7:09 PM

                • And all these parts add up to a lovely whole.


                  March 21, 2015 at 1:08 AM

                • Here’s an example of the patterns and colors of the dock posts that intrigued me as a photographer:

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 20, 2015 at 7:34 PM

                • Beautiful.


                  March 21, 2015 at 12:58 AM

                • That great New Zealand water color was a bonus.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  March 21, 2015 at 7:31 AM

                • Definitely.


                  March 21, 2015 at 5:48 PM

  3. Lovely lichen! I do have an addiction to photographing it, even though I’m not skilled at it. Often my results just don’t show the vivid shades of colour I see in real life. This is a beauty though, Steve. 🙂


    March 19, 2015 at 6:54 AM

    • So you’re an L.L.L. (lover of lovely lichen). I know the feeling of finding something vivid in nature but not succeeding in capturing its vividness in an image. Sometimes we get it and other times we don’t. We can agree to be happy for the successes and not fret too much about the failures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2015 at 7:10 AM

  4. Just out of curiosity, I went over to Twitter and typed “New Zealand lichen” into the search box. It’s astonishing how many people are posting about lichen. There are links to photographs, scientific monographs, blog posts. Lichen seem to have a lot of friends.

    I especially liked the rock in this photo. I wondered if it was volcanic, and found this interesting page.


    March 19, 2015 at 7:59 AM

    • Thanks for that link. Although I’d been to the site’s main page, I never discovered the page devoted to geology. It makes me wish once again that I’d had more time to explore the island.

      I’m glad to hear there’s a lot of activity involving lichens because their forms are fascinating and they should be better known. I don’t recall ever hearing or reading anything about lichens in any of my elementary or high school science classes, but I hope (probably in vain) that that’s no longer true of science classes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2015 at 8:17 AM

  5. I have tried to show more respect for lichen now that I know some live for more that 4,000 years; I learned that in the Arctic. Now I value them for more than their beauty. 😉


    March 19, 2015 at 8:04 AM

    • I had no idea some lichens live for 4,000 years. Live and learn. Thanks for that information.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2015 at 8:19 AM

  6. Not at all New Zealand-related, but important: this post about Texas wildflowers. I had no idea they were blooming so profusely already. We just don’t see them around here, and I nearly missed the season last year. There are rumors the sun’s going to shine on Sunday (how appropriate). It’s time to get out and about.


    March 19, 2015 at 8:07 AM

    • You know what they say: forewarned is four-armed, and you can use those extra two arms to help in your quest for wildflowers this spring. By all means, profit from your Sunday sun if that’s the way the weather goes.

      I’ve been thinking for the past week that I may have to interrupt the New Zealand sequence to show some of what’s going on (and will be going on) in central Texas. Yesterday I saw my first patch of flowering bluebonnets (on an embankment of Mopac). On Sunday I’d gone walking in a natural area and although things didn’t look promising at first, I ended up counting (and photographing) about half a dozen species of wildflowers, most conspicuously anemones and golden groundsel. Two days before that I went to a friend’s place in the country to photograph two kinds of wildflowers: one I’d never seen, and the other only once before.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2015 at 9:14 AM

  7. Beauty! Thank you!


    March 19, 2015 at 8:17 AM

  8. Great photo. Yes we do have lichen as well.

    Raewyn's Photos

    March 19, 2015 at 1:36 PM

    • Apparently there’s just about nowhere on earth that doesn’t, which is a good thing for nature photographers.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2015 at 4:42 PM

  9. i so love this. the colors are so good too.


    March 19, 2015 at 8:34 PM

  10. Aaahh, Tiritiri Matangi! You have obviously done an exemplary bit of pre-travel research, and it has paid off. May we expect some close bird encounters of the third kind as well?


    March 19, 2015 at 10:08 PM

    • I think I have two bird portraits from Tiritiri Matangi coming up in the weeks ahead, plus at least a couple of others from different places. I’d read about Tiritiri Matangi while still in Texas but I didn’t realize that the place where we’d be staying, Little Manly, is just a few minutes down the road from Gulf Harbour, which is where we picked up the ferry coming from Auckland on its way to the island.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 19, 2015 at 11:59 PM

  11. Thank you!! It is a beautiful photo.

    • You’re welcome. Isabel. The facets of the rock added an element I don’t think has appeared in any of my previous lichen photographs.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 20, 2015 at 7:52 AM

  12. VERY beautiful, Steve. Sorry I haven’t had the time to follow your – and many others’ – blogs lately….. Hope to get some more time soon!


    March 21, 2015 at 7:30 PM

  13. […] were close not only to each other but also to the lichen on dark rocks you saw here a few days […]

  14. I’ve really taken a lichen to this photo, being a serious fan of those organisms myself.

    Re your conversation with Gallivanta: I’ve read of people cultivating moss gardens using the dairy-based approach as well, and in fact, have seen a couple of instances where the moss gardeners actually put moss and yogurt or buttermilk in the blender and then painted it on concrete or wood, occasionally in shapes or patterns that they would then grow into a kind of moss ‘paintings’. Quite intriguing! I’d never thought of the possibility of attempting the same with lichens….


    March 24, 2015 at 6:26 PM

    • Will you who are the artist venture into that kind of lichen painting?

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 24, 2015 at 7:01 PM

      • Toying with a moss installation in the modest-spa renovation of the master bathroom and/or living space of our retirement condo out west, if and when we actually retire. 🙂 Not pictorial, though. Just a chance to bring the outdoors indoors a tad more. Looking for a mid-century-meets-PNW-earthy vibe in the place. Not a lot of wildflowers around there right by the place, but oodles of gorgeous cedars, Doug-firs, vine maples, ferns, salad, Oregon grape, and other green gorgeousness.


        March 24, 2015 at 8:33 PM

        • I hope you make it to your PNW retirement paradise (and as I typed the word retirement I heard someone on television in the other room say the same word!).

          Your comment about bringing the outdoors indoors reminded me of the parody called “The Modern Hiawatha”:

          He killed the noble Mudjokivis.
          Of the skin he made him mittens,
          Made them with the fur side inside,
          Made them with the skin side outside.
          He, to get the warm side inside,
          Put the inside skin side outside;
          He, to get the cold side outside,
          Put the warm side fur side inside.
          That ’s why he put the fur side inside,
          Why he put the skin side outside,
          Why he turned them inside outside.

          Steve Schwartzman

          March 24, 2015 at 8:55 PM

          • Outstanding! I hadn’t seen that one. I will enjoy reading it whilst ruminating on the garden outside the condo, granted me by autocorrect in my previous comment when it changed the salal to salad. Typing the line now, I watched the words magically transform into “changed salad to salad,” which seems perfectly apropos as accompaniment to reading about turning various sides inside out, outside in, and outside of their outermost sides. Or, if you will, a Side dish.


            March 25, 2015 at 12:58 PM

            • I wondered about the salad in your list, but because I’d never heard of salal I didn’t think to include it in the green gorgeousness (a great phrase). As I typed that first sentence just now, WordPress underlined salal rather than (mis-)auto-correcting it. If WordPress has an auto-correct feature, I’ve never invoked it (and therefore it’s never provoked me the way some of my other programs do).

              Steve Schwartzman

              March 25, 2015 at 1:14 PM

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