Mt. Tiffany, North Cascades, Washington

Giant fires raged last year when Jason and I attempted to survey two alpine lichen locations in Washington: Mt. Pugh (Glacier Peak Wilderness) and Mt. Tiffany (Okanogan National Forest); the 2015 fires shut down many of the towns in the Eastern Cascades, and flames were jumping over regional Hwy 2, blocking our access to the Mt. Tiffany. Luckily we were still able to survey Mt. Pugh, and we saved Mt. Tiffany for this year. And it was well worth the wait!

North facing cliff of Mt. Tiffany. Jason risks life and limb to find rare lichens!
North facing cliff of Mt. Tiffany. Jason risks life and limb to find rare alpine lichens!

To sum up the survey: the terricolous macrolichens on the north ledges were *amazing*. And one notable absence:: Rhizoplaca melanopthalma was found in the 1955 survey but not found in our 2016 survey despite targeted searches throughout the summit area. What would cause this species to disappear – climate change or pollution or…  What do you think?

We took the Freeze out Ridge Trail to the top of My. Tiffany. in the eastern part of the North Cascades, Washington. Its just a short hike, a couple miles to the peak, and about 2,000 feet of elevation gain.The peak is at 8245 ft (2513 m), which in this corner of the planet is just above treeline.
We took the Freeze out Ridge Trail to the top of My. Tiffany, in the eastern part of the North Cascades, Washington. Its just a short hike, a couple miles to the peak, and about 2,000 feet of elevation gain.The summit is at 8245 ft (2513 m), which in this corner of the planet is just above treeline. Photo by Jason Hollinger, August 19, 2016.
Mt Tiff - Thamnolia
A standard terricolous alpine species: Thamnolia sp., also known as White Worm Lichen. I initially wanted to just pop the name T. vermicularis on it without having done a chemical test, but a quick check on the Esslinger List demonstrated that both T. vermicularis and T. subuliformis are known for North America – they have not been subsumed into chemotypes of each other as I had supposed. My best guess – until I get the specimen from storage and conduct a chemical spot test – is that it’s T. vermicularis, but lets say Thamnolia sp. for now.
Mt Tiff - Saxicolous crusts like tortoise shell
This is a super neat tortoise-like pattern of crustose lichens on a north facing boulder of Mt. Tiffany. Check out how angular the struggle zones are between the darker Rhizocarpon sp. species are, and how intricate the thin black prothallus around the white Aspicilia sp. is – the prothallus has little stellar points, like a spider’s web! I’m so used to seeing more circular crust assemblages – this one is a treat!
MtTiff - Pminuscula and Lpringleii
Pseudephebe minuscula (also known as Black Curly Lichen) surrounding Lecanora pringlei (i.e. Pringle’s Rim Lichen). I didn’t believe it was P. minuscula at first, the lobes just look so short and thick compared to P. pubescens, almost looks foliose, doesn’t it? Photo by Jason Hollinger.
Mt Tiff - Flavocetraria cucullata
Flavocetraria cucullata, also known as Curled Snow Lichen (isn’t that a sweet name?!), on a north facing ledge of Mt. Tiffany.
Erica and Nastassja - Mt Tiffany
USFS botanist Erica Heinlen came out to meet us on Mt. Tiffany and help with our collections, and she was *awesome*! We have only one specimen of Flavocetraria nivalis, (a species similar to the F. cucullata shown above) and it was Erica’s. Can’t wait to go through more of her specimens! Thank you so much Erica for all your help!!!

 

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