Lichen hikin’

Jul 1, 2012 | 0 comments

This weekend the bunkhouse has gotten pretty crowded with the temporary addition of a group of lichen researchers stopping here on their way to the preserve. Last night, one of them agreed to take a couple of us out into the mountains to teach us about our local lichen varieties.
I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise, but I was nonetheless impressed by the diversity of lichens growing on the tundra. Although I’ll never remember all the names, there were nearly a dozen different types we encountered within just a couple hours of exploring the slopes. Two or three reindeer lichens, dog hide lichens, several different crustose lichens, many foliose and fruticose varieties carpeted the landscape. 
The mountains

Before heading back, we stopped at Anvil Rock, a prominent overlook outside of Nome.  It had spectacular views of town, the mountains beyond, and sea.

Nome on the coast, mining operations in the foreground

This orange crustose lichen is one of my favorites — it only grows in nitrogen-rich environments, particularly where bird feces are common. It sounds kind of gross, but it’s actually a good way to find bird nests and roosts in the mountains because the orange stands out so well and there is likely to be a lot of bird activity in the vicinity.

View under Anvil Rock

Anvil Rock (approx. 9pm)

Monk’s Hood wildflower

The Cold War missile detectors

Getting windblown on top of Anvil Rock

Wind turbines on the tundra

Abandoned gold dredge

Flower whose name I can’t remember

Common Butterwort

The Common Butterwort was another favorite of mine — it’s carnivorous! This unassuming looking flower has sticky leaves at the bottom and traps small gnats and insects for nutrients.

Musk ox butts

On our way back down the mountain, we came upon a trio of muskoxen. They were utterly uninterested, but adorable nonetheless.

Muskox doesn’t give a hoot


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