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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth De Cicco

Lichen Walk

On May 22nd, I led a Lichen Walk through NJMA with Jason Hafstad, Dorothy Smullen, and Dennis Waters. Our walk in April filled up the day it was posted, so we held a second one for people on the waiting list.

Dorothy gave newcomers a short introduction to Lichen Ecology and we surveyed Franklin Parker Preserve for Lichens to identify. In April, we surveyed the FPP air strip and a portion of cedar swamp. When we returned in May, we surveyed an old dirt road that ended along a stream with a paleo dune. Both sides of the road had been forested, but we found a nice selection of Cladonia sp. when we approached the paleo dune.

After collecting specimens, we set up identification tables with stereomicroscopes. We were able to identify many species in the field, but we ran into some issues with the keys. While trying to key out species of Usnea, we found that different couplets were sending us back to the same species and didn't quite match the differences in the photos and written descriptions in the book we were using.

Cladonia sp. also proved to be tricky. Dennis recommended using Macrolichens of New England, which includes the most species. Closely related species are very hard to distinguish, even with chemicals and UV light. Some species required a dangerous chemical that Jason and I did not have, so we could not conclude all the identifications.

I saved all the specimens and made labels so we can use them for later reference. It was a really good experience. Jason and I learned how to prepare for a Lichen ID workshop, we learned some new species, and we got to introduce newcomers to Lichenology. I handed out a reference sheet of Cladonia of NJ I made based on photos from Lichens of North America. I made sketches a few years ago when I was first starting to study lichens. It helped me get a better grasp on names and morphology. However, in using my own reference in the field, I found one mistake: one of the thumbnails is completely wrong! I don't mind revising the sheet because there is new information I can add as well. A new winter project will be drawing new reference images from the specimens we collected.

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