Thirty minutes ago I had no idea what I would blog about, so I thought I would walk Kona around the pond. The temperature is just above the freezing point with a bit of rain failing. It is perfect conditions for lichen and I noticed a lot of the “old man’s beard” type of lichen (above) hanging from branches as we walked the trail. I then remembered that just yesterday I had read an article about lichens from the Smithsonian Magazine. Seeing the lichen and remembering what I had just read made it seem like some Cosmic message directing me to blog about it.
Lichen (like most living things) are amazing when you learn more about them. They are often misidentified as moss, but they are totally different. Lichen are a symbiotic combination of fungus and algae. The fungus provides the structure and holds the moisture for the algae, and the algae, in turn, provides photosynthesized food to the fungus.
The article I read said that many lichen grow extremely slow, sometimes taking a thousand years. Because of the slow growth it can take 1 million years for lichen to adapt to just 1°C change in its environment, so it will almost be impossible for a lot of lichen to adapt to our rapidly changing climate.
The lichen you see in the photo above certainly doesn’t take all that long to grow, the tree that it is on is only about 20 years old, but there are many kinds of lichen, some growing on trees, while other species grow on rocks, (below).
I love seeing lichen, they seem so ancient and primal. The Robson Valley is rich in lichen in its many forms. In our nearby Ancient Forest and other stands of old growth stands of trees, species of lichen have been discovered that exist nowhere else in the world.