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Hamamelis ×intermedia 'Fireglow' and Evernia prunastri

Hamamelis ×intermedia 'Fireglow' and Evernia prunastri

Updated February 7, 2006 at 4:06pm: Thanks to Doug who suggested some alternatives to my tentative identification in the comments, I went out and re-examined the lichen. I'm now reasonably confident that this is Evernia prunastri and not what I misidentified it as, Platismatia stenophylla. I think it's an opportune time to remind you that I'm more interested in having the correct information available to BPotD readers than I am in being “right”. If I ever post something that doesn't sit right with you or if you can add something (including a different perspective!), please comment – Daniel.

Mysteries abound, today. Let's start with the lichen. I'm fairly certain it is Platismatia stenophylla or ribbon rag lichen, but it's difficult to confirm. I've only one image in a book to compare with, since there are no results in image search engines for either Platismatia stenophylla or a synonym, Cetraria stenophylla. Nope, I was wrong – Evernia prunastri is a better match. This taxon's native range of occurring in coastal forests of temperate western North America matches, as does its property of growing on trees – so perhaps I'm right. To help be certain, I'd have to break out the chemistry kit. As I've noted before, lichen identification is often aided by observing reactions to chemical reagents (if you ever see a person in a forest with a satchel of small bottles covered by eyedroppers, you will have encountered a bona fide lichenologist).

For Platismatia stenophylla Evernia prunastri, confirming that it is either KC+ (yellowish) or KC- would help verify my tentative identification. This test would involve first wetting the thallus (body) of the lichen with a ten percent potassium hydroxide (KOH) solution, or the K test. The C test would be a dose of bleach, that is, a solution of sodium hypochlorite. If there is no apparent reaction to the bleach on the KOH-soaked lichen, another bit of evidence would be in agreement with the identification. If the test was positive, however, the thallus would change colour. For this lichen, a change to a yellowish colour would help confirm. If it changed a different colour, I'd be back to scratching my head over other possibilities.

The Oregon Coalition of Interdisciplinary Databases has a good entry on Evernia prunastri, and image search comparisons also suggest a match.

The hybrid witchhazel poses a different sort of mystery. Occasionally in the past few years, some staff time has been invested in attempting to verify that a cultivar 'Fireglow' exists. So far, we've come up short. Staff from the garden have searched online, reviewed the horticultural literature and even contacted the International Cultivar Registration Authority for Hamamelis, all to no avail. Its existence as a cultivar could be due to something as simple as a clerical error in its thirty year history. Or, perhaps it is a locally-developed selection, named and sold only to a select few three decades ago (it was purchased from a now-closed local nursery). Too, it could be a misidentification and actually an entirely different cultivar. We haven't yet figured it out.

Photography resource link: Tripod Therapy, an article by Rod Barbee for Nature Photographers Online. Good advice regarding one of photography's most important tools.

13 Comments

Thanks - interesting & stimulating -

Hamamelis x intermedia - Z5 - RHS Index of Garden Plants, Griffiths
Hamamelis x intermedia - Z5-9 - A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, Brickell, Cole, Zuk

Your comments brought back fond memories of a mycology class I took years ago where the students were asked to choose a genus of fungi (including lichens), collect specimens, and formulate a key to the species. I chose the lichen genus Parmelia and, while all the other students turned in handsome specimens of the fungi they collected, I handed in a bunch of microscope slides showing the crystal morphology of the lichen acids I extracted from the lichens. It was an intresting project!

Thanks for the story, Steve. I think I'll have to take a before and after photograph (or scan) one day of some lichens subject to a few of these chemical reagents.

For what it's worth, the unverified name combines the English translation of 'Feuerzauber'--that is, "fire charm"--with 'Ruby Glow'. So, it could be a garbling, a mistake for 'Feuerzauber' (I think it looks more like that one than 'Ruby Glow', plus it just seems more likely "zauber" could be mistranslated to "charm" than "ruby" being replaced with "fire"). Or it could be a deliberately madeup name, perhaps even for the purposes of avoiding royalties (if that might apply in this case). Without talking to a witness to the origination of the name you may never find out.

Ron, thanks. Yes, it's likely that we won't.

Correction: "it seems more likely 'zauber' could be mistranslated to 'glow'".

Whatever it's true name, that Hamamelis has spectacular color. Beautiful photo of both the hazel and the lichen, as usual, Daniel.

The lichen looks like it could also be an Evernia or a Ramalina. Both have common tree-branch growing species. Were there reasons you ruled those genus (genii) out?

Doug, thanks. I considered and ruled out Ramalina on comparisons of this against the photographs in the “Lichens of North America”. However, I think you're onto something with the Evernia suggestion, because Evernia prunastri looks extremely similar (I think I simply overlooked the image of that one in the book). Evernia prunastri is certainly more common, so that is in its favour. I'll have to revisit the lichen and gather some more information.

The plural of genus is genera, though I see where you are coming from.

Again, thanks Doug. Updated the entry.

NIce Photo,
I live in Brazil and em a love lichens
Currently I'm studing Biology and I intend to specialize in this area.

Hug.

That’s Too nice, when it comes in india hope it can make a Rocking place for youngster.. hope in which arrive true.

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