New Lichen for Ohio

Where should one look for new state records? Remote places that are seldom visited? Mysterious hollows with high rocky sides? Or maybe a permit-only nature preserve. Any of these could have a new state record lichen or moss – but so could your own back yard! And that is literally where this new record was found. One morning while replenishing my backyard bird feeders I noticed several lichens on the ground, dislodged from the tree canopy by foraging nuthatches. Most were common species but one was not familiar so I took it inside for examination. It turned out to be Usnea cornuta, not reported for Ohio.

Usnea cornuta. Photo by Ray Showman

This species is a small, tufted fruticose lichen with branches constricted at the base, giving them an inflated appearance. Lichens of North America shows a spotty distribution with populations in the Smoky Mountains and in New Mexico. It is also reported to be common in coastal Maine. This lichen has soredia, microscopic propagules that can be windborne for hundreds of miles. Thus it can sometimes pop up far from its established range. It will remain to be seen if more individuals can be found in Ohio.

I guess the moral of this story is that you never know what you might find close by. Get out there and look; be observant and be curious.

Ray Showman
(published in OBELISK, Vol. 7, p. 2)