Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January 25, 2011 – Lichens

It helps to be a painter to really appreciate lichens. Some of them come in garish, bright colors. Colors that, at times, only nature can really get away with. As far as the natural world goes, lichens don’t generate a lot of excitement. You won’t be seeing a National Geographic special on lichens.

Years ago Bay Nature ran a great piece on California lichens that gave me a far greater appreciation of them beyond just their pleasing color palette. When we think of biodiversity, a tropical rainforest is often the first thing that comes to mind. While we don’t have rainforests in California, we are the real hotbed of plant life biodiversity in North America. About a third of the endemic species in North America are only found in California. Lichens are no exception with over 1,200 species present. These intense oranges and chartreuse were everywhere on a trip down to Pinnacles National Monument last Fall. Pinnacles is a little visited treasure of the National Park System. It’s best in the Spring when the wildflowers are blooming, but November is good too, when the lichens have the stage to themselves.

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