Chronicaling the lunacy of taming three acres in Tidewater Virginia, one square foot at a time!

"Gardens... should be like lovely, well-shaped girls: all curves, secret corners, unexpected deviations, seductive surprises and then still more curves. ~H.E. Bates, A Love of Flowers

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Lichens, Way Cool!

It would have been great if I got my butt over to the garden center to get another yard of topsoil/compost mix before the torrential it may be several days before I can do that. Bummer.

Since I couldn't move forward on the garden plan, I decided to take a walk around the front yard and see what I could find. And what I found was a whole bunch of different lichens.

I realized I didn't know much about them so I did a little searching. This is what I found:

A lichen is not a single organism. It's a combination of two organisms which live together in symbiosis. Most of the lichen is composed of fungal filaments, but living among the filaments are algae cells.

The first person to recognize the symbiotic relationship was Beatrix Potter!! She is not only famous for her children's books about Peter Rabbit, but also her study of lichens! Her illustrations of lichens are appreciated for their detail even today. Apparently when she was alive, her observations about lichens and the symbiotic discovery were snubbed by the largely male scientific community. If she had been recognized as a serious scientist at the time, Peter Rabbit may have never been created...Beatrix gave up trying to break the sexist barrier, and started writing children's books instead.

Lichens are very sensitive to air pollution...if you have lots of lichens, you probably have good air!
Three broad categories of lichen have been recognized: crustose (crusty), foliose (leafy),and; fruticose (shrubby)
Lichens are more than just something cool to look at....some are edible (some are poisonous so don't randomly chose a snack!), some are used in the making of antibiotics, some are used to dye wool.

So I guess I should be grateful for the mucky weather, otherwise I would have no knowledge of the fascinating world of lichens!!

No comments: