Backpacking through the Grayson Highlands of southwest Virginia, you can’t help but notice the vast display of lichens growing just about everywhere. As lichens are sensitive to atmospheric pollutants, they only thrive in the most pristine environmental conditions. You won’t find many growing in the city.
The fascinating, yet often overlooked, noteworthy feature is lichens are actual a composite of two unique species of organisms, living together in a mutualistic symbiotic relationship. The first organism is fungi, which provides structure, shelter and moisture gathering for the second organism(s), algae and/or cyanobacteria. In turn, the algae and cyanobacteria, through photosynthesis, provide food for the fungi.
This post features Crustose, Foliose and Squamulose lichens. Crustose lichens, seen in the center of the image below, have a encrusting form which spreads over the surface. Foliose lichens, seen above, have leafy lobes which attach by root-like threads to the surface they inhabit. Squamulose lichens have the characteristics of Crustose and Foliose lichens. They can be seen in all three compositions. If you do have lichens in your yard, then please welcome them. They pose no threat to plants and grow very slowly.
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