May 20, 2002 19:15 PDT 
Hey all,
I've been secretly reading your list for a while, and I figured I'd introduce myself and ask a question.

Heres my intro:
I'm Heather, I come from VT, having thoroughly fallen in love with vermonts mountains, forests, streams, rocks with Umbilicaria lichens the size of dinner plates with black velvet undersides, ravens, squishy mossy boreal forest floors, Bicknells thrushes, winter wrens, sunrises over the whites, sunsets over lake champlain, etc... I'll be back:)
Right now, im out here in ithaca, NY, working on BSs in biology (concentration on systematics and biotic diversity) and in plant science at Cornell. i'm learning about lots of amazing stuff like forest ecology, soil ecology, nutrient cycling, entomology, mycology, and botany.

Heres my question: I'm working right now on the lichen flora of this wetland complex near Ithaca, and I'm noticing lichens growing on combinations of trees that I wouldn't have expected. I'm wondering if anyone can give me a reference about books that might tell me how different tree barks might be as a substrate, info about pH, secondary metabolites in bark, and nutrient availability in particular might be interesting.

I've noticed a few species of lichen (especially Graphis scripta, the elven rune lichen) that seem to particularly like Musclewood and Yellow Birch, which I wouldnt expect because of the rather dramatically different textures of the bark. maybe the habitats that musclewood and yellow birch grow in are similar in humidity and sunlight levels, or maybe theres some reason it just likes the Betulaceae. I definitely need to explore these sorts of connections further, I'd love any insight about this yellow birch / Carpinus connection. I would also delight in reading any more general references on tree bark as a delicious place to grow.

~Heather Root
RE: lichens/bark   Leverett, Robert
  May 21, 2002 05:19 PDT 
Hello Heather:

Welcome aboard and thanks for passing the fascinating question on lichens our way. I'm copying Philip May on my response. He is a lichenologist here in Massachusetts and may be able to help or at least steer you in the right direction. You may want to check out the website Check out "Lichen Survey of Mount Everett Summit Southwest Berkshire County, Massachusetts - PDF". The referenced survey is Phil May's work.

     In terms of lichen affinity for trees, especially very old trees, Dr. Steve Selva of the University of Maine has done excellent work. A summary of some of his findings can be found in "Eastern Old Growth Forests - Prospects for Rediscovery and Recovery", edited by Dr. Mary Byrd Davis and published by Island Press in 1996. I don't recall if Selva deals directly with the two trees species you mentioned, but may have knowledge of lichens that colonize on them.

Lastly and hopefully, others on this list will address your question. I wish I could, but regrettably lichens are not my specialty. I am nonetheless interested in the kinds of associations you've apparently observed and will continue to help look for sources of information.

RE: lichens/bark   Kevin Caldwell
  May 21, 2002 11:43 PDT 

Look up Steve Selva @ Fort Kent (either University or College...not
sure)in northern Maine. He's the nonvascular Yoda of the northeast from
what I've heard and may have serious links and help that should be to
you lichen. (couldnt resist).

You should also look into hooking up with Bob et al some weekend in MA
or eastern NY to show us a thing or two on the nonvascular scene. there
are very few field non-vascular types out there (that I know of

Kevin Caldwell
GSMNP Species Inventories    Robert Leverett
   Apr 14, 2003 15:05 PDT 


    The following is an excerpt from a report put out by the GSMNP. First the report and then comments.


INVENTORY AND MONITORING - Keith Langdon, Branch Chief (865-436-1705)

EXTREME DIS-JUNCTS..AND NEW SPECIES, TOO: We have just received the final report for some lichen work. Dr. Tor Tonsberg, lichenologist at the University of Bergen in Norway, spent 10 days in the Smokies last summer with support from Discover Life in America, and his university. Tonsberg is an authority on temperate and boreal lichens, especially the crustose species. Lichens are both an alga and fungi that combine by providing water and/or nutrients to each other. They dominate large areas of the Polar Regions.

Tonsberg found 41 species that were previously unrecorded in the Park, including 10 genera (groups of closely related species) not previously recorded. Of these 41, eight are new to science! Additionally there were several extreme range expansions. Catillaria croatica were only previously from a single site in the Balkans. There were also a group of species he found that were located only at high elevations in the Park. Three of these were previously known only from the wet, lowlands of the Pacific Northwest; and another species was known only from the Pacific Northwest and the island of Newfoundland. These extreme dis-junctions of thousands of miles in distribution are sometimes evidence of very different past climatic conditions when species had radically different ranges.

Tonsberg also found more species in the genus Leparia than he has seen anywhere else in the world - four of the species new to science were in this genus and he believes there are additional undescribed taxa. Leparia are called the Dust Lichens, because it is impossible to wet them with liquid water due the surface tension caused by dust like particles on the surface. They grow in the wettest environments.

He did not get to the extensive high elevation areas in the eastern part of the Smokies, due to its remoteness, but overall, not bad for 10 days work! We consider the rapid discovery of so many species in such a short period of time, as further evidence of how little we know of the natural areas in this country.