Friday, December 31, 2010

Snow Camp Lichens

A few years back I stopped into a little town called Snow Camp, NC, and saw some amazing rooftops with wooden shingles filled with Cladonia lichens!  I had never seen colonies so large in this region before.  Recently, I realized that I would be passing by the town again and decided to take some photographs of this phenomenon.  I had to do some acrobatics to get close-ups of them.  You can click on the photos to see greater detail!

Standing on the back of a car to photograph the lowest of the Cladonia-filled rooftops.

 One half of a roof almost entirely covered with lichens.
A roof corner with Cladonia cristatella and other species.

A close-up of just one shingle.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Our Lady of Lichens

This statue of Mary sits in a graveyard near our home.  Notice all of the beautiful orange lichens that cover her!


Have a merry Christmas!

- Brendan

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lichens in the Media

Recently, National Public Radio (NPR) interviewed James Lendemer of the New York Botanical Garden for a portion of the "Science Friday" program about lichens. The primary product that resulted from this interview was a video that they posted on their website:
My favorite part of the video occurs when they show James hiking through the forest hunting for lichens and there is a voice-over of James saying "I think of myself as a bounty hunter." On the weekly national broadcast they did a five-minute piece in which they briefly discussed lichens and heavily referenced the above video. Online there is a transcript and a link to an mp3 of the broadcast. There are also some lichen photos that viewers/listeners sent in to NPR after hearing the program:

Lepraria hodkinsoniana (photo taken by an NPR listener)

It's great to see a piece like this promoting lichenology in the media!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

USA Science

Last month I volunteered to take part in the USA Science and Engineering Festival Expo in our nation's capital, Washington D.C.! There were all kinds of exhibits hosted by agencies, professional science organizations, and businesses like NASA, the American Society for Microbiology, and Lockheed Martin.

Our mission is to re-invigorate the interest of our nation’s youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by producing and presenting the most compelling, exciting, educational and entertaining science gatherings in the United States.

If the powers that be decide to throw this festival a second time, it would be great to have a representation of the country's leading lichenological, bryological, and mycological societies. I'll keep an eye on future plans!

- Brendan

Monday, November 1, 2010

Beneficial Microbes

Recently I attended the American Society for Microbiology's 3rd Conference on Beneficial Microbes, which was held in Miami, FL. It was great to meet so many people using techniques similar to the ones that I am using for my research into the bacteria of the lichen microbiome. I was especially excited to go to the session entitled 'Ecology and evolution of microbial communities' since this is one of the major topics that interests me. There were talks by some of the stars of microbial community ecology (e.g., Dr. Rob Knight and Dr. Ruth Ley) and other great talks as well. There were certainly other sessions with interesting talks, too, including one by Dr. Giles Oldroyd on 'Reprogramming Plant Cells for Endosymbiosis.'

Here is a short description of the conference:
"Biologists are becoming increasingly aware that animals and plants have coevolved with diverse assemblages of microorganisms that are required for normal health and development. Not surprisingly, the activity of these symbiont communities is also likely to profoundly affect all aspects of the host’s physiology. An understanding of these complex interactions requires contributions from a diverse, multidisciplinary group of researchers, including microbial ecologists and geneticists. The goal of this conference is to bring together a wide array of scientific expertise to foster the development of this rapidly expanding field of biology."

I returned excited to continue my research on the lichen microbiome, and I look forward to speaking again with some of the people that I met!

- Brendan

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tennessee Journey

Over the past couple of weeks I've been in Tennessee working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and attending a class on High Performance Computing for Phylogenetics at the University of Tennessee.  My family came along, and since we were staying in Knoxville, which is only an hour from the Great Smoky Mountains, we spent one Saturday visiting the G.S.M. National Park.  We happened to be there right in the peak of fall color season and had a great time looking at the foliage and exploring the amazing diversity of lichens in and around the park!

An official park stamp with Cladonia apodocarpa.

Traveling companions.

Checking out the lichen diversity!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

NC Science Festival

A little over a week ago, I participated in a Science Expo that was one of the culminating events of the North Carolina Science Festival.  It was great fun to bring my traveling lichen show, complete with real lichens, microscopes, and plenty of amazing lichen photos.  I was also sure to engage passersby and answer any questions that they might have about lichen biology and the science of lichenology.  While my table was one of the only 'natural history' type displays, there were all sorts of science demos, hands-on activities, lab tours and talks.  It was a great time!

- Brendan

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bayesian reversible-jump MCMC: deflating inflated support values

Recently, on the Botanical Society of America Student ListServ, commonly-used phylogenetic methods were being discussed, and a specific problem was raised with regard to Bayesian phylogenetic inference: it has been documented that, within a Bayesian framework, support values (in the form of posterior probabilities) can become inflated or skewed.  This is an issue of special interest to me, since I commonly use Bayesian inference alongside other phylogenetic methods in my research (e.g., Hodkinson & Lendemer 2010, Hodkinson & Lutzoni 2009, Miadlikowska et al. 2006).  I decided to contribute to the discussion by sending the following message to the ListServ:

I have found that Bayesian phylogenetic inference methods can do amazing things (like finding the same topology with one gene that only emerges with two or three genes in an analysis based on maximum parsimony (MP) or maximum likelihood (ML)).  However, this problem of Bayesian methods inflating support (especially at short internodes) makes me feel very suspicious of any given Bayesian posterior probability value. Therefore, if I want to evaluate support, I always look at MP- and/or ML-bootstrap proportions.  The Bayesian problem that we're talking about has been discussed by Lewis et al. (2005), and they state that the solution is to use reversible-jump MCMC (rjMCMC).  However, I have wondered myself how I could actually implement this.

I recently found an article that clearly stated the fact that MrBayes and BEAST cannot perform rjMCMC (Kodandaramaiah et al. 2010):
In this article, they used Phycas for their rjMCMC analyses.

So I went to the Phycas manual (Lewis et al. 2010), and found that it does give the nitty-gritty of how to implement this (see section 2.3 on 'Polytomy Priors'):
I have not yet done it myself, but I am very excited to try it out!  Perhaps now I will have more faith in my posterior probabilities!

The Phycas manual gives the best, most concise summary of the issue that I have seen anywhere:

A solution to the 'Star Tree Paradox' problem was proposed by Lewis, Holder, and Holsinger (2005). Their solution was to use reversible-jump MCMC to allow unresolved tree topologies to be sampled during the course of a Bayesian phylogenetic analysis in addition to fully-resolved tree topologies. If the time between speciation events is so short (or the substitution rate so low) that no substitutions occurred along a particular internal edge in the true tree, then use of the polytomy prior proposed by Lewis, Holder, and Holsinger (2005) can improve inference by giving the Bayesian model a 'way out.' That is, it is not required to find a fully resolved tree, but is allowed to place a lot of posterior probability mass on a less-than-fully-resolved topology. Please refer to the Lewis, Holder, and Holsinger (2005) paper for details.

Please post comments here if you have performed these types of analyses and have any additional insights!


P.S. Please see my more recent posts for the details of using Phycas:

Works Cited:

Hodkinson, B. P., and J. C. Lendemer. 2011. Molecular analyses reveal semi-cryptic species in Xanthoparmelia tasmanica. Bibliotheca Lichenologica 106: 115-126.
Download draft (PDF file)
Download alignment (NEXUS file)

Hodkinson, B. P., and F. Lutzoni. 2009. A microbiotic survey of lichen-associated bacteria reveals a new lineage from the Rhizobiales. Symbiosis 49: 163-180.
Download publication (PDF file)
Download alignment (NEXUS file)

Kodandaramaiah U., C. Pena, M. F. Braby, R. Grund, C. J. Muller, S. Nylin, and N. Wahlberg. 2010. Phylogenetics of Coenonymphina (Nymphalidae: Satyrinae) and the problem of rooting rapid radiations. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 54(2): 386-394.
View Publication (webpage)

Lewis, P. O., M. T. Holder, and K. E. Holsinger. 2005. Polytomies and Bayesian phylogenetic inference. Systematic Biology 54(2): 241-253
View Publication (webpage)

Lewis, P. O., M. T. Holder, and D. L. Swofford. 2010. Phycas User Manual, Version 1.2.0.
View Manual (PDF file)

Miadlikowska, J., F. Kauff, V. Hofstetter, E. Fraker, M. Grube, J. Hafellner, V. Reeb, B. P. Hodkinson, M. Kukwa, R. Lücking, G. Hestmark, M. Garcia Otalora, A. Rauhut, B. Büdel, C. Scheidegger, E. Timdal, S. Stenroos, I. Brodo, G. Perlmutter, D. Ertz, P. Diederich, J. C. Lendemer, P. May, C. L. Schoch, A. E. Arnold, C. Gueidan, E. Tripp, R. Yahr, C. Robertson, and F. Lutzoni. 2006. New insights into classification and evolution of the Lecanoromycetes (Pezizomycotina, Ascomycota) from phylogenetic analyses of three ribosomal RNA- and two protein-coding genes. Mycologia 98: 1088-1103.
Download publication (PDF file)
Download supplement (PDF file)
Download alignment (zipped NEXUS file)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A recipe with fungi and algae!

I have never actually eaten a lichen, but I was thinking the other day about how I do like to eat both fungi and algae, especially together.  Several years ago, my wife and I took a Korean cooking class, where we learned some great recipes.  The one that we enjoy cooking the most is Bee-bim Bop, a dish with all kinds of veggies served over rice.  We usually serve it like a salad bar, where people can put whatever items they want on their rice then mix it themselves.  In addition to the veggies, both fungi (mushrooms) and algae (seaweed) are a traditional part of the dish, and help to form a flavor symbiosis of sorts.

Here's our recipe for Bee-bim Bop:

Ingredients (you can vary the quantities of each vegetable depending on your preference)
Rice (cook ~1/2 cup per person)
Shiitake mushrooms
Bean Sprouts (~1 cup)
Eggs (to be whipped, fried, and sliced; we use 3 eggs)
Carrots (to be cut into matchsticks and fried; 1 big carrot should do it)
Onion (to be chopped and fried)
Cucumber (to be cut into matchsticks)
Lettuce (1 small head or less)
Tofu (firm, cubed; ~ 1 cup)
green onion tops for garnish
Seasonings: salt, garlic, sesame oil, sesame seeds, sugar, soy sauce, and cayenne pepper

Now there is a lot of vegetable chopping to be done!

1. Soak dried mushrooms at least 30 minutes
2. Wash and get rice cooking.
3. Prepare marinade sauce for mushrooms and tofu: 1t salt, 1/2t garlic, and 1t sesame oil (make as much as you need using those proportions).  Put the tofu (raw) in a bowl with some of the sauce to marinate while you do the next few steps.
3. Wash the bean sprouts and put them in a pot with a little water (not quite covering them) and a pinch of salt. Cook them, covered, about 15 minutes on medium-high heat, then drain and place in a bowl.
4. Heat some sesame oil in a frying pan for the eggs. Mix the eggs and a dash of salt vigorously with a fork and then pour them into the hot pan. Let it spread out as much as possible. Flip it after a couple minutes, and when the "pancake" is cooked through, take it out of the frying pan and slice it into long, thin strips.
5. Cut the carrots and onions into thin pieces and fry them (with salt) in the hot oil until the carrots are tender.
6. Drain the re-hydrated mushrooms and squeeze excess water out of them.  Mix them with some of the sauce from step 3 and fry.
7. Fry the tofu in hot oil with black pepper.
8. Drain the cooked bean sprouts and season them with a little bit of salt, garlic, sesame seeds, and sesame oil.
9. Cut the cucumber and lettuce into long thin strips. 
10. Prepare Goo Choo Chang sauce: mix 1/2t cayenne pepper, 1/2t garlic, 1t sesame seeds, 1T soy sauce,  1T sugar, and 1T sesame oil.  You'll want to put this in a little container for pouring at the dinner table.

When you have it all ready, you should have on the table a big bowl of rice and small bowls with the mushrooms, sprouts, egg strips, carrots & onions, tofu, cucumber, and lettuce. 

To Serve:
Put cooked rice into individual serving bowls.
Put vegetables, eggs, tofu, and mushrooms on top of the rice.
Pour Go Choo Chang sauce over bowl.
Mix thoroughly, and add more sesame oil to the mixture depending on your preference.
Serve with Kim Chee and Laver seaweed (thin and crispy... not sushi nori).
The ingredients on display (with a small one who is quite excited about the algae)!

The final product, with algae around the edges and fungi in the mix with the rest.

All that's left at this point is to give your hands a thorough washing and dig in; we typically eat this by using the little sheets of laver as our utensils!



Saturday, August 28, 2010

Virginia Lichen Checklist

Back in 2004 I began assembling the first checklist of Virginia lichen taxa. The first draft of this work consisted of a literature review plus an inventory of Virginia specimens held by the DUKE Cryptogamic Herbarium (DUKE) and various herbaria with publicly-accessible databases. However, I decided not to publish any of that work, instead favoring an approach that would produce a list of expert-verified taxa for the state. I did this because I was in a unique position to correct some of the taxonomic problems that have arisen over the years, and a literature review with an herbarium inventory would only perpetuate previous errors.

Beginning in 2006, I worked primarily with Dr. Richard C. Harris ('Dick') of the New York Botanical Garden to assemble the lichen checklist for the state, and ensured that Dick verified at least one specimen for each taxon in the list. This resulted in the first checklist of Virginia lichens, lichenicolous fungi, and allied taxa, published last year in Evansia (Hodkinson et al. 2009). However, taxonomy is ever-evolving, and new species are constantly being discovered. To address this issue, I have designed a website that can be updated at any time to reflect changes in our understanding of the Virginia lichen flora:
Virginia’s physiographic provinces

The most recent addition to the list, from just this week, is the lichenicolous fungus Skyttea radiatilis (Tuck.) R.Sant., Etayo & Diederich, identified by James Lendemer. The species was described just within the past decade; it seemingly grows only on a single sterile crustose lichen species, and is probably not rare, even though it is seldom collected and identified. In order to understand why it is so seldom seen, one must simply ask: 'How many people are collecting and carefully examining sick-looking sterile crustose lichens?' (Hint: not many). Additions like this have brought the total number of verified taxa for the state to just over 600, and additional collecting work that I have recently done in the outer Coastal Plain of Virginia has revealed many more (keep an eye out for this work, to be published sometime next year).

I welcome any comments or corrections to the Virginia Lichen Checklist. Let us not forget that, since so much remains to be discovered about the diversity of lichenized fungi, regional inventories like this one are still crucial for the advancement of the field!



Hodkinson, B. P., R. C. Harris, and M. A. Case. 2009. A Checklist of Virginia Lichens. Evansia 26(2): 64-88.
Download publication (PDF file)

Hodkinson, B. P., R. C. Harris, and M. A. Case. 2010. A Checklist of Virginia Lichens. [updated: 25 August 2010].
View authors' updated checklist (website)

Hodkinson, B. P., and M. A. Case. 2008. A lichen survey of Williamsburg, Virginia. Banisteria 31: 24-30.
Download publication (PDF file)
Download supplement (Excel file)

Hodkinson, B. P. 2010. A First Assessment of Lichen Diversity for One of North America's 'Biodiversity Hotspots' in the Southern Appalachians of Virginia. Castanea 75(1): 126-133.
Download publication (PDF file)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Parmelia barrenoae

Recently I published an article in the journal North American Fungi on the distribution and morphology of the foliose lichen Parmelia barrenoae (Hodkinson et al. 2010). One significant aspect of this paper is that it highlights the importance of good herbarium collections. Bill and Chicita Culberson traveled to Morocco in 1971, and to Calfornia in 1972; on both trips, they collected generally, and happened to pick up specimens of P. barrenoae without knowing it (since the species was not yet described). However, when I went into the DUKE herbarium to look for specimens, I found two continental records (for both Africa and North America) just sitting there!  

The species was described from Spain a few years back (Divakar et al. 2005), but the emphasis of the originial paper was on the molecular phylogeny and the fact that this distinctive species was differentiated by having simple rhizines (as opposed to the squarrose rhizines seen in the closely-related Parmelia sulcata). An examination of the herbarium material from a broader geographic range allowed us to additionally highlight the fact that the species has distinct soralia that are erose, instead of the more erumpent soralia seen in Parmelia sulcata

Figure 1. Parmelia barrenoae (A-E; all from Lendemer 19720) and comparison of rhizines with P. sulcata (F, from McGarrity s.n.). A, lobe morphology (scale = 2.0 mm). B, detail of lobe tip (scale = 0.5 mm). C, young soralium (scale = 0.5 mm). D, soralia (scale = 1.0 mm). E-F, comparison of rhizines in P. barrenoae (E) and P. sulcata (F) (scale = 0.2 and 0.5 mm respectively). 

Several lichenologists (e.g., Trevor Goward and Ernie Brodo) had recognized this entity in western North America as a species not on the continental checklist (N.A. lichen checklist), but Ted Esslinger recognized it as P. barrenoae and James Lendemer generated the ITS rDNA sequence data confirming it. Additional ITS rDNA sequences from this species recently deposited in GenBank from Morocco and Turkey (previously deposited sequences were from Spain, and ours from California) give molecular barcode sequence data from throughout the species's known worldwide range.  Now there is at least one ITS sequence (the more-or-less 'official' fungal barcode) from each of the continents from which the species has been reported, giving a good sampling of the sequence diversity found across its range. 

For another nice set of photos of this species, check out these ones on!


Works Cited:

Divakar, P. K., M. C. Molina, H. T. Lumbsch, and A. Crespo. 2005. Parmelia barrenoae, a new lichen species related to Parmelia sulcata (Parmeliaceae) based on molecular and morphological data. Lichenologist 37: 37-46.

Hodkinson, B. P., J. C. Lendemer, and T. L. Esslinger. 2010. Parmelia barrenoae, a macrolichen new to North America and Africa. North American Fungi 5(3): 1-5.
Download publication (PDF file)
View journal volume (website) 
View sequence data (NCBI website)

After posting this, I was alerted to the following article in Spanish, which gives some additional discussion of morphology and ecology, with some nice micrographs:
Barreno, E., and M. A. Herrera-Campos. 2009. Parmelia barrenoae Divakar, MC. Molina & A. Crespo un liquen nuevo para la flora asturiana. Bol. Cien. Nat. R.I.D.E.A. 50: 333-341.
Download publication (PDF file)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Lichen Web Resources

The New York Botanical Garden has recently made available a set of excellent web resources for the study of lichens in North America.  Here is the announcement sent out by James Lendemer:

We are pleased to announce that two new lichen websites have been posted that can be accessed via the NYBG Virtual Herbarium ( These websites treat the lichen biotas of two large biogeographic regions of North America: the Ozarks and the southeastern Coastal Plain.

1) Lichens of the Ozarks -

This website presents the results of Richard Harris and Doug Ladd's research on the lichen biota of the Ozark Ecoregion in central North America. Highlights of the website include a dynamic specimen-based checklist, dynamic literature listings including linked pdfs when applicable, and a pdf of the keys to Ozark lichens produced for the Tuckerman Workshop in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

2) Lichens of the Southeastern Coastal Plain -

This website is an ongoing effort intended to present the results of our continuing research on the lichen biota of the Coastal Plain of southeastern North America.

We welcome all comments, corrections, and suggestions. These should be sent to

The southeastern Coastal Plain project builds on the research and collecting done by Richard Harris for the classic works Some Florida Lichens (Harris 1990) and More Florida Lichens (Harris 1995).  Currently, we are actively working further north in the Coastal Plain, conducting inventories (e.g., Hodkinson & Case 2008, Hodkinson et al. 2009, Lendemer & Hodkinson in prep), elucidating distributional patterns (Lendemer & Hodkinson 2009, 2009a), and describing new species that occur in the region (e.g., Lendemer & Hodkinson 2010, in prep).  

Those who are attending the Botany 2010 conference in Rhode Island will have an opportunity to see a talk by James Lendemer on the progress of the work so far in the southeastern Coastal Plain (Lendemer et al. 2010).  At the upcoming conference, I will be co-leading a workshop on an integrated approach to lichen systematics (Lendemer et al. 2010a), presenting a poster on semi-cryptic species (Hodkinson & Lendemer 2010, 2010a), and giving a talk on 'rhizobes' associated with lichens (Hodkinson & Lutzoni 2010).  Hopefully, I will see some of you there!

[Research on the lichens of the Ozarks was supported by NSF Grant DEB-0206023.]


Harris, R. C. 1990. Some Florida Lichens. Published by the author. Bronx, NY. 109 pp.

Harris, R. C. 1995. More Florida Lichens, including the 10 cent tour of the pyrenolichens. Published by the author. Bronx, NY. 192 pp.

Harris, R. C., and D. Ladd. 2005. Ozark lichens; Enumerating the lichens of the Ozark Highlands of Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma. Published by the authors. Bronx, NY. 249 pp.

Hodkinson, B. P., and M. A. Case. 2008. A lichen survey of Williamsburg, Virginia. Banisteria 31: 24-30.
Download publication (PDF file)

Hodkinson, B. P., R. C. Harris, and M. A. Case. 2009. A Checklist of Virginia Lichens. Evansia 26(2): 64-88.
Download publication (PDF file)
View authors' updated checklist (website)

Hodkinson, B. P., and J. C. Lendemer. 2010. Molecular analyses reveal semi-cryptic species in Xanthoparmelia tasmanica. Bibliotheca Lichenologica: in press.
Download draft (PDF file)
Download alignment (NEXUS file)

Hodkinson, B. P., and J. C. Lendemer. 2010a. How do you solve a problem like Xanthoparmelia? Molecular analyses reveal semi-cryptic species in an Australasian-American 'disjunct' taxon. Botany 2010, abs. 355.
View abstract (website)

Hodkinson, B. P., and F. Lutzoni. 2010. Do lichens harbor their own 'rhizobia'? A large-scale phylogenetic survey of lichen-associated bacteria from the order Rhizobiales. Botany 2010, abs. 347.
View abstract (website)

Lendemer, J. C., and B. P. Hodkinson. 2009. The Wisdom of Fools: new molecular and morphological insights into the North American apodetiate species of Cladonia. Opuscula Philolichenum 7: 79-100.
Download publication (PDF file)
Download alignment (NEXUS file)
Lendemer, J. C., and B. P. Hodkinson. 2009a. Stretching the boundaries: A range extension for Buellia wheeleri R.C. Harris. Evansia 26(4): 172-176.
Download publication (PDF file)
View dynamic range map of Buellia wheeleri (google map)
Lendemer, J. C., and B. P. Hodkinson. 2010. A new perspective on Punctelia subrudecta in North America: previously-rejected morphological characters corroborate molecular phylogenetic evidence and provide insight into an old problem. Lichenologist 42(4): 405-421.
Download publication (PDF file)
Download alignment (NEXUS file)

Lendemer, J. C., R. C. Harris, and B. P. Hodkinson. 2010. Connecting the dots: progress and problems in assessing lichen biodiversity and biogeography in the coastal plain of southeastern North America. Botany 2010, abs. 30.
View abstract (website)

Lendemer, J. C., B. P. Hodkinson, and M. Piercey-Normore. 2010. Cladonia Systematics: What can we infer from morphology and molecules? Botany 2010, abs. 1052.
View abstract (website)

Friday, July 9, 2010

Lichens of Nome, Alaska

Lichens of Alaska, Part III: Nome

Pannaria pezizoides surrounded by Stereocaulon sp.

Candelariella aurella with Lecanora sp. and unknown Collemataceae.

Bryocaulon divergens with Alectoria ochroleuca  and Cladonia spp.

Lichen-covered igloo mounds on the tundra.

Ochrolechia upsaliensis with Flavocetraria spp. and Cladonia sp.

Xanthoria-covered rocks overhanging clear waters.

Thanks for all the interest in my photos.  A nice field photo accompanied by a good specimen can have great scientific and educational value, so I encourage everyone to snap and collect (with permission, of course)!

[Funding provided by NSF Award DEB-0640956.]

Monday, July 5, 2010

MSA 2010

Last week I attended the annual meeting of the Mycological Society of America, which was in Lexington, Kentucky, the heart of Horse Country and the land of Bourbon Whiskey. I gave a talk on lichen-associated bacteria (Hodkinson & Lutzoni 2010) and it was quite well-received. There were some great talks, and I enjoyed having an opportunity to catch up with fellow friends of fungi!

One of the great things about the MSA meetings is that there's always a jam session at night, and since I play guitar, I'm always excited to join in. Here is a video of part of a long slow jam to the tune House of the Rising Sun:
We played a real variety of tunes from old-time to punk to country to rock, etc., on into the night.

At the end of the conference there was a final banquet and auction, where I made out with a hefty stack of great old mycological books and papers (thanks to Betsy Arnold for her work on the auction)! There were also some more whimsical items. Here you can see the distinguished Dr. Methven sporting some newly-acquired mycological apparel that he won at the auction.

I would encourage anyone who has an interest in fungi to join the society. There are ten different types of membership, so there's a place for everyone! I'm certainly looking forward to the next meeting!



Hodkinson, B. P., and F. Lutzoni. 2010. Do lichens harbor their own rhizobia? A large-scale phylogenetic survey of lichen-associated bacteria from the order Rhizobiales. Inoculum 61(4): 55-56.
View Inoculum issue (PDF file)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Punctelia caseana Lendemer & Hodkinson sp. nov.

Recently, James Lendemer (of the New York Botanical Garden) and I put together a paper on the North American sorediate species in the genus Punctelia with lecanoric acid and a pale underside. In North America, these species have generally been called Punctelia subrudecta (a European name), but it was discovered more recently that the conidia do not match the European species. Incidentally, the European species P. perreticulata and P. jeckeri (syn. P. ulophylla) have been reported rarely in different parts of the North American continent. For reasons outlined in our recent paper (Lendemer & Hodkinson 2010; see the official website here), P. perreticulata became the accepted name for all three of these species in North America during the past few years. However, our observations in the field and lab told us that there was more than one entity here in North America. Therefore, we decided to generate rDNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequence data from morphologically and geographically disparate populations to see if the observed morphotypes correlated with genetically-distinct entities.

In Eastern North America, we found that the species so long confused with Punctelia subrudecta actually seemed to be an undescribed species, which we named after my undergraduate advisor (Dr. Martha Case of the College of William & Mary):

Punctelia caseana Lendemer & Hodkinson sp. nov. A & B, thallus margin, ×0.5; A (top), morphotype 1; B (bottom), morphotype 2; C & D, soralia, ×1; C (top), morphotype 1; D (bottom), morphotype 2; E & F, epruinose lobe tips, ×3;E (top), morphotype 1; F (bottom), morphotype 2; G, geographic distribution based on herbarium material at CANL and NY; shaded region approximates to the eastern range mapped by Brodo et al. (2001)). Images of morphotype 1 are from Lendemer 12205 (NY) and morphotype 2 are from Harris 54826 (NY).

Punctelia caseana encompasses at least two morphotypes, illustrated in the figure above. However, one of the morphotypes is potentially paraphyletic based on our molecular phylogenetic analyses, leading us to recognize both morphotypes under a single name for the time being. Some additional photos of this species can be seen here (Sharnoff) and here (Mushroom Observer).

In western North America, we found that all of the lichens had a haze of pruina on at least some of the lobe tips, which is often difficult to discern, but immediately made me think of Punctelia jeckeri (syn. P. ulophylla). Of course, it seemed unlikely that the species dominating western North America was the same as the European P. jeckeri (especially given the mantra that pruinosity is not a good taxonomic character). However, we were quite excited to find that the ITS sequences of western North American material were indistinguishable from European P. jeckeri sequences! 

Punctelia jeckeri. (Lendemer 14695, NY). A & B, pruinose lobe tips with arrows highlighting position of the pruina, ×5; C, geographic distribution based on selected herbarium material at NY, shaded regions correspond to western populations mapped by Brodo et al. (2001); note that several populations in Canada are not mapped due to space constraints; D, thallus margin, ×0.5; E, soralia, ×1.

Even though the ITS sequences match up perfectly with European material, we refer to the western North American material as Punctelia jeckeri s. lat., since the conidia do not exactly match P. jeckeri as formally defined. However, we put forth the hypothesis that there may actually be two species in Europe with pruinose lobe tips, but different conidia. This hypothesis will need to be tested with rigorous sampling from throughout Europe.

The third species that we found in North America represented the 'real' Punctelia perreticulata as originally defined. P. perreticulata is the only species with a distinctly scrobiculate upper surface, and its distribution is centered in the Ozark Ecoregion.

Punctelia perreticulata. (Lendemer 7230, NY). A, soralia, ×1; B, thallus margin, ×0.5; C, pruinose lobe margin, ×4; D, geographic distribution based on herbarium material at CANL and NY.

Our paper also provides a key to the genus Punctelia in North America. Anyone who has tried to identify a species in this group should have a look. For those interested in the molecular data or the nitty-gritty of phylogenetic methods, links to the ITS sequences with full GenBank records can be found here and we have also posted the analyzed alignment file (NEXUS).

While there are surely further questions to be answered regarding the genus Punctelia, it is satisfying to have some degree of resolution in this often-misunderstood group of species!


Works Cited:

Lendemer, J. C., and B. P. Hodkinson. 2010. A new perspective on Punctelia subrudecta in North America: previously-rejected morphological characters corroborate molecular phylogenetic evidence and provide insight into an old problem. Lichenologist 42(4): 405-421.
View publication (website)
Download publication (PDF file)
Download alignment (NEXUS file)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Blomquist Foray

About two years ago now, I had the opportunity to help plan and lead the Hugo L. Blomquist Bryological and Lichenological Foray.  At the time, I was putting the finishing touches on the first edition of the Virginia Lichen Checklist (Hodkinson et al. 2009, so I decided to take the opportunity to bring a group of lichenologists to Virginia for a final collecting blitz!  While there were plenty of areas throughout the state that still required further collecting, southwestern Virginia seemed sufficiently unexplored (especially in terms of crustose lichens) and provided nice opportunities for lodging and easy fieldwork.

We were certainly rewarded with some great discoveries!  Collectively, we identified 41 state records, and had some especially significant findings, including:
Sphaerellothecium coniodes - a lichenicolous fungus that was not previously known to exist in North America;
Hypotrachyna lividescens - a primarily neotropical macrolichen that has not previously been reported from North America;
Pycnora praestabilis - a lignicolous crust not previously reported from any other location in eastern North America;
Heterodermia erecta - a foliose lichen previously known in the world only from a single small region of Georgia/North Carolina, and
Psilolechia clavulifera - a crustose lichen taxon previously reported from only one other location in eastern North America.

In addition, there were specimens that spurred on further studies.  For example, one species listed here, 'Punctelia caseana Lendemer & Hodkinson' (previously known either as Punctelia subrudecta or Punctelia perreticulata), was investigated using molecular tools and formally defined after these collections were made (for more on this new species, see Lendemer & Hodkinson 2010).  Also, specimens that were tentatively called 'Cladonia caespiticia ?' led us to re-evaluate the characters used to circumscribe this species (Lendemer & Hodkinson 2009).

It was only after the foray that I found out that the area is one of only a few parts of the country that is considered a true 'biodiversity hotspot' when diversity calculations are rarity-weighted.  The sheer diversity of lichens, along with the number of rare and/or potentially endangered taxa, highlights the need for continued preservation efforts in MRNRA and the southern Appalachian Mountains in general.

The discoveries made on the Foray are all outlined in an article that recently came out in the journal Castanea (Hodkinson 2010).  The publisher's website for the article can be found here, and a PDF of the article is available on my website.  Some photos of the foray are online in this album.

I encourage anyone who has a serious interest in lichens to please join us on the next Blomquist or Tuckerman Foray!


The Foray's official logo, designed by Donald M. Ziegler.

Acknowledgments: Many thanks are due to all of those who participated in the 2008 Blomquist Foray, especially those who submitted lists of identified specimens (J.G. Guccion, G. Perlmutter, W.R. Buck, R.C. Harris). I thank Richard C. Harris and James C. Lendemer for graciously verifying or identifying the majority of the collections, and Othmar Breuss for examining specimens representing Verrucariaceae. Kerry Knudsen is thanked both for reviewing this manuscript and for examining the collections of Acarospora sp. The author is grateful to Sarah Hodkinson for her assistance with Foray business, and with the collecting and cataloging of specimens. The author also thanks Fred Huber for showing us some of the best collection spots in MRNRA and giving us permission to collect lichens and mosses, Mike Donohue for assisting with field work, Jon Shaw for assisting with general Foray organization, and Blanka Shaw for coordinating communication and housing arrangements.

Works Cited:

Hodkinson, B. P. 2010. A First Assessment of Lichen Diversity for One of North America's 'Biodiversity Hotspots' in the Southern Appalachians of Virginia. Castanea 75(1): 126-133.
Download publication (PDF file)

Hodkinson, B. P., R. C. Harris, and M. A. Case. 2009. A Checklist of Virginia Lichens. Evansia 26(2): 64-88.
Download publication (PDF file)
View authors' updated checklist (website)

Lendemer, J. C., and B. P. Hodkinson. 2010. A new perspective on Punctelia subrudecta in North America: previously-rejected morphological characters corroborate molecular phylogenetic evidence and provide insight into an old problem. Lichenologist 42(4): 405-421.
Download publication (PDF file)
Download alignment (NEXUS file)

Lendemer, J. C., and B. P. Hodkinson. 2009. The Wisdom of Fools: new molecular and morphological insights into the North American apodetiate species of Cladonia. Opuscula Philolichenum 7: 79-100.
Download publication (PDF file)
Download alignment (NEXUS file)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Lichen Walk

Last weekend, the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association (ECWA) gave me an opportunity to lead a local 'Lichen Walk'. Members of the community came out to take a hike through the ECWA-managed Glennstone Nature Preserve and learn about lichens in the process. The Preserve had a great variety of lichens for everyone to see, and I had a great time raising lichen awareness!

Thanks to ECWA for arranging the event! For those of you in the area, I hope to see you at the next one; for the lichenologists who live elsewhere, this is a really nice, simple way to reach out locally and get people thinking about lichens!

[Additional thanks are due to Sarah Hodkinson for assistance with the walk, and to the National Science Foundation for funding my research and associated outreach through a Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant: DEB-1011504.] 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lichens of Denali, Alaska

Alaska Lichen Photo Series, Part II: Lichens of Denali

Vulpicida tilesii

Sphaerophorus fragilis

Ochrolechia upsaliensis

Physconia muscigena

Xanthoria elegans

[All photos by Brendan Hodkinson]
[Funded by NSF Award DEB-0640956.] 

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I was driving along today and saw a particularly striking example of Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae (cedar-apple rust) in action!  I saw at least three trees in the area with this amazing bright orange fungus, but one of them was completely covered!  Here are a few photos that I took:

A side view of one of the fungal fruiting bodies progressing through the stages of maturity.

A particularly juicy fruiting body as seen from below.

A small portion of the tree covered in the fungus.

[Photos by Brendan Hodkinson.]