Monday, February 23, 2009

Lichens and snow in the Smoky Mountains

During the weekend of Feb. 20 - 22 I went to Tremont, the science institute at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is a great "mental battery recharger" to go to programs like this! It is one of the few places I can go to be with people who have the same interests, nobody thinks I am weird! :) Not only did we learn about the physical and chemical aspects of lichens, we also learned about mapping their locations on rocks and trees; the other organisms that live in them; and how people have used lichens for medicinal purposes and to dye fibers (ever heard of Harris Tweed?).

Common Script Lichen
Graphis scripta

Lichens are one of those things that you notice on rocks and trees when you go hiking, but until someone shows you the intricate and fascinating details, you can't fully appreciate them!

Gold Dust Lichen
Chrysothrix candelaris

We learned a lot about the structure, reproduction methods of the organisms, what lives in them, and how animals and people use them.

Cladonia chlorophaea (with light green cups)
Dog Lichen Peltigera spp. (leafy, dark green)

Saturday's weather could not have been nicer, afternoon temperatures in the mid-50's and sunny. So, it was quite a surprise to wake up to 2 inches of wet snow on Sunday morning! Tremont had been transformed into a winter wonderland! I had long wanted to see Cades Cove in the snow, so after the programs were finished at Tremont I drove the 7 miles to check out the scenery. I was a bit disappointed to see that the more protected cove had less snow than where I had come from!

Walker Branch at Tremont

Cades Cove in the snow