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Natural area professionals, local conservationists and three lichen enthusiasts from as far away as White Water, Wisconsin attended the overbooked Lichen Class led by Rich Hyerczyk, Chicago Lichenological Society.

The day was balmy for mid-November. The group first gathered outside the meeting room near the 1 Aloha Lane buffer pond for a brief field study of lichens. The Split-gilled Schizophyllum commune Fries fungus was discovered by Rich on a fallen Honey locust branch during the field study. This discovery is new to the Wolf Road Prairie fungal species list..

Once inside, Rich distributed packets of information and photos of lichens known to the area. The most common lichen Genus is Cladonia with 41 species known. Cladonia is a Fruticose (shrub-like) Genus which grows on logs with or without bark, on sand, clay and even cloth and old corncobs.

To date, approximately 475 species of lichens in 139 Genus are known from Illinois. 42 species are known to Wolf Road Prairie.

Rich passed around eye lenses and samples of lichens found on various surfaces and described how to identify them.

He explained "that structurally lichens are among the most bizarre of all forms of life. That's because every lichen species is actually composed of two, possibly even three, distinct species of organisms. One species is a kind of fungus. Usually the other species is an alga, but sometimes it can be a photosynthesizing bacterium known as a cyanobacterium. Sometimes all three organisms are found in one lichen."

Hummingbirds are known to gather lichens to build their nests and certain lichens were used in olden days as fabric dyes.

Rich demonstrated how lichens change color when chlorine bleach is applied which helps to identify species.

At the conclusion of the class, some students lingered to take a hike at Wolf Road Prairie in search of lichens which can be found at the preserve on old sidewalks, tree trunks and downed logs.

Thanks to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County Police Department for hosting the Lichen Class at the 1 Aloha Lane meeting room on buffer property to Wolf Road Prairie.

Get a copy of the Lichen Species List for Wolf Road Prairie by Rich Hyerczyk by clicking here.

Photos by Valerie Spale
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