Lichen Hike


Another exciting outing jointly sponsored by Headwaters Master Naturalists and Friends of Shenandoah Mountain took place Sunday, November 5th near Braley Pond. Jack Wilson, local expert on mycology and all things fungi, led 13 hikers from both groups on a fascinating journey of discovery around his MoonDance Camp and the adjoining George Washington National Forest.

3types.lichenhike3.avA lecture on the basics about the local forest, fungi in general, mushroom and lichen basics and ID and the history of the area forest started our day and included the noting of several good reference books. We learned that fungi make up 20 to 30 percent of the biomass of the G.W. National Forest and that lots has been written on the intelligence of mushrooms. Lichens are a symbiotic relationship between fungus, algae and/or cyanobacteria and they grow only a few millimeters a year. They grow in three forms; crustose, foliose and fruticose. (Photo on right shows all three on one tree. Crustose is flattened, foliose leafy and fruticose is bushy.)

Jack and his wife Mary led us on a nearly two mile hike around various habitats in the wooded site to discover many species of mushrooms and lichens and also discussed various local trees and how they fit into the picture. Lichens, and lungworts in particular, are a very good indicator of air quality. Jack showed us his shiitake growing log racks and discussed how to process medicinal mushrooms like turkey tails. (See photos below.) 

The day was topped off by a delicious lunch of homemade five mushroom soup, bread and pickled ramps.

– Malcolm Cameron, Cohort III, November 2017
Top photo by Jerry Hopkins shows Jack Wilson explaining how the lichen have grown on this log. Click on photos below for descriptions and photo credits.