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Lichens – just what are they?

Lichen is made up of a composite of algae or cyanobacteria that lives happily ever-after together with multiple fungi species. I read that combined it exhibits properties that are different than the stuff the makes it up. How can that be?

Lichen comes in many varieties and can grow on almost anything. It can grow with mosses but isn’t moss. Unlike plants, lichen doesn’t have roots to take in nutrients, but like plants, it produces nutrition using photosynthesis. Lichen can live on plants but are not parasites. It can survive in some of the most extreme condition you can imagine.

There are over 20,000 species and they apparently cover about 6% of the surface of the planet, yet most of us know hardly anything about them. Lichens can be very long lived, and their presence can actually be used to help date events.

Sometimes the natural world around us is so fantastic it makes my head hurt.

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