There are grand panoramas to be had on hands and knees at Halibut Point, especially on misty days.
|Two crustose lichens, commingled|
|A lichen fruiting|
As an obtainable but definitely second-best passport to the Terrain of the Tiny I coax my camera into macro focus and consult new guidebooks. The predominant vegetation consists of mosses and lichens.
|Lichens subordinate, mosses fruiting|
|Mosses subordinate, lichens fruiting|
|Martha Finta examining lichens on an oak tree|
Martha refers to the botanical complexity of lichens as 'mutualism.' A certain group of fungi - which have no chlorophyll and cannot directly convert the sun's energy into organic energy - has gained the ability to enmesh certain green-celled algae or cyanobacteria to draw on their capability to photosynthesize. The fungal component adds sponginess as a water reservoir for the pair, and no doubt other biochemical benefits.
These lichen arrangements have developed many different forms, and the ability to reproduce as a unit. Their life history makes very interesting investigation. Like Martha you can go on field trips by joining the Friends of Harvard University's Farlow Library and Herbarium of Cryptogamic Botany - the lichen, moss, and fungus people.
|Lichens on ledge|
|Lichens on concrete|
"That's not the 'maple dust lichen,' but another one. I wonder if it's not this.... Nope, not nine-tenths of a millimeter. Did it look like this under the glass?... Oh, it's this family. Dimelaena oreina. It could be confused with another one. Hah!...Oh great. 'Golden moonglow lichen.' But it doesn't really have yellowish lobes. I saw some black dots but I don't know if they're level with the surface."
|Lichens on granite bench|
"This is one with the black discs. No, wait, they're brown discs. We have a small mystery, at least for the moment. Probably it's an aspicilia. Here we go! 'Cumberland rock shield,' Xanthoparmelia cumberlandia.
I ask Martha what keeps her at it. "What's the draw?"
Martha - "It's like being one with your surroundings, to know what it is. It goes hand in hand with Nature. It's instinctual."
Me - "You had to take a bus to come over here."
Martha - "You called. Someone wants to learn more about it. Let's see what happens. It's an adventure."
|Rock surface, detail|
Lichens of the North Woods, by Joe Walewski
Common Lichens of Northeastern North America: A Field Guide, by Troy McMullin and Frances Anderson
The Granite Landscape, by Tom Wessels