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Mather Musings: Wolf Lichen and Snow

September 08, 2012 Posted by: AH - Mather District Interpretive Ranger

Wolf Lichen and Snow
Letharia vulpina
Wolf Lichen - up close  Lodgepole with Wolf Lichen

Red Fir with Wolf Lichen

September 2012
White Wolf area

These ornate, chartreuse, fuzzy-from-a-distance growths on branches and trunks of trees not only give a vibrant accent to a late season stroll through one of Yosemite's red fir/lodgepole pine forests. They also give some hints as to what one might expect if you were to stick around through the winter. Wolf lichen likes to grow on the trunks of trees where it can get a good hold, such as on thick and sturdy-barked red fir (bottom picture above). But you'll notice that it only starts a certain height above the ground…around White Wolf it's usually around eight or nine (or more) feet up from the ground. Turns out that it doesn't like to grow under the snow, so the height that you first see it on the trunk of a tree is a good indication of the average snow depth for an area (meaning eight or nine feet or more in a lot of areas near White Wolf)! The White Wolf Lodge closes this week, the campground closes next week, and the Tioga road will be closing at some point in the not too distant future as the snows set in and turn the high country into a very different world.

mather musings

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Did You Know?

Train traveling along the Merced River to Yosemite National Park.

Starting in 1907, the Yosemite Valley Railroad brought passengers bound for Yosemite Valley up the Merced River canyon to El Portal. From there, they would take stagecoaches to the Valley. Some of the old train cars are now on display in El Portal.