Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Temperate forest

with 31 comments


When we visited the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve in Guerneville, California, on October 27th, we encountered rain. That’s not unusual in a temperate cloud forest, but it meant we couldn’t enjoy, nor I photograph, the redwood trees the way we’d hoped to. There were times when Eve held one umbrella over herself and another over me so I could take some pictures. Many of the resulting photographs were so-so, given the rain and the low light, but near the end of our stay the rain tapered off for a while and I made this lush picture of lace lichen (Ramalina menziesii) hanging from the trees.

While preparing this post I learned that in 2015 California made Ramalina menziesii its official state lichen. I searched online but didn’t turn up any other state that has chosen an official lichen. Oh, California.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 3, 2016 at 5:05 AM

31 Responses

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  1. The lichen looks like rain. Lovely.

    Sherry Felix

    December 3, 2016 at 5:18 AM

  2. So true about the redwoods, pretty low light to start with. Though the rain would be interesting. Only California would have a state lichen, it must have been quite the competition 😀

    Ed Lehming Photography

    December 3, 2016 at 7:01 AM

    • I experimented with taking flash pictures in the rain but the nearest drops lit up and interfered with the scene behind them.

      You can imagine the intrigue of a lichen competition, but there seems not to have been one: “The California Lichen Society worked with Assemblyman Marc Levine, a Marin County Democrat, to sponsor the bill that gave lace lichen — a tangled, pale green organism named for the delicate nets growing from its tendrils’ tips — its new title.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 3, 2016 at 7:19 AM

  3. First, I thought I was seeing rain. Then I thought about Spanish moss, but your linked article helped me out with that. Now I see a natural curtain, shielding unknown treasures from prying eyes. The contrast between the leaves and the hanging lichen, combined with the muted colors, is so nice. With apologies to Ezra Pound:

    The apparition of this green and hanging crowd;
    Lichen on a wet, black bough.


    December 3, 2016 at 7:39 AM

    • For those in the moister parts of Texas (and much of the South) who see this photograph, the thought of a strong resemblance to “our” Spanish moss is probably both immediate and inevitable. Tomorrow’s post will briefly bounce back to Texas and feature that other kind of Spanish moss.

      I’ve been in stations of the Métro but I don’t recall whether I’d ever read Ezra Pound’s poem,


      which strikes me as similar to a haiku.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 3, 2016 at 7:59 AM

  4. What an amazing scenery! Thanks for sharing, and have a nice weekend,


    December 3, 2016 at 9:43 AM

    • I don’t believe I’d heard of this place before our trip. It turned out to be the first of several redwood preserves we visited in California, all of them good. If you ever get to the San Francisco Bay area, they (and others) are well worth visiting.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 3, 2016 at 9:53 AM

  5. Yeah, you’ve got to love a state that would embrace a lichen. Looks like they made a good choice in this one. This photo is good for my soul. I’m so glad you and Eve persevered!


    December 3, 2016 at 9:47 AM

    • This lichen was common at the redwood parks we visited, both hanging from the trees and (in smaller amounts) fallen on the ground. My guess is that the people who proposed this species as the official state lichen chose it because it looks so different from what we normally think of as a lichen. Like Linda, I immediately saw a resemblance to the Spanish moss in Texas, which is an epiphyte rather than a lichen.

      Our perseverance mostly took the form of visiting the other redwood parks on subsequent days, when things were still damp but we managed to avoid more rain.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 3, 2016 at 9:58 AM

  6. I too thought it was rain at first! I love lichens and am fascinated by the Spanish moss and the hanging lichens found in Canada and I think every state should have an official lichen 😉


    December 3, 2016 at 10:30 AM

    • Long green rain: what an image.

      I’ve read about “Spanish moss” and “old man’s beard” lichens in the genus Usnea but am not sure whether I saw any in Canada. I probably did without realizing it.

      So many fascinating lichens exist that I don’t know how you’d go about picking just one for each state. At least there are 50 states, so collectively you’d bring attention to lots of lichens. You can start a campaign in the UK to bring attention to these organisms. Imagine a poster headlining the Lovely Lichens of Liverpool.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 3, 2016 at 10:45 AM

  7. […] alternate common name for California’s lace lichen, which you saw last time, is Spanish moss. That’s stretching the truth, because a lichen […]

  8. I thought this was a painting at first, it’s so beautiful and textured!!!

    laura lecce

    December 4, 2016 at 3:39 PM

    • When I saw this scene it enchanted me. I’m glad some of that enchantment comes across to you in the photograph.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 4, 2016 at 9:53 PM

  9. A beautiful scene and as someone already said, almost painterly.


    December 6, 2016 at 4:21 PM

    • It was magical to be there. I was so happy when the rain finally let up and I could record a little of the magic.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 6, 2016 at 4:28 PM

  10. I haven’t seen that variety before .. We have lots of lichen here. I believe it loves clean air .. Wonderful image Steve


    December 10, 2016 at 12:46 PM

    • This sort of stringy lichen was new to me, too. Later I learned that Texas has a lichen that’s similar in form. so now I’ll be on the lookout for it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2016 at 1:52 PM

  11. […] subjects of two recent successive posts—one from California and one from Texas—were epiphytes, organisms that grow on animate or inanimate objects for […]

  12. […] teasing you here with pictures from redwood preserves, first the Armstrong Grove and then Muir Woods, I’m finally providing a clear shot of a California redwood tree, Sequoia […]

  13. […] visiting a wet Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve on October 27th last year, we drove over to get a look at the Pacific Ocean. The hazy view shown […]

  14. Wow, so beautiful, thank you for linking this in my post. I would have thought it was a different lichen – we have one here that’s similar. https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/usnea_longissima.shtml
    When I did a google image search of Ramalina menziesii I could see the difference – I must look for this when I go to CA!


    November 21, 2017 at 2:44 PM

    • And thanks for the introduction to Usnea longissima. I hope I get a chance to see and photograph it in your part of the world. Temperate cloud forests and rain forests are so different from anything in Texas.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 21, 2017 at 8:28 PM

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