This weekend I had a great adventure hiking Upper Table Rock (again) but this time I tagged along an Educational Hike! This hike focused primarily on Lichen and Fungi and was lead by John Villella, a Senior Botanist, Mycologist at Siskiyou BioSurvey. Lichens are all around us, it is actually an organism that is both algae and fungi that functions in a mutual relationship together. So basically, they are a dynamic duo that banded together so they can exist in diverse environments such as on the bark of trees and rocks.
Here in the PNW, we have an abundance of lichen, once the hike leader began pointing them out, I realized that they are absolutely everywhere. Practically every rock, tree, or bush I looked at was covered in several species of lichen! It was amazing realizing that there is a whole other world of plants right beneath my feet! We learned the scientific names, of which I have already forgotten but will be googling and attempting to relearn (sorry John).
Along the hike, we constantly got “distracted” by the wildflowers, birds, a mystery egg, and other wonders of the unique ecosystem of Table Rock. We would stop and discuss whatever caught our eye and the Hike Leader answered all of our questions, he was incredibly informative with each topic that we brought up!
For instance, these “galls” that look like apples on White Oak Trees are caused by a Wasp! It lays its eggs in the bark and the egg releases a hormone that makes the tree create this soft oak ball where the Wasp Larvae lives until it is fully developed. I had no idea that this could happen from wasp??? It is so strange and crazy how it has evolved and is able to physically manipulate the tree to help itself out. Weird but really cool.
On top of the Table Rock we found a mystery egg (maybe it is from a bird of prey??).
We learned about and explored the diverse vernal pools that scatter the top of the flat mountain. It is amazing all the flowers, bugs, plants, and organisms that live here, I could have stayed there for hours scouring the ground with a hand lens.
It was such an educational experience. I highly encourage everyone, of any age to find a local educational hike and have an adventure of your own. Such an experience helps open your eyes to the world around you, you can meet amazing people and have a great time!