200 Years. 200 Stories. Story 92: “Rare Lichen Named for Academy Botanist ”

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photo of people in a freshwater wetlands
Dr. Ernie Schuyler (center), who has made a career of studying rare plant species, relates some of the finer points of wetlands vegetation during a local botany excursion.

Rare Lichen Named for Academy Botanist

The Academy’s Curator Emeritus of Botany, Dr. Alfred “Ernie” Schuyler, was honored earlier this year when Academy Research Associate James Lendemer named an extremely rare new species of lichen after him. The lichen, Vezdaea schuyleriana, is only known to exist on a single boulder in rural central Pennsylvania and nowhere else in the world. Though he has studied plants for 50 years and discovered—and named—about 10 new species, this is the first time Ernie has had one named for him.

A lichen, which looks like a single organism, is actually made up of a fungus and algae in a symbiotic relationship. There are more than 14,000 known species of lichens, and they are considered important indicators of environmental quality. We have little information on lichens because few people collect and study them, explained Ernie. But now that experienced lichenologists know about Vezdaea schuyleriana, they may discover it in other areas, as it could be a widespread, overlooked species.

Read more about naming new species.

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