Some things in the garden like peace and quiet and to be left undisturbed. I have a certain empathy with this! Lichens are not plants but something completely different. They are a composite organism that forms due to a symbiotic relationship between fungi and an algae or cyanobacteria. The fungi benefit from the carbohydrates produced through photosynthesis by the algae and the algae benefit from the protection of the fungal filaments which also collect moisture and nutrients.
They are very slow growing and need a place to develop and spread over many years. Here at Waverley the (now) large fruit trees that we planted 25 years ago are host to a range of beautiful lichens (The Orchard – beautiful in spring, productive in autumn).
The relatively undisturbed nature of stone walls and gravestones also make excellent habitats for lichens and the natural history of churchyards is explored in an interesting new book by Stefan Buczacki. (Book review: “Earth to Earth, A Natural History of Churchyards” by Stefan Buczacki). Lichens are also known to be good indicators of air quality with different lichens being more or less sensitive to air pollution.
There are three main growth forms; fruticose forms that have many stringy, leafless branches, foliose forms that have flat leaf-like structures and crustose forms that lie flat on the surface. Wikipedia suggests that there are over 20,000 species of lichen so I am not going to attempt to identify the ones shown here other than to indicate their growth form.
Here are my six lichens for Saturday.
There is a lot of detailed information about these fascinating composite organisms on Wikipedia.
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