What Are Lichens | An Introduction to Lichens
What are Lichens? This is an introduction to our favorite little green organisms, and why we think lichens are so awesome!
What Are Lichens & Why are They so Cool?
1. Lichens are just cute little fungi that learned how to be farmers. Lichens are composite organisms made up of a fungus and usually a cyanobacteria or algae. Fungi cant make their own food, so they cleverly recruit photosynthetic microbes to live with them to produce food!
2. Team work makes the dream work! Who doesn't love a good symbiotic relationship?! The photosynthetic microbes make the needed nutrients and food to share with the fungus, and the fungus provides the photosynthetic microbes with a safe home within its filaments!
3. They are basically natures graffiti. Lichens naturally decorate the world in a plethora of colors shapes and sizes! Trees that are populated with colonies of lichens can be quite beautiful! And lets face it, rocks are better with lichens on them.
4. Long live the lichens! Lichens are some of the oldest living things. They have such a long life span that there is an entire field of study that utilizes lichens to date objects/events. It is a form of geochronological dating called lichenometry
5. They can help us live a greener life! Since lichens don't have roots, they rely on the air for nutrients and elements needed for survival. So monitoring levels of elements in lichens can indicate the level of those elements in the air around them! They can provide us with a lot of information needed to study and decrease air pollution.
Oh and bonus reason we love lichens: they are so fun to collect! I love adding lichens that have fallen from trees to my nature journal. It's so fun to look for new neat lichens during our travels and preserve them.