[Tweeters] Lichen Conspiracy

jeff gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed Apr 24 10:16:02 PDT 2013

There are many dangers to the birder out in the field. Everybody knows about mountain lions, bears, wolves and all of that "nature, red in tooth and claw" stuff. And now we have the opportunity to stumble upon illicit meth labs run by dangerous feebs, or maybe a dope growing operation in a national forest run by the Mexican mafia. I haven't had any problems with the animals I noted, despite many days spent alone in wilderness areas, and have been lucky enough to avoid human criminals. But I have had a number of close calls with dangerous entities you may not have heard about, a real "killer of the unprepared". Lichen.

Yes, that's right, Lichen. I have barely avoided being murdered in the field by Lichen on a number of occasions.

I first encountered "bad" Lichen on a climbing trip in the Cascades. I experienced a number of attacks , by dry lichen. The lichen was tossing sharp shards of itself, like little ninja throwing blades, right at my eyes as I reached for handholds on the cliff face. Nearly blinded, I almost lost my critical three-point connection to the mountain ,and could have easily fallen to my death. I call that criminal intent- those Lichens almost got me. Nearby ravens probably wished they had - I would've made a good meal. I experienced many lichen attacks like this over the years.

My next near deadly encounter was at Rockport State Park up the Skagit river. Named "the most dangerous park in Washington state", by the State Patrol's Lichen Crime Unit, the campground has actually been closed. Of course the big old -growth trees got blamed, for falling down all the time but, behind the scenes, lichen was really behind a lot of it. The great weight of water-sodden lichen can cause huge limbs to break off. The lichens plan for this, and when an unsuspecting birdwatcher, innocently looking up for a Townsend's Warbler( or whatever) stands still for too long, like I did one time, the lichens drop that branch on 'em. I narrowly avoided being pounded like a tent peg.

My last near miss with death by lichen, was at the aptly named Troublesome Creek , up above Index. It was in November, and cold. Alone, as usual, I was walking around with the idea of getting some photo's of this beautiful creek. As I approached a big slab of lichen-encrusted rock, I told myself "be careful now, that looks kinda slip.....", and in an instant I found myself flat on my back (luckily with my camera held up in the air). That slippery old lichen had just flipped me like the slickest Aikido move you ever saw. It did hurt considerably. With my ear near the rock, I could hear that lichen saying " a few more feet and he'd a been a goner in that creek! Darn!"

So what is Lichen's problem really? Do they hate us for our freedom? Tired of being stepped on, ignored, whatever? Some in the Lichen Crime Unit suspect revenge for the many lichen deaths attributed to human created pollution. Attentive nature nuts in our big city's surely notice the dearth of lichen on the boles of city polluted alders ,etc., compared to their rural cousins. I guess it's not easy seeing your friends get killed.

So why haven't you heard about this? Well maybe because Lichens are the ultimate conspirators. (in fact they inspired the Symbionese Liberation Army, back in the 70's, the self -proclaimed 'radical' group that was mainly famous for kidnapping heiress Patty Hearst).

Lichens are symbiotic entities, a group of dissimilar organisms that work together for their own mutual self interest's. They are very good at what they do, having had many millions of year of experience. A conspiracy of fungi, algae, and cyanobacteria, they've been working together secretly, right under everybody's nose. They are pretty quiet about it and, given their close relationships, never fink on each other- the reason Lichen crimes are very rarely prosecuted, or even noticed.

Cops at the Lichen Crime Unit have had a hard time with these tough old timers. Typically they separate the three perps into interrogation rooms.

First the Fungi; "hey look boy's, we gotta fungus among us!" the detectives all chortle. " Hey mushroom-head, we just found this baggie of magic mushrooms at your place, got anything to say?". The fungus didn't, knowing the cops planted evidence - just wasn't that kind of fungus.

Second, the Algae; the detectives, trying to throw in a wedge, started with, " hey greeny, your little fungus friend say's you're pond scum! And he say's you were the slime responsible for the attempted murder of Jeff Gibson a few years ago!" No response.

Finally, the Cyanobacteria ; " well, right off, we got you on identity theft!" . The bacteria knew that it would never stand up in court because experts had been calling it blue-green algae for years, a mistake no fault of its own. "And further more" the detectives tried, "your little algae friend say's you're behind this last crime, say's your no better than a virus!". The bacteria wasn't falling for it. Bacteria gets blamed for everything.

So I guess my stories can't be proven. But birders beware! Lichen is everywhere.

Jeff Gibson
Everett Wa

More information about the Tweeters mailing list