Rock Pimples, Earth Wrinkles

| 2/19/2016 9:10:00 AM

Connie Moorelichen on a stick

They are in the cemeteries, in the parks, in the woods. They are in every yard and town and city. They may be yellow or green or white or gray or any other color, depending on their home.

Neither plant nor animal, they are a mutualistic symbiosis or a combination of fungus and green alga. We know them as lichen. For the most part they go unnoticed unless one is interested in getting close to a tree or a rock or a tombstone.

This partnership between the fungus and alga was once described by British Columbia University’s Trevor Goward as “a case of fungi that have discovered agriculture.” The man knows a whole lot about lichens, himself being dubbed “the great lichenologist”.

lichen on a log

While general words such as moss are used in everyday conversations, one can tell the difference right away. Looking at true moss, a plant with leaves and stems can be seen. Lichens have what some describe as layers, scales, flattened crusts.