Brown-eyed wolf lichen
Ernie Maxwell Scenic Trail, Idyllwild, Riverside County, CA. 8/28/11. © Peter J. Bryant
Back to Fungi of Orange County, California
|The "brown eyes" are the fruiting bodies where spores are made for reproduction. The lichen is a combination of fungus and algae (or, sometimes, cyanobacteria), but only the fungal partner reproduces sexually and produces spores - then the new generation has to find its algal partner all over again.
"Wolf lichens are so named because of their common use as poisons for wolves and foxes in Europe centuries ago. The lichen, with its toxic vulpinic acid, was mixed with ground glass and meat, apparently a deadly combination."
The other wolf lichen, Letharia vulpina, apparently does not reproduce sexually, so it does not have brown eyes.