The last couple of weeks working on the flora project were exciting and sad at the same time. Going on our last couple of hikes through the Fells- I knew I was going to miss walking through the trails in search of new mosses and lichens we had not found yet. In mid-August we went to the old MIT observatory site where we made some very exciting discoveries. The old observatory foundation is still intact up at the top providing a very unique habitat for finding mosses and lichens that we hadn’t collected yet. There had been a large rainstorm the night before so the mosses and lichens were very happy- they had soaked up a lot of water making it possible to find some new friends.
As I crouched down to look in the cracks of the rocks making up the old foundation of the observatory I noticed something black and slimy on the sandy-soil below them. I took a closer look and was surprised to see a jelly lichen! I called Walter over and we continued to walk around the foundation and found more and more of it. We took it back to the lab where I squished some of the thallus on a slide and slid it under the microscope- I could see the Nostoc algae colonies that live in jelly-lichens, and was really excited to identify the lichen. The apothecia (fruiting cups) were bright orangey-red and had a border of the black-green jelly around them. To our surprise it was a rare find- Collema bachmanianum. Not only was it a new species to add to the Fells flora- but also a new species for all of Massachusetts. It is known to be more common in artic regions and in Europe, but there are only a few collections from the United States. Walter and I were both very excited about the find and learned that the lichen likes calcium rich soil-which the MIT observatory foundation had below it.
This summer was such a fulfilling experience. To work in a place like the Fells was a great opportunity and I hope in the years to come the community continues to use it not only for recreation, but also to learn more about how unique it is and some of the amazing species that inhabit it. I know the 90mm site might be demolished and turned into an ice hockey rink- and I would be so sad if that happened. I hiked around that site many times throughout the summer, and its flora of not just lichens and mosses, but of wildflowers, insects, and other organisms was truly amazing. I hope if I ever return to the Boston area I would be able to hike around that site again and re-visit some of the friends I made there.