This is a photo that I took a few years ago of lichen growing on a tree somewhere in South Jersey. I took it in “painting mode” as my kids like to call it.
Lichen (pronounced like “liken”) is a pretty interesting organism, if you don’t mind my saying. You’ve probably walked passed it a million times and never really took note. Can I change your mind?
If you go to an art museum, you’ll notice countless paintings of majestic mountains, or sprawling trees, or divine flowers.
If I had to guess, however, lichen has almost certainly never been the focus of a painting in all of artistic history in the way that mountains or forests or flowers or other of nature’s beauties have.
What I’m getting at is that among the world’s creators, there is a lack of artistic lichens.
Yes, I’m pretty sure that you did not wake up today thinking that you would hear a joke pertaining to lichen, so, you’re welcome.
Moving on, Dictionary.com defines lichen as:
any complex organism of the group Lichenes, composed of a fungus in symbiotic union with an alga and having a greenish, gray, yellow, brown, or blackish thallus that grows inleaflike, crustlike, or branching forms on rocks, trees, etc.
So basically lichen is two different types of creatures growing together in a wide variety of colors, forms, and shapes on various types of hosts in nature.
Lichens are a partnership between fungi and algae. The fungi forms the structure and the algae photosynthesizes (something the fungi cannot do on its own), producing sugars which the fungi is very grateful for. The way I like to think of this is that the fungi builds a house and then the algae lives there and brings in the money, in the form of sugars. It is a bit of a dream team, which may explain why lichens can claim to be some of the oldest living organisms on the planet, some even thought to have lived for 8,000 years.
Ok, I don’t really know where I’m going with this post, other than I hope you’re taking a liking to lichen like I’m liking lichen.