How could this thing that looked like old peeling paint seem so attractive to me? It had no real form and the colors weren’t particularly striking but yet it drew me in closer. My first inclination was it part of the oak tree’s natural bark. But, I have seen this species of tree for decades and it didn’t look familiar. I glanced around and saw this substance on other trees, even on the roots that rose above the ground. I snapped some pictures and moved along to continue my walk in nature.
Back at my computer, I learned that it was called lichen (pronounced Li-Ken) and what I read was absolutely fascinating. Lichen is a simple slow-growing organism that needs to be on something. It’s not a plant but two separate living organisms (algae and fungus) that require each other to exist. Neither is it a parasite to its host because it doesn’t take anything from it. Lichen just needs to be on a ‘platform’ and can also exist perfectly on many kinds of things, even rock.
Around the globe, about 20,000 different species of lichen exist and it comes in a wild range of forms. It is very adaptable and can survive in extreme environments - from sea level to high up in the mountains. It is so widespread that 6% of the earth’s surface is covered with it.
This perfect relationship between the algae and fungus survives for a very, very long time. Some consider lichen to be one of the longest living things on earth. This is some amazing stuff!
After the walk, Scott and I went back to the grocery store with hopes of buying toilet paper (no luck again) when I passed the magazine rack and noticed People Magazine’s headline that boldly read CORONAVIRUS IN AMERICA. Inside this edition were heartwarming stories of how people in all walks of life were helping each other during this pandemic.
Isn’t it interesting that during this time when we our government tells us to stay away from each other and shelter in place, we find a way to pull together and help others exposing themselves to the virus?
As stories of celebrities and heroes circulate, one has to wonder if we humans aren’t the masters of a unique type of symbiotic relationship? Kinda like lichen?
Together, the algae and the fungus create a unit than cannot live without each other but when united, it becomes one of the longest living organisms man knows. Kinda like us?
Stay well, Anne