Alpine Lichens: Bishop Pass, Sequoia – Kings Canyon N.P., California

Bishop Pass is one of the more species-rich alpine locations in California that Imshaug collected in during his 1955 surveys. Despite the lack of well-developed soil, he found a number of soil crust lichens (terricolous lichens), along with dozens of rock lichens (saxicolous lichens). So we tasked ourselves with the same, and found all the species that Imshaug originally found.

The only trouble was: pretty horrible altitude sickness. Its unfortunately usual for Jason, so we’ve been slowly acclimatizing ourselves with training hikes, etc. But usually I’m just fine. And I got it bad that night below Bishop Pass. The comforting thought was considering that perhaps it’s an initiation: do we have what it takes to tackle this project? All 91 peaks throughout the Sierras, Cascades, Intermountain region and the Rockies? If the sun peaking over the ridge of Mt. Agassiz was saying anything the next morning, it might just have been saying: Yes, initiation successful.

Mt. Agassiz and its ridgeline, Bishop Pass is just below the peak, behind the mountain of alluvium in the foreground. The colors were a delight that day.
Mt. Agassiz and its ridgeline, Bishop Pass is just below the peak, behind the mountain of alluvium in the foreground. The colors were a delight that day.

Lecanora sierrae. The name
Lecanora sierrae (Sierra Rim Lichen), and the similar look-alike Lecanora novomexicana.(New Mexico Rim Lichen, paler green-yellow), side by side. The Sierra Rim lichen can be found all over the Great Basin Ecoregion, its a beauty. Just look for those orangish-tan colored apothecia on a greenish thallus (i.e. lichen body).
Arthrorhaphis citrinella?
Pin lichens can be found in the alpine? Yup. Could this be one? Perhaps, but we couldn’t chisel this one out of the crack, so we’ll never know for sure. Our best guess is Arthrorhaphis citrinella. Any other ideas?
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Map lichens gone crazy all over Moonglow Lichens! Here’s a chance to see a few of the alpine Rhizocarpon species in one location. First off, the super bright yellow-green one with the big circular thallus (lichen body) is R. superficiale. Then there’s a smaller gray R. dimelaenae which is growing parasitic on the paler Dimelaena oreina (also known as Golden Moonglow Lichen – its usually a creamy seafoam color, but here appears peachy colored).
Caption
Endolithic Disc Lichen, aka Lecidea laboriosa. And the name fits as it has a quite laborious existence growing inside of rock. Instead of having a distinct thallus where all the algae and fungal medulla get to be gregarious and have fun, the Endolithic Rim Lichen’s algae are growing disparately in a thin upper layer of the rock substrate. I kid you not. I have photos to prove it. Imagine what the psyche of this lichen is… presumably, it probably has an immensely powerful subconscious, with very little direct evidence of its influences on daily life — much like laborious hard workers who leave little time for dreaming in their waking lives, but explore vast landscapes during their dreamtime, only to forget them again upon awakening.
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I love this lichen. Lecanora polytropa, Waxy Rim Lichen. Like the Endolithic Disc Lichen shown above (Lecidea laboriosa), it also lacks a distinct thallus, but in contrast, the Waxy Rim Lichen’s  algae aren’t confined to the subsurface of the rock — instead the dreaming (algal photosynthesizing) and building (fungal medulla) and explosions of expressive creation (fungal spore making) are all synergistically entwined in one distinct location: the apothecia, aka those sweet little yellow discs.
Caption
And finally, the view from the collection site on Bishop Pass, looking eastward toward the lovely little town of Bishop, CA. Striking, eh? I’ll leave you to your own reveries on this one 🙂

 

 

 

 

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