Exploring the science of plants, from the field to the lab

The Rock Gnome

Posted in Interesting Plant Stories on May 27, 2016 by Jessica Allen

Jessica L. Allen is studying for a Ph.D. as a student in the Commodore Matthew Perry Graduate Studies Program at The New York Botanical Garden. Lichens are her primary research interest.

ForestGnomes exist. They’re quite short and green with black caps. The only place to find them is on rocks in the southern Appalachians, and the best place to find them is in western North Carolina.

The gnome I’m describing is actually a lichen (which are combinations of fungi and algae) known as the rock gnome lichen (Cetradonia linearis). It’s one of two fungal species protected by the Endangered Species Act and a member of one of the largest families of lichens, Cladoniaceae.

The rock gnome was one of four fungal species recently added to the Red List, a list of endangered species all over the world that is maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Before these four species were added, only two fungal species were recognized on the Red List. The rock gnome lichen was added to the Red List after a successful meeting at The New York Botanical Garden last summer, during which a group of lichenologists came together to prepare detailed assessments of North American lichens.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Assessments were prepared for more than 20 North American species during this workshop, so stay tuned as more fungi make their way on to the Red List, an important step in raising awareness about their endangered status so they can be protected from extinction.