This is a relatively rare lichen (Chris and I have been looking for it for a very long time!), although the sorediate and isidiate forms are even rarer. It is apparently restricted to old-growth forests. Harris and Ladd (2004) report that all recent specimens they have studied are sterile and reports are becoming rarer, suggesting that it is on its way out.
Which is too bad, because it is an extremely interesting and unique genus represented by only the three species in North America (all found in the southeastern U.S.). It has the inflated appearance of a young Hypogymnia physodes (before it develops sorediate flaps at the tips), however the thickness is due to a black spongy hypothallus (see the close-up of the underside in the last photo). This feature is not found in any other genus in the world to my knowledge. (Although some of the squamulose “felt” lichens, especially in the southern hemisphere, have somewhat similar, but mostly spreading, felty-spongy prothalli and hypothalli.)
These thalli were all found about chest-height on the trunk of the same old red maple (Acer rubrum) at about 4000’ on the dirt road leading from Cove Creek Gap to Sterling Gap. More precisely, on the left side of the road a few hundred feet downhill from the trailhead to the old cemetary near the top. It is an undisturbed, open, old, hardwood forest. The location presumably experiences considerably nutrient enrichment from dust from the road throughout the summer months. The underlying geology is, I believe, weakly-metamorphosed precambrian sandstone, neither particularly acidic nor basic.
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|I’d Call It That||3.0||6.42||1||(jason)|
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Created: 2010-04-13 12:53:56 PDT (-0700)
Last modified: 2010-04-13 12:53:59 PDT (-0700)
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