What starts with a fascination about the a wondrous tiny thing, morphs into an adventure in learning.
|Bottlebrush Shield lichen and Boreal Oakmoss lichen|
Take lichen for example.
It started innocently enough when I identified the British Soldier Lichen, which I think looks more like its nic name of "matchstick lichen".
|British Soldier lichen|
That lead to the inevitable, "What is / are lichen" ?
Answer: Lichens are a pretty weird form of life. Each lichen species is symbiotic association of two and maybe even three distinct species of organisms, specifically, fungus, algae and sometimes a photosynthesizing bacterium.
A what ?
Some researchers aren't so sure that the association is that amicable. Some think it's closer to parasitic on the part of the fungus, but there does seem to be an advantage for each organism.
The algae part of the partnership could be chums with a different kind of fungus and form a different lichen or could even live on its own, but the fungus is stuck with just one kind of algae and does not do well on its own.
Awwwww. Poor fungus.
"What lichens do is almost like merging a shrub with a dog to produce something that looks and lives unlike either shrub or dog!" *
Sorry. Couldn't find a picture of a dog / shrub hybrid but will keep looking.
Some lichens are leaf-like in appearance; others are like a crust (like the stuff you see on rocks) others have shrubby forms, and to further confuse us, there are also gelatinous lichens.
So to clarify, it can be leafy, flat, soft, hard, flexible, stiff, thin or bushy . Any questions ?
Acid rain and air pollution have a devastating effect on some lichens. Like the canary in the coal mine, the presence or absense of certain lichens is an excellent indicator of pollution levels.
We have many varieties of lichen here in Nova Scotia which says something about the air quality in our under-populated little province.
Lichens can live on live trees, dead trees and on rock.
One of the rarest lichens is the Boreal Felt Lichen (BFL) was once found throughout the Northern Atlantic regions of Europe and North America. Today only small populations of it remain in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. It is thought to be extinct in all its previous locations. The cause of its extinction is believed to be pollution.
My chum, Amy-Lynn and I spent a fun afternoon last week searching the wood behind her house for BFL. Read her post about it here: http://flandrumhill.wordpress.com/
This week we're going to check out my my woods.
You're welcome to join us.
* Quote from: http://www.backyardnature.net/lichens.htm