You’re Gonna Lich This

Before I get to the main event had a nice find for the bird nerds out there.  In my oaks among a flock of bushtits was this handsome devil:

Townsend's Warbler

Townsend’s Warbler

Supposedly a pretty good find for around here.

As I was looking through last years posts for my “Best of 2013” I decided that posts about galls were not nearly esoteric enough.  I want you all on your hands and knees out there on the trail with magnifying glasses crawling over rocks and logs looking like complete lunatics.   I have just the thing for that…

It’s a beautiful story, as old as time itself… It’s about a boy and a girl… Wait, scratch that… It’s about a caring giving relationship between a fungus:


And an alga:


Well no, not exactly those species, but close cousins… They meet, they dance, they share a laugh or two to become:


Lichen (pronounced liken) is the symbiotic relationship between a fungus and (usually) an algae.  

You see, fungi generally rely on decaying matter for their energy; they lack the ability to transform sunlight into energy like plants.  They can however live almost anywhere in any environmental condition.  Algae on the other hand is superb at photosynthesis, but generally needs moisture and shelter of some sort.  So these two needy souls come together to form lichen.  The fungus provides moisture and a habitat for life, while the algae provides nutrients (carbohydrates) for the happy new couple.

ramalina farinacea

Lichen can live virtually anywhere, from rocks and bark to fences and scrap metal.

fence lichen

No weather conditions or utter desolation will thwart the lichen’s advance, they can be found in the Yukon to the Amazon to the boogie-down Bronx.

Arctic lichen

Arctic lichen

Colors span the spectrum due to the acids they produce

Purple Lichen - Paul Hadley

Of course we’ve found uses for them, from food to cosmetics, dyes medicines and the little trees in model railroad set.


And obviously there are websites where you can go to learn more.  The California Lichen Society is a good local resource.  And for a more Rambleresque experience try the Ways of Enlichenment

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3 Responses to You’re Gonna Lich This

  1. chuck says:

    Thanks for another interesting tidbit of information that I “liched” a lot Ron!

  2. lanny says:

    I was going to say I’m lichen this but Chuck beat me to it.

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