The past month I have largely spent working on a database collection of Florida lichens. I had largely spent my time leading up to last month checking to make sure that the data in the database was correct. This past month, I’ve had the pleasure to check the taxonomy of the collections. Its an amazing experience to have an herbarium of lichens to evaluate. It may seem daunting to have a 1,000 specimens to check, but its a great opportunity, because with that large amount comes the possibility to check identifications against each other. Its much easier to find mistakes if you have the ability to say “this one isn’t like the others.”
Lichens are tedious, but so is all taxonomy. Species are dependent on both chemical and physical characteristics. This leads to a lot of looking and testing. Chemical tests are simple. Just take a fragment of the lichen and put a drop of bleach or 10% KOH on it, and watch for a color change. My favorite is the UV light. The lichens often turn yellow or blue depending on what compound is in them.
I’ve learned so much about lichen taxonomy. This has been a dream perfect internship and opportunity. Another joy is finding rare lichens. In the past month, my mentor Roger Rosentreter and I have found a few disjunct populations, the southern limit of a few more species, and a few that we don’t what they are (“weird chemistry”). Hopefully I will have an update on those specimens in a future post. Also I hope to write a paper on these interesting lichens.
I also went back to the endangered Allium aaseae site (please see previous posts). A coworker and I cleaned up some of the vegetation we had cut a while back. A few of the onions were in bloom! Below is a photo I took of the onion.
Barry, BLM Idaho State Office