Collection location: Sun Point, Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA [Click for map]
Locality: 48°40’34.64"N, 113°34’41.85"W, el. 1,415m, Sun Point, Saint Mary Lake
Identification: Both DeBolt and McCune, 1993, and Bennett and Wetmore report Umbilicaria vellea from Glacier National Park, but not Umbilicaria americana. The rhizines of these lichens are clearly all black, not black and white, so the descriptions in McCune and Geiser (2009, pp.342 and 353) indicate that this is Umbilicaria americana.
Bennett and Wetmore, NPLichen, A Database of Lichens in the U. S. National Parks, Lichens of Glacier National Park, Montana
DeBolt and McCune, 1993, Lichens of Glacier National Park, Montana, The Bryologist, Vol. 96, No. 2 (Summer, 1993), pp. 192-204
Poelt and Nash, 1993, Studies in the Umbilicaria vellea Group (Umbilicariaceae) in North America, The Bryologist, Vol. 96, No. 3 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 422-430. (Original description of Umbilicaria americana)
Irwin M. Brodo, 1996, Josef Poelt: A North American Perspective, The Bryologist, Vol. 99, No. 3 (Autumn, 1996), pp. 349-351. (An engaging appreciation of the Austrian lichenologist Josef Poelt, written by Ernie Brodo.)
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Hinds and Hinds (2007, p.479) mention that Umbilicaria americana was split from Umbilicaria vellea in 1993, and we know that the DeBolt and McCune paper on the lichens of Glacier National Park appeared in the summer of 1993, so that timing might account for U. americana not being mentioned in their paper … it wasn’t “born” yet.
Your description of the rhizines (called “rhizines” in McCune and Geiser, but “rhizinomorphs” in Hinds and Hinds … ?) matches the drawings in McCune and Geiser very well, for both species.
I blew up a piece of one of these photos to see what we can see. I think I know the answer, but would like to hear how the rhizines in that photo compare with what you are seeing in your specimens.
Thanks for looking into this!
Found the difference:
The difference is very clear on close inspection. I’m looking at a specimen of U. vellea which is almost entirely black underneath, but the knobs are conspicuous, and the rhizines are in fact quite well-branched. (My specimen is from ~5500’ in Washington’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness, which I guess qualifies as alpine for these purposes.)
Will be interesting to hear about those rhizines! These lichens are not in the alpine zone. They are at Sun Point (near a parking lot and popular trailhead) on a knoll overlooking Lake Saint Mary, hence very much in the forested zone near the bases of the surrounding high peaks.
I was seeing remarkably americana-like U. vellea on my recent trip — some with hardly any rhizines pale at the tips, others with obvious pale rhizines. I began to wonder if I was seeing both species, or whether I just have to sample several from any population to be sure. I think there are other less-conspicuous differences, too. (One has two types of rhizines — ball-tipped and slender, I think?) But I haven’t had a chance to study my specimens under a microscope.
Anyway, I was just curious how high U. americana grows, because yours really do look like clear americana. I seem to remember that it can grow at any elevation, whereas U. vellea is strictly arctic-alpine.
Created: 2010-09-25 15:54:37 CDT (-0500)
Last modified: 2010-10-02 10:33:16 CDT (-0500)
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