Sunday, July 15, 2007


this was taken at whangamata, nz, close to the beach -- lichens on an old plum tree

This is not a plant or a moss.
It is a unique life form -- a tale of two organisms or more perhaps -- a fungus and an alga living together in a symbiosis (i.e. they use and support each other in a way that allows them to live in places they wouldn’t be able to live in alone). Read somewhere that the fungus delivers water and minerals to the alga, while the alga takes care of the photosynthesis.
Lichens need sufficient sunlight. They thrive in clean, moist air – one rarely finds these in cities as pollution is high.
They grow everywhere: soils, tree trunks and branches, rocks and artificial stones, roofs, fences, walls and even underwater; in freezing conditions and very dry regions e.g. deserts.
Interestingly they do not decompose wood, but they can break apart a rock, crumbling it into new soil.

Its forms vary: flat, scaly growths (crustose), pebble-like growths (squamulose), resembling leaves (foliose), and tube-like branches (fructicose) and, they come in shades of green, red, orange, yellow, blue, black and white. (Wish I have some pictures to add…)
Animals like squirrels, chipmunks and deer nibble this for its rich source of carbohydrates. Birds rest their nests or nest on them.
Man used this as fabric dye for yarn; poultices to soothe skin irritations; litmus paper; fine baby diapers (?!); cosmetics…
Everywhere I go, I look for these growths but often times it’s a moss.


That written above is my commonsense understanding to accompany the photo for self -- I've always been fascinated with this growth. When I was young, I used to think these belong to the moss family but I was enlightened through biology and geography subjects at school.


Bob said...

Lea: Your post prompted me to want to learn more about Lichens by checking Wikipedia. Great stuff. That's for stirring my curiosity this morning.

twilite said...

bob: I blog this to accompany the pictures I took for self, not to educate others like wikipedia. (Couldn't understand that in wikipedia -- too technical. Mine is just commonsense stuff.) This was taken at Whangamata (NZ)close to the beach on the trunks and branches of an old plum tree.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Fascinating, my dear...Truly! I am trying to remember what I have heard about Lichens, and I just cannot remember what or where....I will have to look it up!

twilite said...

naomi: that'll be nice to add more info to this post. Thank you.

Mother of Invention said...

I always think of the arctic regions when I hear that word because moss and lichens are all that can grow there practically besides some low arctic flowers.
I never knew they grew on trees, I just thought it was the ground.

twilite said...

Hi MOI! Your comment jolted my understanding that scientists use lichens to measure the atmospheric pollution in the arctic regions. Thank you.

A Mom Who Thinks Too Much said...

Why, I've never seen a lichen like it!

It's interesting, I grew up in an area where lichen (particularly on rocks) was everywhere, and in brilliant colors, including bright sea green and orange (always flat, though, not bulging like in your fantastic picture). There is a lot less lichen in these parts where I live now, but when I do see it, I can't help stopping to point it out to my son: "Look! Lichen!" I'll say, and I have no idea why.

twilite said...

a mom who thinks too much: Thank you for coming by.

Do you take photos? If you do I'd like some pictures of lichens in my collection.

Yous son must be enjoying the colors and that outdoors. Boys sometimes can get dazed over anything moving, and can stand in a position for extended time when they're observing.

Have a good day.