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.)

Species Lists


rhizines (=rhizinomorphs) (detail from photo 107288)

Proposed Names

61% (2)
Used references: McCune and Geiser, 2009, p.342

Please login to propose your own names and vote on existing names.

= Observer’s choice
= Current consensus


Add Comment
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2010-10-01 20:51:12 CDT (-0400)

I agree, yours is clearly U. americana. I uploaded photos of my U. vellea here: observation 54305.

rhizine photo
By: Chris Parrish (kitparrish)
2010-10-01 20:19:18 CDT (-0400)

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!

By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2010-10-01 17:26:00 CDT (-0400)

Found the difference:

U. americana: pure black sparsely-branched rhizines
U. vellea: black “knobs” + slender pale-tipped much-branched rhizines

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.)

By: Chris Parrish (kitparrish)
2010-09-28 14:05:25 CDT (-0400)

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.

You guessed my next question!
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2010-09-28 13:08:04 CDT (-0400)

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.

About 1,415m
By: Chris Parrish (kitparrish)
2010-09-28 12:54:05 CDT (-0400)

Google Earth puts the elevation at about 1415m. I have added that to the location description. I also added a note to the observation about Umbilicaria americana vs. Umbilicaria vellea in Glacier National Park.

Remember how high this was?
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2010-09-27 20:15:59 CDT (-0400)