By James Lendemer, Ph.D.
Lichens are a diverse and important fungi that occur on soil, rocks and trees worldwide, including throughout Indiana. Although they can survive in harsh conditions in the driest deserts and highest mountains, lichens are also often very sensitive to changes in the environment. Habitat loss, deforestation, and pollution have already greatly impacted many lichen species in the United States, such that it is now more important than ever to understand where individual species occur and how rare they are.
This spring I came from New York Botanical Garden to Indiana to study the lichens of the Indiana Forest Alliance’s Ecoblitz area in Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests. I spent a week searching the ridges and ravines surrounding the East Fork of Honey Creek and located more than one hundred species, including several that have never previously been found in the state. While some species were common in the Ecoblitz area, others were rare and found on only a single individual tree or at a single location. My inventory is one of the first to be carried out in the state during the last twenty years, and highlights another dimension of the unique native species found in Indiana’s forests.