The Wintergreen Lichen trail is our inaugural lichen hunter trail. There are 6 sites on this trail, where you can discover different lichens.
As you walk the trail, find the lichens at each marked site, then refer to the Lichen Hunter brochure and return to this website to discover the type (foliose, crustose, fruticose) and species of lichen (as we all learn them together). We’ll share as we learn, about the lives of lichens and their part in a healthy forest or field. Note: lichen trail brochures can be picked up in the Visitor Center and inexpensive hand lenses may be purchased in the Visitor Center gift shop.
Lichen species and numbers will change over time due to weather, season and especially, human impact. You may see lichen that are not in these pictures, and also may not find some of the lichens we have recorded, as conditions change. Many people are surprised to learn that winter is a very good time to observe lichens, especially on trees. If there is no snow, lichens on the ground are very easy to find too, as the dense summer leaf cover is gone. Warmer winter days can bring lichen colors to life, and make a great opportunity for viewing and photographing lichens.
Below is information and images about the lichens at each site. See our gallery page for more pictures of lichens, as well as fungus, moss and anything else we found interesting while walking this trail. There are many more lichens here than we have recorded. We hope you find new ones, then share your photos.
Site 1 is located at a large log on the south side of the trail. The marker is on the cut end of the log. Lichens are on the bark of the log; the end is covered in fungus. As this big, old, tree trunk slowly decays back into the forest floor, the lichens on it will also change. Flavoparmelia c. (foliose) and its companions will gradually die, turning from green and blue to brown, then white, then slowly falling apart to become part of the forest soil.
Other lichens, fungus and bryophytes (mosses) will take their place, and do their part in the tree’s transition. The picture above is a good example.
What lichens can you find on the standing trees in this area? Are any the same as on the dead tree that is down? Do they have the same color and texture or is there a difference between those on a living tree and a dead tree? How many types of moss can you find here? Are there any mushrooms growing at this time? If you look closely, you might find any number of insects in and around the lichens in the changing environment of the tree trunk. Why are they living here, and what might they be doing? If you walk this trail several times, notice how the lichens, moss, fungi and plants on and near this decaying log change as the log changes.
Site 2 is an area of young maple trees. They have smooth light gray bark and straight trunks. The trunks of the maples look as if they have bands of white paint on them. This is ‘whitewash lichen’ Phlyctis sp., and/or Lepraria sp. and there may be several species in a group of trees. These are a crustose form of lichens; they make a very thin, fine coating on the trees. Some Whitewash Lichens are pale green or yellow. What other tree species here have this lichen on their trunks? Can you think of reasons why Phlyctis sp. or Lepraria sp. grow on the smooth bark of the young maples but not on the species of trees with rough bark?
Crustose lichens are often hardly noticed. Most people think they are part of the tree. But this thin layer is alive and interacting with the tree in many ways. It benefits the tree by regulating the moisture and temperature on the bark surface, and holds nutrients that are slowly absorbed by the tree. These trees are healthy partly because of the lichens living on them.
Whitewash Lichens, as most lichens, will seem to fade or become brighter in different light and weather. Look closely, they are very common here. As you continue along the trail, how many more trees can you find that have the subtle colored bands of ‘whitewash lichen’ adorning their trunks?
At Site 3, look for trees on each side of the trail with small bright orange patches on the trunks. This is a Xanthoria sp., called ‘sunburst lichen’ for its bright sunny orange and yellow colors. Xanthoria lichens may also grow on rocks. This is a foliose lichen form. How many trees can you find with orange Xanthoria? You can also find Flavoparmelia c. (common greenshield), one of the most common lichens in our area, on several trees here. Some of these lichen will be very small; they are just getting started and may be the size of an pencil eraser or even pinhead size. Use your hand lens to search for the tiniest lichens you can find.
Xanthoria sp. on poplar tree.
Wintergreen Trail Lichen Site 4 Lepraria sp. lichens
Site 4 is the rocky ledge area. Go down the stone steps and look to your right along the low rock ledge, and also on the ground as the path turns left. Please be careful where you step, so the lichens can continue to live and grow.There are crustose, foliose and fruticose lichens here. Lichens on the rocks are pale blue-green, ‘dust lichen’, a Lepraria sp.(crustose). They are so tiny they look like a coating of blue-green dust on the rocks. Check them out with your hand lens to see details. Then look for lichen on the ground. Peltigera rufescens (fruticose) grow in patches here.
Peltigera rufescens has upright tubular apothecia, which are the fruiting body of the lichen. The apothecia is black with reddish brown near the top; they look almost like tiny pitchers. The flat part of the thallus (main body of the lichen) is the same dark gray or black on top and pale underneath. Lichen and moss grow together in some places; can you tell the difference? This site has numerous bryophytes (mosses), fungus, and lichens, on rock, soil and trees.
Our post Party Time in Lichen Land has more information about Site4 residents.
Site 5 is marked on a tree on the long, straight part of the trail through the conifer forest. The river is on your right, below a steep cliff. This is a good place to stop for a few minutes and look at the surrounding trees. Notice the colors on the tree trunks. Lichens here are Flavoparmelia sp. and several others not yet identified.
We usually think of trees as being brown or gray, but a healthy lichen population gives a pale blue, green or white tint to the trunks and branches.
These trees are old enough to have given the lichen time to grow, so some trees are thickly adorned with crustose and foliose lichens. How old do you think the biggest trees are? How many different lichens can you find on the tree trunks? How old do you think the lichen on the bark might be? Look on the ground too; there often are many types of fungus in conifer forests, and some lichens can be found among the pine needles and leaf litter. The longer you look, the more you will find of the smallest residents of this community.
There are tree stumps with beautiful blue and green colors from the thick colonies of lichens and mosses that cover them. The shades of blue and green change in different light, sometimes they almost glow!
Site 6 is the end of the Wintergreen Trail. Lichens grow here on rocks, soil and trees, and all three types can be found here-crustose, foliose and fruticose. Look at the tree trunks, ground, and rocks. This area has many visitors; the lichen and plants here may change quickly. A small rock outcropping can be observed by carefully stepping down around the left side of it, near the fallen tree trunk. Please be careful where you step. All lichens described here are on this rock or on the level trail.
Rhizomes from a fungus, Site 6. (not lichens) This network lived under the bark. The strands were unbreakable when fresh
The lichens will vary quite a bit in color and size, depending on when you visit. Each time we visited this site different lichens were prominent. It’s worth taking the time to first look around at the whole area, noting trees with green or white patches, and areas of rock with lichen or moss. Pine needles and leaves on the ground will conceal lichens as well as many fungi.
Lichen Covered pine stump, Site 6
We hope you enjoyed the Lichen Project Trail Sites on the Wintergreen Trail. Let us know what you think of the brochure and the lichen sites. We will update the information on the Lichen Sites as we identify more species, take more pictures and learn more about the lichens. This is a work in progress!
You may volunteer anytime for lichen hunting hikes, and if you find lichen that we have not listed on the lichenkvr.com website, please take a picture and contact us with the information for our lichen survey. We hope to see you on the Lichen Trail.