ISSN 1188-603X

No. 405 March 10, 2009 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2


From: Jim Bennett [jpbennet@WISC.EDU]; originally posted on LICHEN-L list

John Walter Thomson, age 95, died peacefully Friday, Feb. 20, 2009, at his rural Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, home. Born July 9, 1913, in Cockenzie Scotland, he was the son of Elizabeth (Gillis) and John W. Thomson. John, as he was known familiarly by his family and many friends and colleagues, was a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather, a world-renowned botanist and lichenologist, and an inspiring and dedicated teacher and conservationist. What started as a youthful fascination with Cladonia lichens led to John's lifelong pursuit of improving knowledge of Arctic and other lichens. Educated at Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as a student and young scientist, he was strongly influenced by Raymond Torrey, Norman Fassett and Aldo Leopold. After teaching first at Superior State Teachers College in 1944, he returned to UW-Madison to join the Department of Botany faculty. Until retiring four decades later, his popular course in plant taxonomy greatly influenced at least two generations of students in biology and conservation including many professionals presently working in organizations like Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources, as well as uncounted hundreds of volunteers who continue to contribute their time to organizations involved in natural area preservation. Referred to as the "Dean of North American Lichens," his Arctic explorations, research, papers and five books led the science for more than 60 years. His last two volume set on lichens of the Arctic was completed after retiring in 1984 from the UW. John and Olive's passionate interests in and dedication to education, ecology and conservation led to more than seven decades of leadership in organizations like the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, Citizen's Natural Resources Association, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and The Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE). Southwestern Wisconsin now has 636 acres of prairie lands recognized with the family name, the TNC "Thomson Memorial" and TPE "Schurch-Thomson" prairies, respectively. Surviving family include his wife of nearly 72 years, Olive (Sherman); son, Dennis (Joan Schurch) and their children, Erik (Sarah Weiss) and Heather; son, Norman (Rose Jepkorir Chepyator) and their children, Jonathan, Patrick and Robert; son, Roderic (Linda Heine) and their children, Casandra (Brian Pomerantz) and Kyle; and daughter, Elizabeth (Dean Danielson). A son, Douglas; and two sisters, Shiela Feustal and E. Jean Thomson predeceased him. At John's request no service is presently planned.


From: Easton, Elizabeth [ ]On behalf of the 2009 BBC organizing committee: Craig DeLong, Bruce Bennett, Terry McIntosh

The Botany BC 2009 information, program and registration form have now been posted on the Botany BC website at . Please feel free to forward this e-mail to anyone you think might be interested in attending this year's event. Caution: while the website looks the same please note that the website address has changed slightly from previous years so please make sure you update your favourites accordingly. Also, be sure to keep an eye on the Botanical Electronic News (BEN) for further BBC updates.


From: Stewart Wechsler [ ]

I was alarmed when I recently got my monthly e-mail from the King County Noxious Weed (Washington State) program promoting the use of a biocontrol organism, the bull thistle seed-head gall fly, Urophora stylata (Fabricius) to control bull thistle, a.k.a. spear thistle, Cirsium vulgare (Savi) Ten:

I was immediately alarmed because I believe that one more ‘biocontrol’ organism that feeds on Cirsium species could seriously impact our remaining native Cirsium species, and in particular may be the last straw for our rarest western Washington Cirsium species, C. remotifolium (Hook.) DC (This includes C. callilepis var. oregonense (Petr.) J.T. Howell, if you use the earlier taxonomy, also listed as C. centaureae (Rydb.) K. Schum. in Hitchcock Vol. 5). Common names I have found for it include "weak thistle", "spaced-out thistle", "slender thistle", "slender mountain thistle" and “few-leafed thistle”.

Though this species has been at the top of my list to study and find, I have been unable so far to personally locate it in Washington State in 10 years of various degrees of searching. Also, in these 10 years, I have questioned almost every relatively knowledgeable field botanist I have met or communicated with about sightings of this species. From all of the people I’ve queried, I have only been able to get reports of 2 to 4 sightings in the state in the last 15 years or so. One of these populations was sighted on Fort Lewis a few years ago, but was apparently not re-located after the botanist tried to find them again. I have also talked to two botanists that remember seeing the species in the state about 20 to 30 years ago. I was told of maybe 5 to 10 locales where it was seen then in Thurston County in the South Sound area and in Klickitat and Skamania Counties in the Columbia Gorge area. I have only been able to search a couple of these locales, but to no avail. Though this species was probably not very common in our state at the time of the Euro-American invasion, it has clearly become much rarer in recent decades. According to the botanists that I interviewed in Oregon, it has also become significantly rarer in Oregon, the center of its 3-state range.

Cirsium remotifolium (Hook.) DC. is recorded from northern California to Washington State, historically north to King County west of the Cascades and the east slope of the Cascades in mid to lower montane areas of Klickitat, Skamania and Yakima Counties. In Oregon and California it ranges from the coast to the Klamath, Siskiyou and Cascade Mountain areas to about 1500 m (4500’) elevation. It is Serpentine tolerant, but not obligate. About half of the records, or maybe more, were in Serpentine areas. >From my search through all of the plant lists and herbarium labels I could find it on, and from interviews of those who have seen it, it seems that this species specializes in habitats that, in Washington, would be transitional between those of eastern and western Washington. Where recorded west of the Cascades, sites often include species relatively rare west of the Cascades, but more typical east of the divide. Similarly, sites east of the cascade crest were in communities with numerous members more typical west of the divide. These locales frequently had both a moist element and a dry element. Records describe sites in relatively open forest, forest edge and openings and in meadows or “open slopes”, descriptions ranging from “dry” to “wet”. Old records for the Eugene Oregon area list it growing in “moist meadows” and I suspect this would now be called a “wet prairie”. Some records are from rocky bald areas. One or two records were from sandy areas near ocean beaches in Oregon and one record listed the pitcher plant, Darlingtonia, a bog species, as an associated species, so it may also be able to grow in bogs. I have also found reports of it at roadside edges, in ditch edges and depressions where it would be vernally wet. I found a small number of rosettes, that I strongly suspect were this species, near Mt Hood, Oregon that were in mossier spots, and vernally moister spots over scree rock in a couple of forest openings.

There are surely many factors contributing to the decline of this species, including loss of habitat, fragmentation of its habitat and competition with alien species. Since seeing and reading about the damage to other native thistles from ‘biocontrol organisms’, I have come to suspect that these introduced organisms are also an important factor in the decline of Cirsium remotifolium. The alien organism that I have observed doing the most damage to the native C. brevistylum Cronq, Rhinocyllus conicus Froelich (the "musk thistle head weevil"), has also been recorded on C. remotifolium and other native Cirsium species (Louda 2000, Pemberton 2000, Gassmann & Louda 2001). Rand & al. (2004) provided strong empirical evidence that exotic plants can increase the attack on native plant species by maintaining populations of a shared insect herbivore. Their finding suggested that persistence of exotic weeds in less-successful biocontrol programs will magnify the nontarget effects of weed biocontrol insects.

There are also numerous other introduced predators that prey on both native and non-native thistles and their relatives. I am afraid that adding one more Cirsium predator might lead to the complete extirpation of this species in western Washington. It could also further threaten it in the center of its range in Oregon where I am told that C. remotifolium has been in decline in a number of sites where it grows or has grown. While people working with the gall making fly being released for control of C. vulgare may believe that it will only use C. vulgare, I would contend that insects are adaptable and that sooner or later this species may well start using other Cirsium species as hosts. As C. remotifolium is rare in our area and our other native thistles are apparently declining, I would think the risk of introducing this gall fly is unacceptable.

I have long thought C. remotifolium (including C. callilepis var. oregonense) would be eligible for listing in the Washington Natural Heritage program, but I had never before pushed for this. This was both because I didn't know what protection listing them would give them and because I was concerned that any listing would complicate collecting a modest amount of seed for my re-introduction plans when I finally found some reasonably local seed source. Now that I see that there is an active program to introduce more Cirsium predators, I saw a good reason to push for listing and some protection of C. remotifolium in Washington State. It also appears to me that our other two (less rare) native Cirsium species in western Washington (C. edule Nutt. and C. brevistylum) are in significant decline. I've learned that many non-native species of herbivorous organisms that prey on the Cynareae (thistle tribe) have been introduced to the western states. These include both those intentionally introduced to control thistles of a few genera, and to control Centaurea spp. (knapweeds), as well as those organisms introduced unintentionally.

Numerous organisms continue to be released to control thistle tribe members. This one website lists numerous species that have been released in Wyoming to attack Cirsium spp. and other Cynareae spp: It has been my impression that a number of the populations of native Cirsium brevistylum and Cirsium edule that I have been able to locate have been seriously suffering from the effects from one or more of these alien herbivores. In the case of C. brevistylum, which is still common in some areas of western Washington, the burden of 2 alien weevil species, Rhinocyllus conicus (Froelich) and Larinus planus (Fabricius), is in addition to being seriously impacted by the apparently native artichoke plume moth larvae, Platyptilia carduidactyla (Riley). While all of the populations of C. edule I saw higher in the Cascades looked healthy 8 years ago, a couple of years ago I found a population on Crystal Mt in Pierce Co. that was badly beaten by predators.. Two summers ago, working in the Cedar River Watershed in King County, I noted that while the alien Cirsium vulgare was hardly affected by predators on their flower heads, many of the C. brevistylum there were badly suffering from what I believe were the same flower head predators. I don't think I found any C. edule in the Cedar River Watershed, though I thought they should have been expected there.

Though I have no grazing animals that are affected by pasture land increasingly being covered by Cirsium vulgare, it isn't normally one of the aliens that form monocultures that completely exclude natives and doesn't seem to me like a very high priority weed to control with risky methods.

I don't want this to be taken as a criticism of the Washington State King County weed people or the people promoting the use of this alien fly as a biocontrol agent. They are doing the best they can with what they know in the tough job of trying to fight weeds that spread faster than they can normally control them. I do think we need to give weed control people this information though, and need to make regulations that prevent release of additional organisms that may be a threat to our increasingly rare native thistle species.


Gassmann, A. & S. M. Louda. 2001.
Rhinocyllus conicus: initial evaluation and subsequent ecological impacts in North America. Pp. 147–183. In E. Wajnberg, J. K. Scott, and P. C. Quimby, eds. Evaluating Indirect Ecological Effects of Biological Control. Wallingford, Oxon, UK: CABI.
Louda, S.M. 2000.
Rhinocyllus conicus - Insights to Improve Predictability and Minimize Risk of Biological Control of Weeds. Pp. 187-193 in Neal R. Spencer, Neal R. [ed.] Proceedings of the X International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds: 4-14 July 1999, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana, USA.
Pemberton, R.W. 2000.
Predictable risk to native plants in weed biological control. Oecologia 125:489–494.
Rand, T. A. & S. M. Louda. 2004.
Exotic weed invasion increases the Susceptibility of native plants to attack by a biocontrol herbivore. Ecology 84:1548–1554.
Rand, T.A., F. L. Russell, & S. M. Louda. 2004.
Local- Vs. Landscape-Scale Indirect Effects of an Invasive Weed on Native Plant. Weed Technology 18:1250-1254. 2004.

Post Scriptum:

Two California biocontrol specialists read this article and had the following comments:

Dr. Baldo Villegas : I have been monitoring Cirsium spp. in California for several years now and I am yet to find Urophora stylata on any other Cirsium species other than bull thistle, C. vulgare. In fact, I don't know of any record of U. stylata on any other Cirsium besides its intended target.

Dr. Michael Pitcairn : The author appears to be writing this article becauseof a news item reporting that the State of Washington is advocating the use of the gall fly, Urophora stylata, as a biocontrol agent against Cirsium vulgare. He assumes it must feed on other Cirsium species, especially some rare species he is particularly interested in. Actually, there is no published record of U. stylata, attacking any other Cirsium species, native or exotic. While U. stylata is not widespread in California, it is established in several coastal counties in northern California, including Marin, Humboldt, and Del Norte. We've been monitoring several native Cirsium species in these areas and have recovered U. stylata only from C. vulgare. So, I think this species is very safe.

It is true that there have been some accidental introductions of insects that attack native Cirsium species. These include Canada thistle bud weevil, Larinus planus(F.), and the artichoke plume moth Platyptilia carduidactyla (Riley). Both are exotic and are not associated with any biocontrol program. It is unfortunate that they are here but, as you know, we've been battling more new exotic pests every year. The only biological control insect definitely known to attack native thistles is Rhinocylus conicus, the seed head weevil introduced for musk thistle.

Attack by this weevil on native Cirsium has been well documented. Also, it should be pointed out that all native Cirsium species have their own guild of native seed head insects. Most commonly, there are 1-2 native species of moths and 1-2 species of fruit fly that are found attacking native species of Cirsium. These insects are very common and their feeding can do a lot of damage that can be easily confused with damage by Rhinocylus conicus.

I certainly understand the frustration that the author is expressing in his report but, Urophora stylata is very safe and will not attack native species of Cirsium.


From: Michael W. Beug, Ph.D.

FUNGI (ISSN 1941-4943) is published five times per year (four seasonal issues plus a special issue) by FUNGI, P.O. Box 8, 1925 Hwy. 175, Richfield, Wisconsin 5 3076-0008, USA Subscriptions are US$35.00 per year for USA residents; US$38.00 for residents of Canada and Mexico; US40.00 for all others. See:

Fungi magazine is the creation of Britt Bunyard, PhD, who saw the need for a wide-ranging magazine focusing on mushrooms. Volume 1 No. 1 appeared in the spring of 2008. The Feature articles included Slime Molds: Techniques for Identification and Cultivation, Fungi for Sustainable Living, Mushroom Photography: Shoot like the Pros , Medicinal Mushrooms and Mushroom Foraying in Newfoundland. The second issue included articles on mushroom cultivation, mushroom poisoning, and new mushroom records for North America. The third issue featured Truffles, A Mycolegium of Truffle Literature, Desert Truffles, Truffles: A Primer, The Wild Epicure and more. The fourth issue included the Phylogeny of Boletes and Tibetan Cordyceps.

I am a contributing editor of Fungi magazine. My involvement is solely to occasionally contribute articles on mushroom toxicology. All writers and photographers are volunteers eager to disseminate mycological lore and knowledge. The website,, contains information about the magazine and you can go there to read the feature articles in the current issue. The editor Britt Bunyard has the following introduction posted on the website:

“Welcome to, the website for FUNGI Magazine! Each issue of FUNGI will explore the world of mycology from many different angles. With regular features ranging from toxicology to medicinal mushrooms; from photography to book reviews, FUNGI will inform and entertain everyone from beginner to professional mycologist. Many of the Contributing Editors of FUNGI have won awards nationally for their photography, writing, or pedagogical efforts. Most will likely be familiar names to you. Additionally, every issue of FUNGI will feature peer-reviewed technical papers ranging from original research findings to reviews of taxonomic groups to new records of North American species. FUNGI will be printed five times per year: four seasonal issues plus a special annual issue. Additionally, the user-friendly website you are now viewing will post supplemental information for published articles, plus extras, so I urge everyone to check the entire site.”

I personally am thrilled with the magazine. It is printed on high quality paper and the color photography is excellent. A wide range of professional and serious amateur mycologists are contributing editors. The articles are diverse with considerable material of interest to individuals who are fascinated by the range and diversity of mushroom species and mushroom phylogeny; as well as articles for those who like to cook and eat mushrooms, photograph fungi, cultivate fungi, and use mushrooms medicinally. Each issue so far has been either 45 or 61 pages. The finished size is 8.5”x11”. The magazine is something that I plan to collect and save.


From: Stephen Sharnoff [lichen@IDIOM.COM]

I want to let you all know that I've put most of my collection of lichen photographs on my website, . You can go to the site and click on the Lichens link, or you can go directly to Essentially, it's an online catalogue of lichen images.

The site has about 4,150 photos of individual lichens, representing approximately 1,250 species. All but a few are from North America, and most of them are well-identified from voucher specimens. In addition, there are about 350 images of lichen-related topics.

With a website of this size, there are bound to be errors, and I would very much appreciate any problems that you find, whether they are broken links, or factual errors such as misidentifications or spelling mistakes. And if you have an informed opinion as to the identity of any of the unidentified lichens, please let me know!

[Note of the BEN Editor: Stephen Sharnoff and the late Sylvia Duran Sharnoff contributed with their 939 lichen photographs to Brodo, Irwin M., Sylvia Duran Sharnoff, & Stephen Sharnoff. 2001. Lichens of North America. Yale University Press, New Haven & London. See: ]

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