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New Lichen Species Discovered at Bernard Field Station Named After Former Pomona Professor of Botany

A new species of lichen found at the Claremont College’s Robert J. Bernard Biological Field Station has been named in honor of a former Pomona College biology professor.

Kerry Knudsen, curator of lichens at University of California Riverside, discovered the new species Lecanora munzii, which grows on dead wood of chaparral and coastal sage scrub plants, especially California sage brush. This inconspicuous brown lichen produces an unusual chemical--gyrophoric acid--that is being investigated for its potential to fight bacterial infections, promote wound healing, and treat Type II diabetes.

L. munzii is named in honor of former Pomona College Professor of Botany Philip A. Munz (1892-1974). Professor Munz served on the faculty of Pomona from 1917 to 1944. After leaving for two years at Cornell, he returned to Southern California as director of the then newly founded Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens where he spent the remainder of his professional career. He is the author of A Flora of Southern California.

“We’re very grateful to Kerry for his excellent work in describing this species, and thrilled that the species is named in honor of Dr. Munz,"  says Pomona Professor of Biology Jonathan Wright. “The Bernard Field Station harbors a rich but inconspicuous flora of epiphytic and ground-dwelling lichens, mosses and liverworts, typical of old-growth coastal sage scrub. It is exciting to have a new species discovered right in our own back yard,”

Because L. munzii grows on dead wood, and grows very slowly, it occurs only in old-growth chaparral or coastal sage scrub that has not burned frequently. The increased frequency of anthropogenic fires throughout southern California has made this type of habitat increasingly rare. L. munzii is, however, abundant in old-growth sage scrub at the Bernard Field Station, which has been designated as the “type locality”--the geographical location where the species was originally discovered. It has so far been found in only five other sites, all in southern California.

The description of the new species is published in the December 8th issue of Opuscula Philolichenum (PDF).

The Robert J. Bernard Biological Field Station is an academic resource of the Claremont Colleges, serving as an outdoor laboratory for many courses and research projects in ecology and other disciplines.