Liking Lichens

In science plants on December 15, 2010 at 11:24 am

One of my favorite websites and news programs SciFri recently ran a story on lichens.

Shown is a an exceptional variety that I collected near Shearon-Harris lake in North Carolina. This one particularly impressed me because of its extraordinary 3D structure. I believe it is Claudonia verticillata. This variety is included in the fruticose class. Many that you see everyday are crustose lichens, growing on the bark of trees. Particularly with North Red OakĀ  bark, which seems to support lichen growth very well, one can get lost gazing at the beauty that the lichen colorization adds to the bark. I’ve always want to somehow replicate that particular combination as a floor pattern for my kitchen.

Lichens are the classic example of a symbiotic species. A fungus provides habitat for a blue-green algae (or bacterium depending on your point of view) which provides yummy sugars for the fungus through photosynthesis. Scientist have recently found that another bacterium is in on the party.

Lichens are important primary producers in poor environments. Lichens are the first plants to grow on exposed rock. As they grow, their acidic secretions decompose the rock into soil so that less hardy species like moss can grow.

In the tundra a bearded lichen is prevalent and is the main food of reindeer. So when Santa comes this year, you might consider adding a little lichen to that reindeer food you leave out on Christmas eve.

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