nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘lichen

songs in the grey woods – northern parula

with 6 comments

A friend, a knowledgeable wetland biologist, has been helping me learn some new bird songs. Last week, I identified the song of the Northern Parula. This is a bird I have never seen, though I scan those tree tops with the binoculars until my arms ache. I have heard its song so many times and always wondered what it was. The song is a long whirrrrr, flowed by a short, upward flipWhirrrr -flip. Whirrrr- flip. This morning it was the first song of the morning bird chorus!

~

May 20, 2016 'Northern Parula' Jane Tims

~

It drives me crazy to hear him sing, be able to find the tree he is perched in, but not see him. My painting is how I think he must look, based on descriptions on the net.

The Parula is a blue-grey bird with a yellow throat, and a yellow and white breast. He has a white crescent above and below his eye and two white wing bars. A bright and beautiful bird! He has an association with a lichen I love, Usnea subfloridana, Old Man’s Beard. He uses the lichen to build his hanging nest.

~

Usnea subfloridana on the snow

Usnea subfloridana on the snow – usually found hanging in our maple, spruce and fir trees

~

Copyright 2016 Jane Tims

 

Written by jane tims

May 27, 2016 at 7:00 am

in the shelter of the covered bridge – lichen garden

with 3 comments

April 14 2016 'lichen garden' Jane Tims

~

time-stamped

~

Pont Lavoie (Lavoie Covered Bridge)

Quisibis River #2

~

~

when the end-post

of the guard rail

splits and rots

the broken space

makes room

for rain and pollen

dust and autumn

leaves

other detritus

~

spores find encouragement

and lichens grow

Cladonia cristatella

uniformed in red

Cladina, blue-grey

reindeer lichen

and pyxie cups

~

lichens ageless

bridge not meant

to last forever

~

~

Copyright  Jane Tims 2016

Written by jane tims

April 20, 2016 at 7:00 am

a moment of beautiful – sun on icy drops of rain

with 3 comments

~

After the rain overnight and some icy temperatures, the melting ice on the Old Man’s Beard lichen and the ice coat clinging to the branches made for a beautiful scene outside my guest room window. To add to the show, a stray reflection of sun projected dazzles of light on the garage doors.

~



~

Copyright 2015 Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

April 12, 2015 at 12:31 am

Posted in a moment of beautiful

Tagged with , ,

harvesting colour – beautiful brown!

with 14 comments

I will never see brown with the same eyes again!

~

Today I finished a batch of alum-treated raw wool and I was ready to try my first experiment with dyeing animal fibre.  The alum, you will remember, is a mordant, added to the fibre to increase its colour-fast and light-fast qualities.  In some cases, it also makes the colours brighter.

~

Remember my gathering of Old Man’s Beard lichen? (https://nichepoetryandprose.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/colour-on-the-snow/)

~

jar with Old Man's Beard lichen, water and ammonia

jar with Old Man’s Beard lichen, water and ammonia

~

The lichen has been ‘fermenting’ in ammonia about a week and developed a lovely brown colour with tones of orange, reminiscent of root beer.

~

a sample of the dye obtained from the Old Man's Beard lichen

a sample of the dye obtained from the Old Man’s Beard lichen

~

I sieved out the lichen and added the dye to my dye pot.  I added a little vinegar to neutralize the alkalinity since basic solutions can harm the wool.  I put about one once of the alum-treated wool into the dye pot and added water, to cover the wool.  Then I increased the temperature very, very slowly since sudden changes in temperature can damage the texture and weaken the fibres.  I left the dye pot on simmer for about an hour and then left it to cool slowly.  Now the wool is drying on the line in my dining room.

~

The result may seem like an unimpressive brown, but to me it is the most wonderful brown in the world.  Reminds me of the ice cream in a root beer float!  My first effort at dyeing wool, and obtained from a lichen of the palest green.  I feel a poem stirring!

~

to the right, my lichen-dyed wool, and to the left, my un-dyed alum-treated wool

to the right, my lichen-dyed wool, and to the left, my un-dyed alum-treated wool

~

Copyright  2014   Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

April 4, 2014 at 6:40 am

air to breathe

with 4 comments

As I approach retirement, I find I am thinking a lot about my past work.  My first job was as a botanist in the field of air quality. 

Some plants are very sensitive to air pollutants and develop ‘herring bone’ patterns on the leaves when the levels of pollutants like sulphur dioxide get too high.   Other plants can be used as monitors since they absorb pollutants from the air. 

I worked to diagnose air pollution injury to sensitive plants and designed ways of using plants to assess air quality problems.  We grew tobacco to measure ozone pollution, set out  ‘tea bags’ of sphagnum moss to monitor levels of trace metals in the air, and collected reindeer lichens to determine their pollutant exposure.  I had wonderful days identifying plants, collecting lichens and being a botanist.

My favourite air pollution monitors were the reindeer lichens.  These are like all lichens, a symbiotic organism consisting of an algae and a fungus.  They have no roots, so they absorb all their nutrients from the air, making them an excellent monitoring system for air pollutants. They were a challenge to identify and the habitats where they grew took me to some very interesting places in New Brunswick.  These included peat bogs where the lichens grew beside pitcher plants and sundews, mountain-tops dominated by ericaceous species like sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia L.) and blueberry, and high flung rock outcrops where I could see all the world below me as I picked my specimens.

Although we collected many species, the three reindeer lichens most useful for our studies were Cladina arbusculaCladina rangiferina, and Cladina stellaris.   These are all ‘fruticose’ lichens, species with a ‘shrubby’ appearance, consisting of a main branch with many side-branches.  A single ‘plant’ fits nicely in your hand.  The Cladinas all have hollow branches and could be (and are) used as little trees in HO scale train models. 

Cladina arbuscula (left) and Cladina rangiferina (right) growing on a rock by the roadside in Maine. You can tell the difference by the greenish color of the arbuscula and the bluish-grey color of the rangiferina.

Cladina arbuscula (Wallr.) Hale & Culb. grows in extensive colonies, and is yellowish-green.  The tips of the branches all point in one direction, a distinguishing characteristic of the species.  Cladina rangiferina (L.) Harm. is often found growing with Cladina arbuscula and can be distinguished from arbuscula by its very blue-grey appearance.

Cladina stellaris (Opiz) Brodo is yellowish-grey, and grows in distinct clumps which resemble small ‘poofy’ trees.

Cladina lichens and moss on the rock at Moss Glen Falls in New Brunswick. The clump of lichen towards the center, looking like the ice cream in a cone, is Cladina stellaris.

On our travels this summer, I reacquainted myself with the Cladinas.  And I remembered all the remote places I have been as a result of my work.  One of these was Turtle Mountain in southern New Brunswick, now protected as part of the Loch Alva Protected Natural Area (PNA).  It is a very old mountain, worn to a granite hill.  At the top of the hill, is an ericaceous meadow where Cladina lichens flourish. 

 

Turtle Mountain, 1979

~

afternoon air at the base

of the food chain

rewards obligation to breathe

~

grazing tickles the nose

and grey-blue lichens know

laurel and balsam

~

flume of curtain billows

across the daybed

into the room

~

into the space between

Kalmia and wintergreen

meadow heat rising from stone

~

marbled weave of oxygen

hydrogen nitrogen

bilberry and salt ocean

~

© Jane Tims   2011

 

Written by jane tims

October 29, 2011 at 8:50 am

a place to wait, out of the rain

with 2 comments

My husband and I love to go for drives in the countryside, and we often turn these trips into ‘expeditions for collection’.  For example, in 1992, we began a project to see all the covered bridges in the province; of the more than 60 covered bridges in New Brunswick, we have ‘collected’ about three-quarters.   Recently, we began a quest to see as many waterfalls as possible (the state of my arthritic knees puts the emphasis on the ‘as possible’).

This spring, we set out with a very reasonable goal, to see the three lychgates at Anglican churches in the Diocese of Fredericton (all of the Parishes in New Brunswick are located in the one Diocese).  This idea came from a short article in the New Brunswick Anglican in 1997 by Frank Morehouse (‘Only three lych gates remain in the diocese).  The three lychgates are at St. Anne’s Chapel in Fredericton, St. James Church in Ludlow, and St. Paul’s Church in Hampton.

Lychgates are an architectural remnant of past practice, dating back to the 13th century.  They were used as a part of the funeral service, a place for the priest to meet the body of the deceased on its way to burial, and a shelter for the pall bearers to stand out of the rain.  The word lychgate comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lych meaning corpse.

A typical lychgate is made of wood, and consists of a roof supported by a framework of two or more posts, and a gate hung from the framework.  Lychgates usually stand at the entrance to the church property or the graveyard.  They can be architecturally ornate. 

Today the lychgate is a picturesque feature of the churchyard, but they also create habitat for wild life.  Spiders tuck their webs in the rafters of the structure where they are safe from wind and rain.  The shingled roof of a lychgate is often a place where lichens and mosses can grow without competition from other plants.

Our collection of lychgates at Anglican churches in New Brunswick is complete.  We found the lychgate in Fredericton on a rainy day in April… 

lychgate at St. Anne's Chapel in Fredericton, on a rainy day

… the Ludlow lychgate on a hillside in early July…

lychgate at St. James Church, Ludlow
 
…and the lychgate in Hampton beside the church and a very old graveyard in August.

lychgate at St. Paul's Church, Hampton... green lichen on the lychgate roof and orange lichen on the stone wall

 
 

a place to wait, out of the rain

~

as if the rain matters

all of us drenched in tears

best for this to be

a grey day

heaven opened

for two way passage

~

the Sentences encourage me

to lift my eyes

and in the rafters of the lychgate      a spider

spinning its web

~

as if it were a tale that is told

about a roof that protected me

the sun shall not burn thee by day,

 neither the moon by night

neither the rain

~

(quotations in the poem are from The Book of Common Prayer, ‘The Order for the Burial of the Dead’,  Canada, 1962)

© Jane Tims 2011

Written by jane tims

August 27, 2011 at 10:07 am

‘niche’ on a rock

leave a comment »

In July, we went to the Saint Martins area  for the day and spent some time exploring the caves and beach-combing.  We  also took the short drive to the lighthouse at Quaco Head.  The lighthouse is perched on the cliff overlooking Quaco Bay. 

the Quaco Head Lighthouse ....... “The present Quaco Head Lighthouse was constructed in 1966 and consists of a square tower rising from one corner of a concrete fog signal building. The light in its lantern room produces a white flash every ten seconds, while the fog signal emits a three-second blast every thirty seconds, when needed.” from http://www.lighthousefriends.com/

If you look out over the Bay, you can see some exposed rocks where sea birds make their home, and,  to the north-east, Martin Head, about 30 kilometers away.

the view to the north-east ...... Martin Head is on the horizon, to the left

Wildflowers were everywhere, but what caught my eye was a lichen on a flat rock at the base of the lighthouse.  It was bright orange, like a splash of paint. 

There are two orange lichens that live on rocks in the coastal area of New Brunswick, Xanthoria and Caloplaca.  The orange lichen I found at Quaco Head is likely one of two species: Xanthoria sorediata (Vain.) Poelt or Xanthoria elegans (Link) Th. Fr.

bright orange Xanthoria lichen on a rock .... there are also two or more other species of lichen present

A lichen is not a plant, but a composite organism, consisting of an algae and a fungus, living together in a symbiotic, mutually beneficial, relationship.

 

Ringing

                       Swallow Tail Lighthouse, Grand Manan

 

air saltfresh and balsam

walls lapped by a juniper sea

pale mimic of the salt sea

battering its foundations

                      its endurance

                      a mystery

until I found

an iron ring

anchored deep

in rock

almost lost

in lichen

                  Xanthoria orange

lifted and dropped

run round

its axis

                  clashing on stone

                  creak and clank of the metal door

                  echoes climbing the welded stair

                  ground glass grit of the light 

                  fog washed clang of the channel bell

rock lashed to the lighthouse

salt breakers turned to stone

 

Published as: ‘Ringing’, Spring 1995, The Cormorant XI (2)

(revised)

© Jane Tims

%d bloggers like this: