Sunday, February 19, 2017

Lipstick cladonia

We are back into another stretch of clear, sunny and colder weather after that impressive storm system that blew through recently.  Better weather equals more time outside for me and after spending last week in wilderness first responder refresher class, I was eager to be outside!  My first jaunt yesterday was to the Muskeg Meadows Nature Preserve (aka Muskeg Meadows Golf Course) as the sun was coming up on a frosty morning. 

Just some frosty rocks on the beach while I was waiting for the sun to rise all the way.

I guess that is plenty of photos of a frosty spruce tree huh?  The stem of this particular very young and small spruce was particularly orangish especially when the rising sun hit it and it caught my eye and looked pretty to me.  This was a very small, about a 2-3 foot tall, Sitka spruce next to one of the cart paths, a miniature of a tree that can grow to over 200' tall and get well over 6' in diameter.  Have you ever heard of Howard Hughes and his airplane the Spruce Goose?  Its frame was made from Sitka spruce as were the propellers of many other airplanes during the World War 2 era.  Sitka spruce is very strong but flexible as well as having some excellent resonance qualities which also makes clear and tight grained Sitka spruce a very valuable wood for guitars and violins.  There are some commercial harvests of these trees that consist of only one tree which could fetch $60,000 or more depending on its quality for musical instruments.  This little tree wouldn't make an instrument but it made a pretty sight in the morning.

More lichens!  I included this strictly due to the fact that I had just spent all week immersed in wilderness medicine and treatments.  This is called Old Man's Beard here in Alaska and looks a lot like Spanish Moss.  It is actually a lichen in the Usnea genus and has many uses for a savvy wild Alaska man or woman - when dry it makes great fire starter and even when it is wet, it can be dried fairly quickly by keeping it close to your skin under your clothes.  It can also be used as insulating material in a wilderness survival situation or as a way to control bleeding with antimicrobial properties.  Usnea is effective against bacterial and fungal infections as well so would make an excellent wilderness bandage.  There is the wilderness medicine connection for ya!

And even more lichens!  This is the lichen that titled this post, Lipstick cladonia.  Pretty cool, huh?  The red edges are the fruiting bodies of the lichen which in science talk are called apothecia.  If you look closely at some of these, you'll notice at least one that looks like the logo of the Rolling Stones.  Mick Jagger's mouth as recreated by this fungus/algae combo.  My favorite Stones songs are "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Sympathy for the Devil" if anyone cares.  This lipstick cladonia is my favorite lichen.  What are your favorite Stones songs?

And now a nod to the fact that this really interesting area really is a golf course:

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