There is a tree I pass by several times a week whenever I’m taking a walk in the woods. It’s a young quaking aspen tree growing on a southern exposure. I’ve always admired its smooth gray bark, mottled with darker patches of rough bark.

The other day, I was out walking and decided to take a few photos of this tree and its bark. Running diagonally across the light-colored surface were some diagonal lines. Animal scratches, I thought, maybe from the red squirrel that was here last week eating winterberry fruits.

As I focused the camera, I noticed the scratches were cutting not through the bark but a thin layer of lichen growth and just barely affecting the tree bark below. The smooth gray bark I had been admiring all these years was really a lichen. Even the dark rough patches, known as lenticels, were covered in minute lichens. I wondered how I had missed these lichens for so many years.

The next day I went back to the aspen with a 100mm lens and a tripod to get detailed close-ups of the lichens. I found at least three lichen species on the bark, the most interesting to me being the lichen (shown on the left below) I mistook for bark all these years. All are unidentified at this point but maybe by next year I will have figured out at least one of them.

Has it really been…

…two years and four months since my last post? Yes, it has. My life has taken some sharp turns and there are new challenges. I am well but there are other things going on and they occupy much of my attention every day. Anyway, once in a great while I will be posting photos and short articles (probably written late at night which lately has become the only time I can have time to myself) of my observations here. Many of my earlier posts were about moths and I have not given up on them. I am now at about 612 species and 421 have been confirmed on various insect and moth oriented web sites. And I see there is some sort of new publishing format that I am going to have to learn. Oh well.