Lichen Palettes — The Nature Conservancy in Washington



Lichen Palettes at Moses Coulee

Saturday 10-14-23

A beautiful but breezy day at Moses Coulee today. The star of my hike has been the stunning lichen colors on the basalt cliffs. As I walk, I begin to notice the smaller details. Where will I find the next show of lichen? I quickly realized lichen is just about everywhere!

Today’s lichen colors: Mustard yellow (cliffs, rocks), lime yellow (branches, fence post), sunshine (branches), burnt orange (cliffs, rocks), tangerine (rocks), gold leaf (cliffs, rocks), charcoal (rocks), grey (rocks), and bone (rocks, grasses).

On rock surfaces, I noticed leafy (foliose) lichens with bumps, ridges, and cup-like shapes in their texture (Sunburst lichen, lichen 2, lichen 3). Nestled into a sagebrush branch, I noticed hairy (fruticose) lichen (lichen 4). The texture was shrubby. Many of the lichens (crustose) were scaly, flaky, and crust-like in texture (lichen 5). They were widespread on cliffs with patterns of intermixing color.

As the sun gets lower, the lichen colors are starting to pop with the late afternoon light. I pause for a moment and then leave in wonder.

How long have these lichens grown to fill in these beautiful spaces?

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