Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Lichen update

with 11 comments


In a post a month ago I showed what I initially thought was Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides, at Monument Hill State Historic Site in La Grange, Texas. Bill Dodd added a comment in which he said he thought I’d actually photographed a so-called beard lichen, Usnea trichodea. On January 3rd of this year, on my first photo outing for 2017, I drove back to the site in La Grange and confirmed that Bill was right about my having photographed a lichen and not an epiphytic vascular plant. I invite you to check out the updated version of December’s post.

On the way back from La Grange I stopped at a scenic overlook on TX 71 east of Smithville and found some very different lichens growing on heavy stones along the road that circles the rest area. As today’s image I’ve included a photograph showing some of those much more colorful lichens.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 5, 2017 at 5:07 AM

11 Responses

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  1. The seeming difference in texture’s as interesting as the color difference. The orange looks thicker, as though it might be a little spongy to the touch, while the yellow-green looks like a mud flat drying in the sun: thin and brittle.

    There’s an artist in Matfield Green, Kansas, who’s doing an interesting project. She’s passing out “Scenic Overlook” signs to people. The point is to carry them off to places that we find scenic, take a photo, and send them to her for inclusion in a video presentation. I’ve got some of the signs in my car, and need to follow up on that. I’m sure your scenic overlook designers didn’t have lichen on parking stones in mind.


    January 5, 2017 at 6:57 AM

    • Speaking of differences in color and texture, when preparing this post I searched for articles describing the different types of lichens. The best article I found was at


      Both of the lichens in today’s photograph strike me as crustose. What do you think?

      What a coincidence that you ran into the woman doing the scenic overlook project. The scenic overlook near Smithville wasn’t all that scenic, at least not to my mind and vision, but the colorful lichens made stopping there worthwhile. If I were participating in the conceptual project, I’d place the sign by the lichens, strike through the “Over” in “Overlook,” and write “Under” above it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2017 at 8:01 AM

      • That’s quite a site you linked to. I do think these seem to be crustose. The “Lichen mosaic on iron-rich rock” looks remarkably similar to examples you’ve found.

        I spent quite a long time there, and saved the site. It’s a great resource, and it managed to keep me more than usually interested in lichens. The author has a sense of humor, too. I loved this: “Frequently Asked Questions (if anyone actually asked any).” My hunch is that some of the strange things I see at the marinas are foliose lichens — it’ll be fun to explore them a bit.


        January 6, 2017 at 6:31 PM

        • Yes, that site (which I also bookmarked) offers the best descriptions I’ve found of the different kinds of lichens. The existence of subtypes and hybrid types complicates matters.

          At the Field Museum in Chicago last spring I was surprised to find a room devoted entirely to lichens.

          Perhaps we’ll be seeing a post from you about marinas and foliose lichens.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 6, 2017 at 7:12 PM

  2. Do you know how lichen are distributed globally? Are they more abundant in higher latitudes?

    Jim Ruebush

    January 5, 2017 at 7:09 AM

  3. oops. A correction.


    Paul McCormack

    January 5, 2017 at 11:36 AM

  4. Intriguing photo, Steve, it looks like a topographical map to me – Lichen Land? 🙂


    January 8, 2017 at 4:34 PM

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