Under the snow

The first time I went to Iceland, the country was covered in snow. Now that we don’t have as many snowy winters here in England, particularly in the warm south-west where we are, it was exciting, and made the country seem even more mysterious, secrets hidden beneath the white sparkling surface!

When we went this time, even though there should have been snow at this time of year, none had fallen except on the mountains. Everywhere the grass was a sort of tired yellowy green, but the lava fields were covered in vivid mosses! I did not see much lichen, but the moss, growing like great billowing cushions was everywhere. It made the stories and legends and sagas I have read suddenly come to life… DSCF7796… and I could imagine the old heroes and warriors in this dramatic landscape!

DSCF7799

Moss

DSCF2472

Moss-Gathering, 

by Theodore Roethke

To loosen with all ten fingers held wide and limber
And lift up a patch, dark-green, the kind for lining cemetery baskets,
Thick and cushiony, like an old-fashioned doormat,
The crumbling small hollow sticks on the underside mixed with roots,
And wintergreen berries and leaves still stuck to the top, —
That was moss-gathering.
But something always went out of me when I dug loose those carpets
Of green, or plunged to my elbows in the spongy yellowish moss of the marshes:
And afterwards I always felt mean, jogging back over the logging road,
As if I had broken the natural order of things in that swampland;
Disturbed some rhythm, old and of vast importance,
By pulling off flesh from the living planet;
As if I had commited, against the whole scheme of life, a desecration.

DSCF2473

Melanelixia, Parmelia and friends

I came a cross these names –  Usnea, Melanelixia, Leafy Xanthoria,  Evernia,  Flavoparmelia,  Cushion Xanthoria, Hypogymnia, Parmelia,  Physcia, and given the featured image and my newly found love of lichens you might guess that is what they are, lichens. I just think they are wonderful and attractive and I keep taking pictures of them… but perhaps I am also taking pictures of mosses and algae without realising and just lumping them altogether as lichen… I must investigate and be more systematic, maybe I need a guide-book?

Apparently there are three sorts of lichen, bushy, leafy and crusty. They are a very accurate indicator of air quality, some are nitrogen lovers, and some are nitrogen sensitive, and some can grow pretty much anywhere.

DSCF2442

Lovely lichen, I don’t know what it is yet!

According to the Natural History Museum:

Lichens are composite organisms made up of a fungus and one or more algae living together. The algal partner produces essential nutrients for the lichen through photosynthesis, while the fungal partner provides the body in which they both live. The fungus produces spores in fruiting bodies (apothecia), which must germinate and find an algal partner before they can form a new lichen. In order to avoid this difficult stage many lichens produce minute fragments containing both partners, which can quickly colonise available habitats. These fragments can appear either as finger-like outgrowths (isidia) or sugar-like granules (soredia).

White lichen and green... maybe moss?

White lichen and green… maybe moss?

Lichen names

Very few lichens have common names, but each lichen species has its own Latin name, e.g.Xanthoria parietina (L.) Th. Fr.

Like your name, Latin names have two parts. The first part is the name of the genus in which closely related lichens belong, like your surname (eg Xanthoria). The second part is the species name, like your first name, which belongs to organisms sharing the same features (eg parietina). After the lichen name is the abbreviated names of the person(s) who named the species (in this case L. for Linnaeus and Th. Fr. for Theodor Fries).

DSCF2448