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Chiricahua National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument

If you're like me, you look at this photograph, note the yellowish-green colouration of the rock and then ask, “What lichen causes that?”. If you're also like me, you've spent hours trying to figure out what lichen it might be, and not knowing has stopped you from posting a photograph of the Chiricahua National Monument until today. I still don't know what it is, but I'm sharing this photograph from late March anyway. After dozens of false leads on the lichen identification, I'm pursuing a laborious path: the process of elimination, using this listing of Lichens of the Chiricahua National Monument. Considering it's one of the few National Parks and Monuments for which the travel literature actually mentions lichens, you'd think it would be easy to find the scientific name. No such luck.

The Chiricahua National Monument lies at the intersection of four large-scale plant communities: the Chihuahuan desert, the Sonoran desert, the southern Rocky Mountains and the northern Sierra Madre. Like many other confluences of landforms, biodiversity is high. Read about the animals and plants of the Chiricahuas from the US National Park Service site or see a series of photographs of plants from the different zones here: Sky Islands and Montane Communities. The monument's geology makes the area even more stunning to a naturalist.

Science resource link: Dendronautics – exploration of the rainforest canopy by airships and similar aerial platforms (with photos!).

14 Comments

This is one of the most fascinating recent things I have learned about. Here is a website where you can read more about "desert varnish". Sadly they have added lots of popup ads so turn on your blocker.
http://www.desertusa.com/magdec97/varnish/dec_varnish.html

Thanks for the wonderful view of the wonderland of rocks - I used to work there (but don't know lichens). It's highly recommended for those who enjoy natural history of all kinds.

Oh, that is a place of very happy memories; my grandparents lived in SE Arizona for many years, and several times I went there with my grandpa. Great times, in a beautiful place.

Gosh, I've lived in Tucson since '91 and only driven past on I-10. I always stop at that Texas rest stop, but have never actually explored the mountains. I know Geronimo and his Apache warriors used to hide out there.
I do remember seeing a lot of different coloured lichen in Sycamore Canyon, which is a riparian area near Nogales (the border with Mexico).

Thanks for the lead, Roberta - I'll be sure to check out Sycamore Canyon next time I'm in the area. Those sycamores (Platanus wrightii) are one of my favourite plants.

Why don't you just ask Beth at Firefly Forest blog? You recommended her site months ago and it has become one of my favourites. She lives around Tucson and her blog is primarily that area. She has posted photos and text on the Chiricahua National Monument. Also Beth's area of expertise is environment/nature/flora/fauna so she should be able to answer your questions regarding the lichen.

Thanks for the reminder, Christina. I thought Beth had given up on blogging due to some sort of incident a little while ago, but I see she's returned (albeit with a few changes in the way she has the site set up). I think I will do just that.

Bobbie,

Thanks so much for that link on Desert Varnish. I had thought it was wind polish. Amazing that it is bacterial. And the whole page was useful.

Received a reply from Beth - she didn't know either, unfortunately.

In their book Lichens of North America, Brodo,Sharnoff, and Sharnoff present photographs of Candelina submexicana and Candelariella vitellina both of which are species of yellow-to-golden lichens, and both are on the list of the lichens of Chiricahua National Monument that you linked to. There are descriptions and photos of other yellow lichens in the abovementioned book, which I highly recommend for its photographic qualities, which can be appreciated by those (such as myself) who are not experts in the field.

Thanks Leslie, I'll have a good second look. Yes, it's a great book - I took a weekend lichens course with Brodo a few years ago, and it was top-notch.

The most interesting exchange of comments for quite a while! There are a lot of lichenophiles out here and I am one, though I don't know the names of them, other than Usnea tillandsioides. Now I have got to find out more about Chiracauhua Natl. Mon. and I am GRATEFUL for the internet because I am too old and banged up to do much hiking around such places any more. Thanks for an ever fascinating site, and I have been with you since month 1, though I have trouble keeping up with all the material you present.

Acarospora contigua, I've now learned, is another possibility.

Check CalPhotos and Google images for photos of Pleopsidium chlorophanum, one of the gold cobblestone lichens.

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