The Story of Lichen

lichenweb1One day Alice Alga met Freddie Fungus.  They took a “liken” to each other and decided to get married.  Alice cooked the food and Freddie built the house.  And now, after so many years together, their marriage is on the rocks and trees and their family is called lichen (there are actually about thirty families of lichen).

Lichen#2Alice cooks the food through photosynthesis–the magic of making sugar from sunshine. If you think about it, this is amazing.  Even more remarkable is the fact that fungi have tied their fate to the algae. Fungi do not contain chlorophyll or any other means of producing their own food, so they rely on other organisms for nutrition. They are widely known for their role in the decomposition of organic matter. They are also necessary for the survival of the ecosystem around them, such as partnering with plants and trees for nutrients and survival.  Some fungi live symbiotically on the roots of trees, releasing acidic compounds that break down rocks into nutrients, expanding the trees’ ability to absorb nutrients. You can learn more about lichens HERE.

PLT Stewards Fall in Lichen


Photo Credit: Sharon Walker

On Valentines’ day a score and more hikers embarked out on the trails at the Pedro Point Headlands to seek out and learn more about lichens.  Alf Fengler from San Mateo led the charge and shared a cheat sheet to help the group identify them.  Lichens come in different colors and shapes and only with the help of a loupe (magnifier) could the group clearly identify them.

Spring has started to make its arrival known on the Headlands.  The group beheld the first spring blooms (footsteps of spring, blue eyed grass, Douglas Iris, Milkmaids)  and discovered an emerging Checker Lily plant.

Special thanks to JK Johnson for this link to our many finds.

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