Monday, March 17, 2014

Nature Study Outing :: Lichen Walk

We joined a docent for a "lichen walk" through our local county park this week.  The children and I actually did a little moss-and-lichen hunt of our own a few weeks ago, but this was an opportunity to meet up with some other enthusiasts and hit parts of the trail system that we don't usually travel down alone.

Since I knew the path we would be walking was quite narrow and rocky, I actually left my three youngest at home with my husband and only took my three oldest.  Wow, what a difference that made!  Taking photos without the baby pulling my hair from the carrier on my back!  No one asking for water every ten seconds!  Walking up front and talking with the docent rather than struggling to keep up with my toddlers!  The four of us had a grand time. :)

The weather didn't necessarily cooperate--it was a gorgeous day, sunny and almost hitting 80, but lichen really do better in damper seasons, of course.  So some of the examples we found were quite dried out.  Others, however, were just as colorful as usual.  And bonus: the docent, besides being a lichen enthusiast, is an expert on native plants, so she was able to point out lots of varieties that were new to me but common to the area.  (We actually took her "Native Plant Walk" last summer.  But I brought the whole gang along for that one and was fairly distracted in keeping the littles from wandering off and into poison oak.  I had a chance to soak up a bit of her knowledge this time around.)

There are so many varieties of lichen and they can be nearly impossible to distinguish from one another by eye, so the main goal for the outing was simply to make comparisons and observe rather than identify.  The docent distributed loupes and was wonderful at encouraging the children to get a close view.  And observe we did!

And once she heard from the kids that we go out weekly for nature walks, she told them that she was personally gifting them the loupes to carry along on future hikes.  They were thrilled. :)  We had a similarly pleasant experience chatting with our fellow attendees, including another county parks docent who got into a lovely conversation with my son about nature journaling, a wildflower enthusiast who pointed out to me a couple along the path that I hadn't seen before, an amateur butterfly photographer who didn't mind at all when my five-year-old daughter used her loupe to examine the threads on the lady's sweater (ha!), and a handful of newbies like us.  They all seemed pleased to have my enthusiastic children along on the walk and were very friendly.  Such a nice group!


  1. Our lichen wasn't as colourful. I wonder if a drier climate makes any difference? We found some unusual seed pods at a park one day & a council worker came over & told us all about the tree & gave us the Latin name for it - so good to find people willing to share their knowledge.

    1. It really is so nice when people share, isn't it? And yes, the drier climate definitely makes a difference. We live in a very dry climate, but since it was spring, that week had gone from rainy to warm. The docent said that a few days prior, the lichen had been even more vibrant--and we could definitely see areas where the lichen looked dried up after just that couple sunny days in a row. That's actually one of the things I really like about lichen--it's a great wintertime study, when it's rainy and cold and not much else is out.

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