(2) An Unnamed “Crottle” Lichen (soon to be called “Parmelia sulymae”)
Funds raised from auctioning off the naming rights to this species will be used by the The Land Conservancy to create a much-needed wildlife corridor connecting summer and winter habitat for Grizzly Bear, Mountain Lion, Wolves and other species that make their home in Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Parmelia sulymae in ed.
Parmelia sulymae is a bright, perky “Crottle” lichen 4 to 7 cm across and restricted, so far as we know, to the twigs and small branches of trees. This is what’s called a “foliose” lichen, with thin papery lobes that somewhat resemble foliage. Examined through a hand lens, these lobes are seen to be white above and black and shiny below, with copious stubbly “rhizines” that attach it to the supporting branches. Peculiar to this species, these same rhizines extend outward from the lobe margins, giving the impression it’s hanging on for dear life. Look closely, and you’ll notice the upper surface bears small clusters of tiny granules, or “isidia”. Isidia are vegetative reproductive structures: the lichen’s hope for the future. When broken off (as by the feet of foraging birds), they may disperse to other branches nearby, and so grow out into new lichens in their own right. Each isidium contains not only the lichen’s fungal partner, but also its algal consort.
Parmelia is a mostly boreal to temperate genus consisting of about 60 species. Seventeen species occur in North America, 14 in western Canada.
Some Crottle Lichens have been used in Scotland in the dyeing of wool for socks and Harris tweed since the 16th century. They yield a reddish brown colour.
From the first time I saw this lichen, about five years ago, in the forests of the Clearwater Valley near my home (!!!), I suspected it must be an undescribed species. My hunch was recently confirmed by a team of lichen researchers from Spain. Ana Crespo, Pradeep Divakar, Mari Carmen Molina and Ana Millanes successfully sequenced its fungal partner, showing it to be unique within its genus.