Friday, July 30, 2010

Lichens: Nature's Jewlery

Ever notice those greenish-gray-yellow spots on your tree branch, fence post or park bench? To some, it may look like a simple moss or mold and not worthy of a second glance. But if you did look closer, you'd realize it was something quite different and uniquely beautiful. Sort of like a big brooch or gaudy piece of jewelry, adorning that tree. You would see a lichen:

So what are lichens anyway? Lichens are composite organisms formed from a fungus and an alga. Together, the fungus and alga create a symbiotic relationship, living together as one organism, both inhabiting the same body. 

According to The Backyard Nature Website, the fungus benefits from the algae because fungi, having no chlorophyll, can't photosynthesize their own food. A lichen's fungal part is thus "fed" by its photosynthesizing algal part. The algae benefit from the association because the fungus is better able to find, soak up, and retain water and nutrients than the algae. Also, the fungus gives the resulting lichen shape, and provides the reproductive structures.

Pretty amazing stuff for something that most people may not even notice, huh?

Personally, I love finding these. I think they look like pressed flowers against the wood or rock. Looking closely, you can see the intricate shapes, the bumps and ridges that almost resemble flower petals or fine lacework.  Look for them next time you are out for a walk. 


  1. Dear Kate, What a very apt title to this posting about these very unusual and rather strange forms of plant life. Your pictures do, whatever, give to them a magical quality. I love to see lichen forming on oak which which has been allowed to silver with age.

  2. I've always wondered what those were. Thanks!

    I have a garden in NYC area too.

  3. Love the Lichen pictures...they do look like pressed flowers!


Thanks for leaving a comment! Even if I don't reply to each comment, please know that I do read every one of them and truly enjoy hearing from you!