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In the October woodlands 3 :Lichens, but they aren’t quite what we thought they are !

A little more detailed this post than my usual Friday posts but I found this articular very interesting, if only for the fact that its amazing just how much there is to be found in our local woodlands and just how much study is being carried ou,t even after so many years to revival the hidden secrets to the life that surrounds us on our daily walks along a forest path …..

Lichens aren’t quite what we thought, shocked scientists discover

Most people know lichens, such as this wolf lichen, as those flaky, light green things that grow on tree bark. You probably learned in school that they’re a mutually beneficial partnership or “symbiosis” between fungi and algae, but many lichens have now been found to include a third partner, a yeast. (Tim Wheeler Photography)

Most people know lichens as those flaky, light green things that grow on tree bark, and learned in school that they’re a mutually beneficial partnership or “symbiosis” between fungi and algae.

But lichen scientists have made the shocking new discovery that many lichens are also made up of a previously undiscovered third partner — a new kind of yeast.

Not only does that potentially alter the fundamental definition of what a lichen is, but it “should change expectations about the diversity and ubiquity” of the organisms that form them, says a new study published Thursday in Science.

University of Montana researcher Toby Spribille samples Bryoria or horsehair lichens. He first started studying lichens 15 years ago in British Columbia. His new study was inspired by a mystery flagged by B.C. lichenologist Trevor Goward. (Christoph Rosche)

The new yeast has apparently gone undetected in lichens for more than a century, despite the fact that scientists all over the world have devoted entire careers to studying lichens closely with microscopes and genetic testing.

That seemed so unlikely that the scientists working on the project had trouble believing it themselves.

“It’s so surprising that you kind of doubt yourself for a long time,” said John McCutcheon, a microbiologist at the University of Montana and a research fellow with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research who co-authored the new study published today in Science.

“We had to check our data more than 10 times,” recalled Toby Spribille, lead author of the paper. “It seemed to me so unlikely that so many people would have missed that.”
Lichen mystery

Spribille, a University of Montana botanist who first started studying lichens in British Columbia 15 years ago, was inspired by a mystery flagged by B.C. lichenologist Trevor Goward in a series of essays.
Wila or edible horsehair lichen, also known by the scientific name Bryoria fremontii, is a brown-coloured lichen that was an important traditional food for many First Nations in northwestern North America. (Toby Spribille)

It concerned two lichens that grow in B.C. and Montana and considered separate species for 100 years. One called wila or edible horsehair lichen, also known by the scientific name Bryoria fremontii, is a brown-coloured lichen that was an important traditional food for many First Nations in northwestern North America.

The other, called tortured horsehair lichen or Bryoria tortuosa, is yellow and poisonous. However, a recent genetic analysis showed that they were genetically identical — they were made up of exactly the same species of fungus and the same species of algae.

“There’s something really weird about that,” Spribille said.
Tortured horsehair lichen or Bryoria tortuosa, is yellow and poisonous. However, a recent genetic analysis showed that its fungus species and algae species are genetically identical to those in edible horsehair lichen. (Tim Wheeler)

He brought the problem up with McCutcheon, an expert in new, sophisticated genetic techniques that he typically uses to study insects.

Traditional DNA analysis relies on probes or lures to fish out certain characteristic regions of genetic material, partly based on what scientists expect to find — like calling out names in a dark room to see who’s there, Spribille said.

Newer techniques instead look for all genes that are in the process of being translated into proteins via “messenger” molecules called RNA. Spribille likens the technique to turning on the lights.

McCutcheon says that gives a sense of what an organism is doing at any given time.

To the researchers’ surprise, the RNA they found came not just from the fungus and the alga known to be associated with the lichens, but a mysterious third organism.

Further analysis showed it to be a new kind of yeast, belonging to the taxonomic group Basidiomycota, the same one that button mushrooms belong to. It was not at all related to the yeasts used to brew beer or bake bread. Yeast cells and DNA were extremely common in the yellow, poisonous lichen, but rare in the edible brown lichen.
A fluorescent microscope image shows the location of different cell types in a bryoria lichen, cut at the ends and lengthwise through the middle. Green are the yeasts, blue are the fungi, red are the algae. (Toby Spribille)

After running the experiment enough times to convince themselves the signal wasn’t due to contamination and pinpointing the yeast cells in the outer skin of the lichen, the researchers decided to see whether other lichens from around the world also contained the yeast. Sure enough, many did.

“Each lichen has a specific strain of the yeast,” McCutcheon said. “These form several new fungal families.”

DNA analysis suggests the yeast has been part of lichens for more than 100 million years — since the end of the Early Cretaceous, when dinosaurs like spinosaurus and allosaurus roamed the Earth, and flowering plants first appeared.

Spribille said the discovery “seriously challenges” a lot of assumptions that have been held by lichenologists for a century.

“At the next level up, it gives us insight into how one of the most fascinating symbioses works.”
‘Really major finding’

Goward, whose essay inspired the research, said he was delighted by the discovery.

“It’s all very exciting to me,” he added. “If Toby’s idea proves to be correct, this is the second really major finding that changes how we see these organisms” — after the 1860s discovery that lichens weren’t one organism, but made of two separate organisms, an alga and a fungus.

Irwin Brodo, an emeritus scientist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa who has devoted himself to the study of lichens for decades, said the discovery was “plausible” but “not proven yet.”

Brodo, who first gave the horsehair lichens the name Bryoria, said he was surprised that the new yeast cells were discovered in a part of the lichen that a lot of lichenologists, including himself, have examined carefully.

“I never saw them,” he said.

But he added that the presence of the yeast might also explain other longstanding mysteries about other lichens that look very different but have been found to be genetically identical.


These Autumn evenings , Image and Poem by (John) Robinson Jeffers, (1887-1962),

Irish Landscape Images
Autumn eveings County Kilkenny
Nigel Borrington
Oct 2018

Autumn Evening

Though the little clouds ran southward still, the quiet autumnal
Cool of the late September evening
Seemed promising rain, rain, the change of the year, the angel
Of the sad forest.

Autumn Evening
Nigel Borrington

A heron flew over with that remote ridiculous cry, “Quawk,” the cry
That seems to make silence more silent. A dozen
Flops of the wing, a drooping glide, at the end of the glide
The cry, and a dozen flops of the wing.

I watched him pass on the autumn-colored sky; beyond him
Jupiter shone for evening star.
The sea’s voice worked into my mood, I thought “No matter
What happens to men . . . the world’s well made though.”


To Autumn, a poem by John Keats

To Autumn, By John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.


A Friday morning poem, “Friday Morning” – by: Ghada Shahbender

The Red Cottage door
Irish Landscape Photography : Nigel Borrington

Friday Morning – Poem by Ghada Shahbender

A blank wall the ugly color of dust
Two drain pipes covered in pigeon droppings and rust
I roll down the shutters to keep Friday morning out
The humid air, the children who swear and the parents that shout.

Newspapers, a cigarette and a huge coffee cup
Heart pouring to Kika, waiting for my children to wake up.
Remembering the years when they came to my bed at dawn
Droopy eyes and toothless mouths open wide in a sweet breathed yawn.

They have grown up and I have aged.
The boys actually drive and the girl is engaged.
I tell the parrot it’s been a wonderful trip.
I pick up my coffee and take another sip.


An October Sunset, Duncannon Beach, County Wexford, Ireland

A collection of images, all taken on my favorite beach in county Wexford – Duncannon beach, with its fort overlooking one end of the beach and a view down toward hook head at the other. The Sunsets here in October can be amazing and full of Autumn light 🙂 🙂

There are also pictures here of Molly, our much loved golden retriever, she is sadly no longer with us but she is always remembered and missed for moment like these ones. It was always great fun watching her exploring beaches and the sea, she love swimming so much she would spend hours returning sticks and balls from the water 🙂 🙂


To Autumn – Poem by William Blake

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stainèd
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.
`The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

`The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.’
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

William Blake


Sonnet to Collecting Seashells

Sonnet to Collecting Seashells

During youth I was quite the collector
of ocean cretin’s annealed sandcastles
Though the hosts inside could not be cheaper,
their fleshy coats were worth all the hassles

Content I was amassing worn seashells;
daily did this fine collection accrue
Though furnished, barren felt those wooden shelves,
as even pearls are lesser than a jewel

Still, the sand was warm; the waves were soothful
and regardless of what hollowness struck,
the beach granted a chance to feel fruitful
so long as one had either skill or luck

Alone was I, but daresay not lonely,
but I was not happy until married.

Original Poem


The Angel – A poem by William Blake

A September Sunrise, County Kilkenny
Landscape Photography : Nigel Borrington

poet William Blake
#11 on top 500 poets

The Angel – Poem by William Blake

I dreamt a dream! What can it mean?
And that I was a maiden Queen
Guarded by an Angel mild:
Witless woe was ne’er beguiled!

And I wept both night and day,
And he wiped my tears away;
And I wept both day and night,
And hid from him my heart’s delight.

So he took his wings, and fled;
Then the morn blushed rosy red.
I dried my tears, and armed my fears
With ten-thousand shields and spears.

Soon my Angel came again;
I was armed, he came in vain;
For the time of youth was fled,
And grey hairs were on my head.

William Blake


Monday Evening Poetry : A Night in the Field, Jay Parini, 1948

Suntsets over Country Kilkenny
Nigel Borrington 2018

A Night in the Field
Jay Parini, 1948

I didn’t mean to stay so late
or lie there in the grass
all summer afternoon and thoughtless
as the kite of sun caught in the tree-limbs
and the crimson field began to burn,
then tilt way.
I hung on
handily as night lit up the sky’s black skull
and star-flakes fell as if forever—
fat white petals of a far-off flower
like manna on the plains.


A ripe moon lifted in the east,
its eye so focused,
knowing what I knew but had forgotten
of the only death I’ll ever really need
to keep me going.

Did I sleep to wake or wake to sleep?

I slipped in seams through many layers,
soil and subsoil, rooting
in the loamy depths of my creation,
where at last I almost felt at home.

But rose at dawn in rosy light,
beginning in the dew-sop long-haired grass,
having been taken, tossed,
having gone down, a blackened tooth
in sugary old gums, that ground


Ireland’s Historic Buildings : Pearse’s Cottage (Teach an Phiarsaigh),Rosmuc, County Galway

Patrick Henry Pearse (also known as Pádraig or Pádraic Pearse; Irish: Pádraig Anraí Mac Piarais; An Piarsach) was born in Dublin on the 10th of November 1879 and he died in Kilmainham Gaol(Jail), county Dublin on the 3rd of May 1916. He was primarily an Irish teacher but was also a great barrister, poet, writer and original Irish nationalist. He was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916. Following his execution along with fifteen others, Pearse came to be seen by many as the embodiment of the rebellion.

Patrick Pearse’s Cottage at Ros Muc, county Galway in the heart of the Conamara Gaeltacht, ( an Irish speaking and strongly Irish cultural area) was used by Patrick Pearse (1879 – 1916), while he spent time teaching and marking students papers.

The cottage and its interior, although burned during the War of Independence, has been perfectly reconstructed and contains an exhibition and a number of momentous of Pearse’s life.

The cottage was Pearse’s summer residence between 1903 and 1915. It was also as a summer school for his pupils from St Enda’s in Dublin where he worked during the main Academic year.

The historic cottage, has been developed as a national monument and tourist attraction as part of the 1916 centenary commemorations; and is a key ‘discovery point’ on the Wild Atlantic Way route.

I was lucky enough to visit the cottage last week and enjoyed my time here very much, the staff helped greatly when it came to understanding the life of this great Irish man and his time spent here.

If your in county Galway, you just have to call in and spend some valuable time here !

Pearse’s Cottage (Teach an Phiarsaigh), County Galway, Gallery