My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Happy lichen

In a comment discussion with Allen, who writes the New Hampshire Garden Solutions blog, he made a remark that really stuck with me, he doesn’t know why, but lichens seem happy in the winter. And since there’s a lack of other subjects to photograph in Michigan this time of year, I’ve been spending time shooting some of the lichens that I’ve found.

Colorful lichens in the winter

I can’t identify any of these, sorry to say, but I can appreciate seeing their beautiful colors when the rest of the area is decidedly lacking in color.

More colorful lichens

For those that don’t know what lichen are, here’s a snippet from Wikipedia…A lichen is a composite organism that arises from algae or cyanobacteria living among filaments of multiple fungi in a mutualistic relationship. The combined lichen has properties different from those of its component organisms. Lichens come in many colors, sizes, and forms. The properties are sometimes plant-like, but lichens are not plants. Lichens may have tiny, leafless branches (fruticose), flat leaf-like structures (foliose), flakes that lie on the surface like peeling paint (crustose), a powder-like appearance (leprose), or other growth forms. Or to put it another way…”Lichens are fungi that have discovered agriculture” —Trevor Goward.

The curious somewhat scientific side of me finds lichens interesting to say the least, but the more often that I get really close to them…


…I often wonder if I’m seeing two versions of the same lichen…


…or many different species growing together…


…and I wonder just how many species there are…


….and how to identify them without a science lab with me…


…or watching the same specimen over time to be able to tell what is going on…


…but I also enjoy seeing the other things that grow with lichens, such as mosses…

Lichens and moss

…and the closer that I look…


…the more species I find. Looking at this white spot on the bark of a maple tree, what I thought was discolored bark was actually very tiny lichens which gave the tree bark a brown appearance from a distance…


….yet is more of a burnt orange color up close…


…and then I wondered if these are two species competing for the same spot…


…or just what is going on in that last photo.

A pleasant thing about getting set-up for the macro photos so far is that I found other subjects than just lichens to shoot…

White pine sap flowing from a wound in the tree

But still I wonder, just what it is that I’m seeing in photos such as this one?


The same applies to this one as well, just what is going on here?


I assume that the base “structure” is a fungus, but what about the transition areas that show up as green?

Is this an algae growing on top of an existing fungus?


Even as close as I could get with my macro lens, I can’t tell what it is that I’m seeing.

If it is an algae growing on a fungus, is this the way that lichens first develop?


To make things even harder, is this a mold growing on a lichen?

Mold growing on lichen?

Or another species of lichen competing for space, or has the photosynthesis stopped in the white parts of the fungi, causing it to lose its green color?

Mold growing on lichen?

No matter what I was seeing as far as the different forms of life, it was nice to see a color other than brown this time of year as I shot these macro photos.


Still more things to ponder, has something such as a mouse or squirrel eaten the ends of this lichen, or is this something else, possibly related to reproduction?

Have these lichen been eaten back?

I’m more familiar with this type of lichen fruiting body, called apothecia.

More lichen

I got distracted by the brighter colors in this shot…

More lichen

…I was going for a closer photo of the apothecia…

Lichen apothecia

…and tying to get as close to them as my macro lens is capable of…

Lichen apothecia

…I cropped this one a little to get as close as I could.

Lichen apothecia

One last look at a lichen.

Still more lichen

So that this entire post isn’t only lichen, I have a few landscape images to use up.

Pine plantation

These next two show how snow and sand blow around equally this time of year.

The top of a dune

We get some snow, the wind blows sand over the snow, then it snows again, and the process repeats for most of the winter.

Winter in the dunes

Crepuscular rays are a sight often seen in association with our lake effect clouds during the winter, so I’m trying to learn how to get them to stand out more in my photos.

Crepuscular rays over Lake Michigan

I suppose that I should throw in one photo of a bird as well. After all the gloomy skies, I thought that this one would be a good choice.

Male American goldfinch last spring

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


20 responses

  1. Lichen certainly provide beautiful abstracts! Shapes and colors are so amazing!


    January 16, 2019 at 11:01 pm

    • Thank you Donna! Those were about the only things with any color to them that I’ve been able to find this winter, the birds are being difficult.

      Liked by 1 person

      January 17, 2019 at 6:35 am

  2. Hi Jerry. Love the colors you’ve captured in your first couple of photos. Don’t think I’ve ever seen pink lichen!

    I’m enjoying your efforts lately to expand your subject matter. Since I rarely head to the beach (summer or winter), you make it easy for me to see what’s going on out there. Thanks.


    January 16, 2019 at 7:43 am

    • Thanks Judy! I started out trying to be artistic and capture the colors and growth habits of lichens, but then the scientific side of me took over and I tried to figure out things through my macro lens that really need a microscope to be seen. That and I’m trying to find something other than eagles to photograph, I’m having a tough time finding even a chickadee this winter so far.


      January 16, 2019 at 2:22 pm

  3. Such a great idea to photo those lichen and add some much needed colour in the gloomy days of winter. Such a wide variety of shapes too -wonderful macro photos. That beach looks jolly cold…no visitors building sandcastles there! Favourite photo is the little goldfinch.


    January 15, 2019 at 7:00 am

    • Thanks Marianne! It was really a no brainer to photograph the lichens, I wasn’t finding any birds, and the only color I was seeing were the lichens. I learned a lot from shooting these, which was icing on the cake. And, it was cold on the beach that day with nothing to block the wind. At least there wasn’t three feet of snow as there usually is this time of year, but that’s coming this weekend.

      Liked by 1 person

      January 15, 2019 at 7:22 am

  4. I loved the photograph on the shore of the lake with the rays so well outlined.


    January 15, 2019 at 3:00 am

    • Thank you Susan! I’m still working on ways to make the rays really pop out as I’ve seen in other people’s photos, so I’ll keep plugging away until I get it right.

      Liked by 1 person

      January 15, 2019 at 7:14 am

  5. Lichens are very beautiful, colorful and complex. These are great closeups of them, Jerry!

    Love the little goldfinch at the end, too.


    January 14, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    • Thank you Lavinia! I had a great time shooting these photos, so I’m glad that you enjoyed them. The photo of the goldfinch was shot last spring when I forgot to change my camera settings back for birds after shooting something else, but it was still too good to throw away.

      Liked by 1 person

      January 15, 2019 at 7:12 am

  6. Carolyn April

    These are beautiful.


    January 14, 2019 at 9:42 pm

  7. Your post about lichens is surprising. I don’t usually look at lichens that close and am surprised at their geometry and colors. The landscape shots are very beautiful and remind me of scenes from a movie filmed along the coast of Cornwall in England.


    January 14, 2019 at 9:07 pm

    • Thanks Hien! I learned a little secret, photograph lichens on a damp day when the temperature is a little above freezing, otherwise the lichens are dried out and lose most of their color. I also spent a good deal of time looking for the right patch of them to photograph, where there’d be at least a little depth to the image and I’d still get most of the lichens in focus. I can see myself getting more serious about my macro photography this year from the results that I got for this post.


      January 15, 2019 at 7:09 am

  8. It may be too hot in the summer to see lichens. I knew you would find cool subjects to point your lens even in winter.


    January 14, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    • Thanks Buddy! This only happened because we had a mild wet spell of weather, now that the snow and cold have returned, the lichen around here aren’t nearly as photogenic now.


      January 15, 2019 at 7:04 am

  9. What a feast of colourful lichen and as Allen says, the landscapes are pretty good too. When it comes to lichens, I know about three for certain and just enjoy looking at the wonderful variety that they display for the rest.


    January 14, 2019 at 6:23 pm

    • Thanks Tom! Between your images of the lichens and mosses, along with Allen’s, I’m going to try to be more serious and macro photography this coming year.


      January 15, 2019 at 7:02 am

  10. Those are great shots of the lichens! Unfortunately I don’t recognize most of them but the larger one in the upper right corner of the third shot is a hammered shield lichen. It looks like it has been hammered out of a sheet of steel if you look at it closely. It’s on the rare side here.
    The bright yellow one in the 24th shot looks like fringed candle flame lichen. It’s fairly common here on trees.
    I know that squirrels eat lichens and that one might have been eaten.
    I don’t know about mold growing on lichens but it does look like it. It’s something I’ve never seen.
    I think the fungi? is some type of fungus but I’m not sure which one. It’s a strange one!
    That macro lens is a keeper but I also love the landscape shots!


    January 14, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    • Thanks Allen! If you don’t recognize most of these lichens, it explains why I’m not able to ID them from having read your posts about them over the years. I wouldn’t have thought that there’d be that big of a difference in species between Michigan and New Hampshire since we’re in about the same temperature zone as you are, with the same tree species between the two states. What we don’t have here are many rocks for them to grow on, so all these were on trees.

      If something did eat the ends of the orange lichens, then it must be a tasty treat for something, because most, but not all of them looked as if the tips had been bitten off.

      I guess that I should begin carrying a magnifying glass and a sharp knife to examine some of the things that I saw more closely, like if that was really mold growing on lichens, or growing on something that fell on the lichens, or something entirely different.

      Yes, the macro lens is a keeper, if there had been a little more light, I could have added an extension tube to get even closer. The flash set-up that I built last fall helped out a great deal as well. Even as well as these turned out, I can do better if I were to use my tripod as I should. I’m going to attempt to get a better macro set-up for my tripod that incorporates the flash set-up as well as a focusing rail, and maybe even focus stacking. We’ll see how it all works when I finish what I have in mind.


      January 15, 2019 at 7:01 am