Friday, May 21, 2010
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Rereading "Spring in Fialta" by Vladimir Nabokov, I enjoy the short stories that I read at least once before, since I started reading Nabokov in 1975.
The copy of the paperback that I'm reading is from 1951, it cost 35 cents at the time and every page that I turn breaks off. So I am also the last person to read this particular copy, reading it is destroying it.
In the story that I just finished, "That in Aleppo Once", I come across a reference to lichens. The lichen in the story is as unobtrusive as they are in real life, very easy to miss if you are not looking:
"Viewing the past graphically, I see our mangled romance engulfed in a deep valley of mist between the crags of two matter-of-fact mountains: life had been real before, life will be real from now on, I hope. Not tomorrow, though. Perhaps after tomorrow. You, happy mortal, with your lovely family (How is Ines? How are the twins?), and your diversified work (how are the lichens?), can hardly be expected to puzzle out my misfortune in terms of human communion, but you may clarify things for me through the prism of your art."
Last week I stepped back into the lichen world, as I joined a group on a lichen tour here in Amsterdam. The tour would take nearly two hours so I wore my hiking shoes, but all in all we barely covered 300 meters. Right at the start already, a rare lichen was discovered on the meeting place, a tiny spot on a square. I borrowed a small magnifying glass from our guide and bent over, kneeled, and pressed my nose to the ground, to walls and trees nearby. And I took a few pictures of my fellow lichen-fans.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Hiking along a steep path steeply on the Lykavittos hill in Athens, I found a rock with some lichens. Getting close up to them made me feel closer to home. I admire their ability to find spots no other plant wants to claim, so they aren't threatened and they can have a very long lifetime partly because they need very little to live.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Thursday, September 07, 2006
The fantastic lichen he found for me has a purple hue. A theatrical lichen. Laurens Sparrius explains this hue is caused by a fungus crest.
It's Cladonia fimbriata, Kopjes-vingermos.
It closely resembles Physcia aipolia... it's just that the inside of the apothecia is the same very pale light-jade green as the prothallus, instead of black. It might still be, as Dobson mentions this colour can also be white-pruinose. Also: "rarely on nutrient-enriched walls and rocks. Now returning to many areas as pollution levels drop."
One of the graves hosts a priest, joined by his brother and his wife (the brother's wife, that is, not the priest's wife). The slabs with inscriptions are kept immaculate but the stone lining of the simple grave has been ornamented by lichens. I'm unsure what species this is. Rusty red, it resembles some Caloplaca.
The old church of Limbricht is very old. On a site about old churches in the province of Limburg I read: "A little outside the village of Limbricht, close to the castle, is where the old church stands. It was closed when the new church elsewhere in the village (building commenced in 1922) was opened. The old church is two aisles wide. Both aisles are about equally high and wide. The oldest part of the church is the northern aisle, especially the lower half of the northern wall, which dates from the 11th century and consists of stones from the river Maas. The choir has a few fragments from the same century, but is largely from ca. 1250 and in late-Romanesque style. Inside are some murals from the period, which are probably the oldest in The Netherlands. The tower was built around 1458 and it stood next to the church at the time. In the first quarter of the 16th century the southern aisle was added and the facade renewed. In 1651 both aisles were heightened and provided with stepped gables at the east end. In 1953-1954 F.P.J. Peutz restored the church and removed sacristy and portal which had been added more recently."
I visited the graveyard and found some lichens which I will show in separate entries.
I bought a book about the trees of Europe, so I can learn to name the tress I find lichens on. I also chose a booklet with a standard listing of the Dutch lichens and an illustrated paperback of almost 500 pages, Lichens, An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species by Frank S. Dobson. A German book of reference in two volumes, nearly a thousand pages in all, is on backorder for me.
Then I went looking for the old parts of the little town, hoping to bring back some pictures of lichen from this trip.
First I went for the church tower, a promising landmark. This church isn't as old as it seems, or it's been kept so clean there's no lichen to be found there. But luckily, a low wall around the back of the church grounds looks like it's been in neglect for dozens of years. Very good news.
Lots of moss and plenty of lichen. In the corner of the wall I may have found Cladonia macilenta. Comparing the Dobson book with the Dutch field guide by Kok van Herk and André Aptroot helped me arrive at this best guess.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Checking the field guide, I don't find a visual match. Some Lecanora almost resemble.
I went out to take pictures. This time I made three little series, zooming in on the lichen, so it becomes clear what it grows on and what size it is before I come closer. Two on a tree and one on a post.
The Xanthoria parietina (Groot dooiermos) is very common. I've pictured one already but made this series to portray 'the girl next door' and show how pretty she is in the right light.
PS: here's one that Claudia Hahler sent me. She made this picture last year in Germany:
Monday, September 04, 2006
I looked but didn't find reference to these college notes online. I did find an article with the same title on the site of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh:
"Cleaner air? Lichens don't lie...
27 May 2004
A rare lichen last seen in Edinburgh in 1797 has made its reappearance in the Garden at Inverleith. RBGE’s resident lichenologists Brian Coppins and Chris Ellis were examining the lichens growing on deciduous rhododendrons in the Azalea lawn when they discovered the gristle lichen, Ramalina fraxinea, attached to a rhododendron stem.
The gristle lichen has declined, sometimes to local extinction, in many parts of Britain due to high levels of sulphur dioxide air pollution prevailing since the Industrial Revolution. It is thought that rigorous and effective measures to reduce air pollution in the last decades have allowed lichens such as this to return to areas where they had previously died off.
The specimen found consisted of several rigid, strap-like lobes, the largest being 8cm long. Under ideal conditions, such as parkland trees in the north east of Scotland, this lichen can attain an impressive length of 30cm."
And another on the site of the French Office of Science and Technology:
Lichens don't lie
proof of nuclear site leakage
Who would you be more willing to believe, France's Atomic Energy Commission or a handful of rootless rock-dwellers? A report published in the Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry has sided with the latter, after several years studying lichen from the area surrounding the CEA's site near Dijon in northern Burgundy, where the CEA's military branch assembles and dismantles hydrogen bombs. The Valduc site has always claimed to be a model of nuclear cleanliness, but when the CEA in a fit of transparence established an independent association of local officials and scientists to verify these claims, the truth as told by local flora turned out to be other. The sample collection campaign was headed by an amateur mycologist who had won previous distinction by being the first to show – in 1986 – that radioactive air masses from Chernobyl had not magically stopped at the French border (as official utterance would have had it), basing his conclusions on spikes of radioactivity in mushrooms. Results from the lichen samples (having no roots, a lichen absorbs its water from the air, making it a particularly good litmus for atmospheric molecules) showed levels of tritium – the main isotope of hydrogen emitted at Valduc – to be 1000 times higher than normal in the immediate surroundings of the site, 100 times greater four kilometers away in the direction of the prevailing wind, and 10 times greater at 40 kilometers from the site. In response to CEA efforts to typify the local lichen as especially tritium-hungry, an independent group of mycologists carried out similar studies in other nuclear sites, like La Haye, with similar results. One final aspect of the watchdog findings, which requires substantiation, is the results from transplanting Valduc area lichen to non-nuclear regions; the mycologists found that the plant loses half its radioactivity in a year. Working backwards this would put Valduc tritium concentrations twenty years ago at exorbitant levels. (Libération, December 3, p11, Nicolas Chevassus-au-Louis)"
I rarely check my gmail and then when I do there's usually something surprising. This is one incoming:
Dear Frans --
Another Burg Bentheim find and probably another very common lichen on this gigantically protruding building. Xanthoria calendaria. I regret that I haven't measured its size though. Maybe I should have a small metal ruler with me to hold next to a lichen, making determination from pictures a little easier later on.
Also on the walls of Burg Bentheim. Great view from the high walls built on the already tall rock rising from the city. I guessed this to be Caloplaca citrina. Laurens Sparrius points out it's Caloplaca flavescens (Gelobde citroenkorst), also a very common lichen.