This is another interesting fungus discovered during my recent field trip with Pinelands Preservation Alliance, an Earth Star (Scleroderma geaster). These unusual fungi apparently grow first out of the ground as a round, almost bulb-like fungus, then slowly split apart into the star-like shape. The center ball structure holds the spores, much like a puff ball, and emits them when disturbed. I found several of these on my return trip and, like so many others, it was the first time I had ever really noticed them.
I had this unusual lichen identified as Tar Lichen in my notes, though I haven’t been able to find it in my guides or during web searchs. In this case, I actually remember seeing this before, but had no idea that it was a lichen! It really looks like globs of tar that have somehow been poured into the sand. If you have a better or more definitive identification, please send it along to me. Thanks!
A I mentioned in earlier posts, the Pinelands Preservation Alliance guides took time to point out several lichen during our walk. They referred to this as False Reindeer Lichen and it grew abundantly among, around, and under other plants like a beautiful blue-green carpet.
When I took a closer look I noticed that the lichen branches in several directions and develops small dark colored spore caps at the ends of each branch. Unlike British Soldier, False Reindeer Lichen is difficult to overlook and at this particular location was pretty abundant.
Earlier this year I posted photographs of lichen I discovered while exploring the pine/oak forests around Whitesbog Village and learned that several of you have interest in them too. Here is an example of a lichen pointed out during my field trip with the wonderful folks from Pineland Preservation Alliance , a British Soldier Lichen (Cladonia cristatella). This attractive lichen is apparently pretty common in the pine barrens, though I must admit that before this field trip I had never once noticed it. Perhaps the fact that this lichen only grows about 1 centimeter (about 1/2 inch) tall has something to do with my overlooking it, but you would think the bright red spore caps would have given it away. This actually turned out to be a challenging subject to photograph. I tried several shots hand-holding my camera, but was disappointed by the results. I finally obtained reasonably focused results by spreading my tripod low to the ground like a giant spider and used a remote shutter release to minimize vibration to the camera.
Once home and reviewing my photos, I noticed an even smaller plant (maybe a lichen?) was growing among the British Soldier Lichen. I’m still searching though my plant guide books in hopes of identifying this interesting little fellow. Any thoughts?
Lichens are incredible symbiotic organisms, composed of fungi, algea, and cyanobacteria. In lichen, the dominate partner is a fungus, unable to produce its own food, that has cultivated a relationship with food-producing algea and cyanobacteria. There are thousands of species of lichen in a variety sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. I find them facinating because they can grow in the most marginal of habitats, including bare stone, and make interesting photographic subjects. I found these while hiking in Whitesbog.