The Lichen

Limestone streambed in small valley
Click photo for full 360° experience!

NPS Photo/Adam Gericke

Area Description: Don’t look at the obvious. The colors of the prairie go beyond the green of the grass and trees. Lichens on the rocks put on a show that can make a rainbow blush. Ranging from vivid blues to neon greens to shocking oranges and vibrant reds, these underrated denizens of the prairie only thrive in the cleanest of air.

Visible Vegetation: Common Mullein, Wild Bergamot, Box Elder, Ponderosa Pine, Poison Ivy, Snowberry

Possible Animal Habitat:

Mammals: Bison, Elk, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer, Coyote, Mountain Lion, Hayden’s Shrew, Red Squirrel, Porcupine

Birds: Mourning Dove, American Crow, Rock Wren, House Wren, Mountain Bluebird, Spotted Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, Brewer’s Blackbird, American Goldfinch

Geology: On the ground is a wonderful example of the Minnelusa Formation. This formation consists of alternating bands of limestone, sandstone, and shale. It formed approximately 320 million years ago.

For Educators:

Thematic Information: Though this area burned the year before in some areas the effects are hardly noticeable. This rock is covered with lichen. Lichen just recently was discovered to be a symbiotic relationship between an algae, a fungus, and a bacteria.

Lichen are sensitive to air pollution especially sulphur dioxide and are after thought of as an indicator of air quality. Wind Cave is classified as a Class 1 air shed.

Recommended Student Activity:

What are some ways that humans affect air quality?

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Last updated: September 22, 2016

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