January 26, 2010

A Walk in the Woods: Orange Lichen

After yesterday's terrible rainstorm, which left much of the area around my house bare of snow, I expected the woods path to be have only a thin coating of snow, so left my snowshoes behind for my midday walk. Instead, my boots sank into the few inches of gravelly snow, making progress slow. Before turning around for home, I found a jeweled treasure on the ground: branches blown down by the wind, dotted with brilliant orange lichens, which I don't think I've seen before. There was even a tiny bit of a red lichen, which you can see below. I brought a few branches home to photograph; the ones above are about 5/8 inch in diameter and the two below are 1 inch, to give some sense of scale.

It wasn't until I had taken the photos and then enlarged them that I was able to see the wonderful shapes and complex little worlds that these lichens inhabit. The grayish green lichens turned out to have little black toadstool shapes (fruiting bodies perhaps?) The orange lichens have little cup shapes; from the internet I've found that their common name is Pincushion Orange Lichen, a lovely phrase. I don't know why I find these small living forms – mosses, along with lichens – so compelling. Perhaps because they are almost hidden, usually overlooked, and need special attention to enjoy them.

Please click on the images to see enlargements so you can enjoy these tiny landscapes more fully.


  1. they are amazing enlarged. I'm looking more at the white than the orange areas, like some kind of ancient language trails.... this post illustrates one of the beauties of reading certain blogs: you never know what you're going to be shown.

  2. Very compelling and thank you for the reminder to enlarge. Your photos, unlike mine, are so crystal clear.

  3. Thank you both. As for not knowing what you'll read, I often don't know what will grab me, what I'll want to photograph or write about. I have a backlog of images not yet posted, but newer things, in front of my mind, take precedence.

  4. Love these images, your sensibility, the lichen. They all remind me of your rugs...
    A belated "Thank You" for your kind words about my dad's photos a few weeks back. I made it to the Bauhaus show at MoMA in the nick of time. An exciting exhibition!

  5. Scrolling from the last lichen image down to the cup of borscht, I saw a connection in the colors, round shapes and billows and hollows. I did some closeup photos of some lichens earlier this fall thinking I'd perhaps get around to drawing them ...