North Thompson Valley naturalist auctions naming right to new species

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Are you interested in preserving your own or a loved one’s memory in the name of a lichen species?

It might seem an unusual memorial, but it all would be to a good cause, according to Upper Clearwater naturalist Trevor Goward.

The botanist and taxonomist is working with the Land Conservancy of B.C. and the Ancient Forest Alliance to auction off the naming rights to two lichen species Goward has discovered.

Proceeds from the auctions will go towards preserving B.C.’s ancient rain forests.

“Having your name linked to a living species is a legacy that lasts,” said Goward. “With any luck your name will endure as long as our civilization does. Not even Shakespeare could hope for more than that.”

The lichen whose name is being auctioned through the Ancient Forest Alliance is a member of the genus Bryoria or “horsehair lichen”, which grows in long black hair-like structures on the branches of trees in old growth forests.

At present this lichen is known only from old growth rainforests in the Hazelton-Kispiox area of north coastal British Columbia, as well as from adjacent areas of coastal Alaska. Native peoples in some parts of northwest North America used Bryoria as the main ingredient in a critical famine food.

The Land Conservancy’s lichen is a member of the genus Parmelia or “crottle lichen”, and has strap-like lobes pale grayish above and black below. It too inhabits the branches of trees, and grows in the Clearwater River Valley. Some crottle lichens have been used in Scotland in the dyeing of wool for socks and Harris tweed since the 16th century. They yield a reddish brown color.

The money raised by the Land Conservancy’s auction is earmarked to help purchase land for a proposed wildlife corridor through Upper Clearwater that would connect lobes of Wells Gray Park.

Teams of molecular researchers in Finland and Spain have confirmed the two types of lichen as undescribed species.

Goward has identified about 20 lichen species during his career. In 2009, researchers in Finland named a new lichen species after him.

As of July 29, the highest bid was $3,200 each to name the two lichen species.

To make a bid to have a new species or horsehair lichen named after yourself or a loved one, visit the Ancient Forest Alliance’s website www.ancientforestalliance.org or phone 250-896-4007.

To name the crottle lichen, contact the Nature Conservancy of B.C. at www.conservancy.bc.ca or phone 1-877-485-2422. Deadline for both auctions is Oct. 2.