Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Three views of lichens on granitic rock

with 31 comments

One of the pleasures of visiting the area near Inks Lake in Burnet County is the visibility of granitic rock.

Here are various types of lichens I saw along Park Road 4 on April 27th.

UPDATE: After this posted, I found an article that explains lichens in a way I hadn’t heard before.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 18, 2020 at 4:30 AM

31 Responses

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  1. When I was a child I loved orange and yellow together, guess I still do because I do love the bottom photo — what pretty lichen!

    Ms. Liz

    May 18, 2020 at 5:18 AM

    • It’s good of lichens to so often put on a show for us.
      Your words reminded me of Wordsworth’s poem:

      My heart leaps up when I behold
      A rainbow in the sky:
      So was it when my life began;
      So is it now I am a man;
      So be it when I shall grow old,
      Or let me die!
      The Child is father of the Man;
      And I could wish my days to be
      Bound each to each by natural piety.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2020 at 6:27 AM

  2. Lichen will be here long after the human race is not even a memory.


    May 18, 2020 at 6:45 AM

  3. I love the colors and textures of Lichen. Wordsworth…a good companion just about all the time. 😀


    May 18, 2020 at 7:37 AM

  4. I love observing lichen and these images show how varied color and pattern can be. The Wichita Mountains just southwest of here, is a grand place to observe lichen, especially on granite rock faces. But closer to home here, we find it on sand rock, and most notably on cliff faces found everywhere in the countryside. Of course it’s found widely on trees, and is quite showy on damp days. It was interesting to discover in that article that lichen absorb pollutants and can indicate levels of pollutants in the atmosphere. On further exploration of this, I found lichen can be extremely sensitive to even the slightest changes in air quality. There is a lot more than a splash of brilliant color and pattern to lichen.


    May 18, 2020 at 7:57 AM

    • Yes, there is. In the Field Museum in Chicago four years ago we found a whole room devoted to lichens. I’m glad you’re near the Wichita Mountains, where lichens abound—but then, as you add, lichens seem to be everywhere. I’d heard about lichens’ sensitivity to pollution. The implication is that big cities would be home to fewer of them. I still find plenty in Austin (2 million people in the metro area), but then the part of the city where we live is what I think of as suburban, akin to the Long Island where I grew up rather than to the big city. One question that arises is whether some lichens will evolve to do well in an area where pollution increases.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2020 at 8:30 AM

  5. Great photos of this most mysterious plant, Steve! I recently read in Bill Bryson’s book ” A Short History Of Nearly Everything” that the lichen in symbiosis with algae can actually get their nutrients from the rock they are attached to. Truly marvellous!

    Peter Klopp

    May 18, 2020 at 8:37 AM

    • Yes, I just finished reading about that in the linked article I added at the end: “The lichen mycobionts can break down rocks and release minerals by producing certain chemicals.” In technical botanical terms, fungi, algae, and bacteria aren’t in the plant kingdom, and therefore neither are lichens. However one classifies lichens, they’re still fascinating and make for excellent photo subjects.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 18, 2020 at 8:49 AM

    • I’ve just finished re-reading Bryson’s wonderful book, having read it for the first time several years ago. I love it!


      May 18, 2020 at 4:35 PM

      • That’s two recommendations now. Under normal circumstances I’d’ve taken it out of the library but the library is closed (and a bunch of people are already in line once the library opens). Looks like I’ll have to check into ordering it online.

        Steve Schwartzman

        May 18, 2020 at 4:41 PM

  6. Thanks for the link. I love that orange lichen in the last image. Is the first one of the rock-shields?

    Steve Gingold

    May 18, 2020 at 2:49 PM

  7. As you know, I’ve been liking lichens for quite some time and enjoyed reading the livescience link. I have a fair backlog of lichen photos that I haven’t posted yet, and may have to rectify that. Thanks for these nice ones and for the prod!


    May 18, 2020 at 4:47 PM

  8. Art.

    Michael Scandling

    May 19, 2020 at 1:36 AM

  9. These lichens remind me of those I’ve seen on rocks along the Willow City loop. After checking the location of Inks Lake, the resemblance makes sense. I suspected there might be photos of similar lichens in Allred’s book about Enchanted Rock, and sure enough: both your first and third photos show lichens similar to those he used as examplars.

    I rather enjoyed this closing paragraph in his section on lichens: “Although it would have been interesting to include a photographic record of the lichens at Enchanted Rock SNA, it is difficult for the nonexpert to identify individual species of lichens. In fact, close examination of the spores and chemical analysis are required to establish the species definitively for most specimens, especially since the lichens at Enchanted Rock SNA have never been systematically studied. As collection of specimens was not part of this work, the species remain unidentified for future researchers.”

    Now, that’s a word of permission to just enjoy them and photograph them for their beauty.


    May 19, 2020 at 7:00 AM

    • And that permission to just enjoy is one that I gladly accept. The part of me that likes to know the names of things happily yields to the part of me that is a photographer.

      I wonder why “the lichens at Enchanted Rock SNA have never been systematically studied.” Seems like some enterprising graduate student would have done that by now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 19, 2020 at 12:54 PM

  10. […] than three and a half years, but I’ve been discussing lichens recently with blogging buddy Steve Schwartzman and I figure it’s about time to revisit this category with another one from my archives. I […]

  11. Beautiful

    Nancy Basinger

    May 21, 2020 at 10:58 AM

  12. Fantastic! I can envision these printed as huge canvases! 🙂


    May 22, 2020 at 5:25 PM

  13. We have an abundance of lichens here and I’ve become very fond of them, so I’m always happy when someone who can make photographs as well as you can posts images of lichens. I skimmed the article – it looks very good. I’ve been doing some reading on them, too. Here’s a terrific site, if you haven’t seen it.


    May 24, 2020 at 11:31 AM

    • I envy you the abundant lichens you have in your temperate rainforest. Fortunately lichens are so diverse that plenty of them still find a way to thrive in the hotter and drier conditions of central Texas.

      Thanks for that website, which I’ve bookmarked.

      Steve Schwartzman

      May 24, 2020 at 2:30 PM

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