Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

New Zealand: Unusually curvaceous lichen

with 15 comments

Lichen in Pattern on Rocks 6059A

Along Moa Point Rd. in the southern part of Wellington on February 20th I found these fascinating lichens, which almost seemed to have been applied to the rocks with a squeeze bottle.

(Thanks to New Zealander Raewyn, I learned that a few days ago strong winds and high waves battered this very area.)

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 19, 2015 at 5:28 AM

15 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I adore finding lichens, but have never seen them in such a pattern as these! They are practically a mirror image of each other too, except in size.


    June 19, 2015 at 6:24 AM

  2. Very artistic lichen.


    June 19, 2015 at 8:54 AM

  3. I love your squeeze-bottle analogy. That’s exactly what it looks like.

    I pondered the photo for a while, and before long I was thinking about the tendency of certain mushrooms to grow in circular patterns: the so-called “fairy rings.” I went looking, and turned up this abstract for an article on lichen growth rings.

    The introduction begins: “Certain species of crustose lichens have concentrically zoned margins which probably represent yearly growth rings. These marginal growth rings offer an alternative method of studying annual growth fluctuations, establishing growth rate–size curves, and determining the age of thalli for certain crustose species.”

    I found this image and brief entry for Arctoparmelia centrifuga, which helps to make the concept a little more clear.

    What a neat find!


    June 19, 2015 at 6:10 PM

    • Thanks for the introduction to concentric-ring lichens. The picture you linked to doesn’t quite look like this New Zealand specimen, but I wonder if the same or a similar process is at work. Regardless, you can imagine my delight in finding such an unusual formation, one different from any I’d seen.

      I’ve heard about so-called fairy rings of mushrooms. I’ve also seen antelope-horns milkweeds grow in a ring, but I couldn’t quickly find a picture of that on the Internet. I’m not sure I have a decent picture in my archives, either, but I haven’t looked.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2015 at 7:55 PM

    • Once again the article you linked to shows a place I know from my visit. I drove the stretch of Highway 1 from Otaki to Levin on February 22. I’m sorry to see the highway damaged.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2015 at 8:01 PM

  4. It really is quite amazing how organisms operate. Maybe the patterns will fill in some day or possibly remain as we see it in your image. Or maybe…they are lichen circles that are sending a message to passing UFOs.

    Steve Gingold

    June 20, 2015 at 2:29 PM

    • I’m sure your last conjecture is the right one. I ought to know, because some of my ideas seem alien to people.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2015 at 2:48 PM

  5. Really cool picture! My first thought when I saw it was that it looks like Mickey Mouse!

    Michael Glover

    June 20, 2015 at 3:26 PM

    • That’s a good one, Michael. I never would have thought of that, but now that you say it I can see it. It’s a bit of free advertising for Walt Disney.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 20, 2015 at 3:47 PM

  6. The Steves have it. Anyone who has seriously contemplated the patterns inherent in the otherworldly configurations that lichens can adopt has surely considered the possibility that they may be signals to neighboring intelligent species. I mean, seriously, who else could come up with a concept such as a symbiosis of algae and fungi that would thrive in so many diverse ecosystms? If only we could learn to read the signals they send…


    June 21, 2015 at 10:05 PM

    • It sure is a weird symbiosis, isn’t it? I don’t think I have much chance of reading any signals from them, so taking pictures of their varied and often strange appearance will have to do.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 21, 2015 at 11:07 PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: