Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Lichens

Everybody seems to have snow except for me. I wanted to photograph snowy trees, but alas, it is not to be. Many of my blogging friends have snow - Anna in the east of England, Olympia in Greece, Hattatts in Hungary, and Gina in Central Utah, all of them have snow.
As a result I am having to content myself by photographing lichens in our garden. I featured them last year when I wrote about how they are dual organisms. Every lichen is a partnership between members of two different kingdoms which live together in a special, mutually beneficial relationship - a symbiosis. 
bright blue sky and brilliant sunshine today
Each lichen is made up of a fungus and an algae: the body of the lichen is built up by a tough fungal hyphae, and the algae lives inside that framework. 
The fungus protects the algae from the harsh world outside, and provides it with water and mineral nutrients. The algae makes its own food by photosynthesis, and leaks some of this food, which is then absorbed by the fungus, which cannot make its own food.
The partnership is so tough and self-reliant that lichens can grow in places such as rocks in the desert, where nothing else can survive. When it is too dry, too hot, or too cold, lichens go into a state of suspended animation until conditions improve. Since the algae make up only 5% of each lichen, and are out of action for much of the time, you can imagine that lichens grow very slowly - only a few millimetres per year. They make up for this by living for centuries, or in a few cases, millennia.
Lichens have only one serious weakness - they must absorb their mineral nutrients from the rain. So if the air is polluted with sulphur dioxide, this dissolves in the rain and is absorbed by the lichens which often die as a result. As we have an abundance of lichen, I guess this means we have very pure air.

57 comments:

  1. Dear Rosemary, your blog is one of them I love most of all, it is beautiful photos, great lessons of art, and now lichens! Great! In norway, the reindeer are living on lichens, without, the reindeer will die. In the north,and also in our area, the reindeer owner will follow their herd from winter grazing land, to summer grazing land (or what do you call it, when they do not eat grass?..).
    Well, I think you are right, you have a very pure air!

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    1. Dear Lise - thank you for your kind comment. I had completely forgotten that the reindeer live on lichens. It is a wonderful sight to see them being herded and rounded up. I did see some once on a trip up to Tromsoe when we crossed the border at Narvik into Sweden. There we saw Laplanders with their reindeer, and they were dressed in traditional costumes.

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  2. Maybe no snow but it sure looks sunny! Wonderous creatures, the lichens. You have a great variety of them in your garden. Your photos look almost tropical to be honest. I wouldn't mind a bit of sun and warmth but I do like a snow covered world as well. I remember when last november the whole country got lots of snow but that snow 'forgot' our little corner. I felt a bit 'left out' as well, so I know how you feel. Wish I could send some snow over.
    Bye,
    Marian

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    1. We have had lots of brilliant sunshine but it is cold. Although the sun does create lots of warmth indoors by shinning through the windows. All of these lichens were on just one tree. It is a really interesting form of life and more so when you know the history. May be a little bit of snow will arrive before the winter is over, there is plenty of time still to go. I don't really like it, but I would like some photos.

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  3. Hello Rosemary:
    These are exceptional images, not only very beautiful [some are art works in themselves] but also hugely interesting as is your text which describes their habit and habitat. And in the absence of snow, they really do create a chill of their own.

    Today we have had something of a thaw but, or so we are informed, more snow is to come. And then the temperature is to plummet with the daytime somewhere around -8C. Enjoy your blue skies!!

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    1. Hello Jane and Lance - It is very strange that this country has snow but our little corner has missed out.
      The lichens are really interesting little forms of life and I enjoy the way they are all quite unique even though they exist on the same tree.

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  4. Dear Rosemary,

    I recall commenting that I liked your other-worldly lichens in the last posting on them. Your last image would make a good prop for an elvish portrait, don't you think? Too bad that these can't be saved for a cabinet of curiosities. — Mark

    P.S. I don't have snow, either, and am all the happier for it!

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    1. Dear Mark - your Swiss genes aren't hankering for some snow then?
      I think that you have been peeping behind the scenes at my blog - you would not believe it, but I have a post saved in drafts, ready for posting and called "Cabinet of Curiosities".

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    2. PS to my previous comment... it's lichens, not lychens, isn't it? Oh... foreign me!

      ANNA

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  5. Hello Rosemary, You are lucky to have such a fascinating variety of lichens growing. The slow growth rate and long life that you mention developed into the science of lichenometry, used for dating geological features.

    This post takes me back to one of the nature books that I had when I was young, called How to Know the Lichens, and I remember using it to identify the ones growing in the Cleveland Metroparks.
    --Road to Parnassus

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    1. Dear Jim - you have reminded me that they are used in geology, my eldest son is a Geologist so I should have remembered.
      They are wonderful little life forms with such a variety of different styles. All of these are growing on the same tree.

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  6. I'm glad to say we have lichens too, but not as spectacular as yours. I can't wait for your Cabinet of Curiosities post - they are my favourite things!

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    1. Dear Nilly - I think that I shall now have to bring that post forward with the mounting anticipation. I do not know about you but I always have several posts waiting on the back burner, but the spontaneous posts sometimes block their arrival.

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  7. Rosemary,

    You can even make lychens look beautiful and interesting... which they are. They somehow look like seaweed, don't they? I expected a lobster or a hermit crab to pop out of one of the pictures!

    It makes you realize how beautiful nature is in all its manifestations... snow being the best example. Not two ice chrystals are the same.

    The snow is shimmering beautifully under the moon, Rosemary... so romantic! There's a smell in the air: cold (it does smell, promise!) mixed withthe scent of apple wood burning in the open fire... I love snow, Rosemary! Wish you were here?

    I know I'm being naughty, but I can't help it!

    HUGS

    ANNA

    xxx

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    1. I will let you off Anna, but I think that you may be rubbing my nose in the snow!!!
      Anyway if we had received a load of snow you probably would not have seen my beautiful lichens, yes, your second spelling was correct.
      The scent of apple wood burning on the open fire sounds wonderful, just need a few chestnuts to roast and big glass of steaming mulled wine. Cheers Anna.

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  8. They are beautiful and interesting. We have many here as well. We also have an abundance of sun. It is 76 degrees here and I just washed my car barefoot:}

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    1. How wonderful, we are a good way off being able to wander around with bare feet. Perhaps you could take some photos of your lichens Olive, and then we could compare them?

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  9. Hi, Rosemary - No snow here in DC! :( Its been quite warm, actually. I am envious of your lichen and pure air. No lichen in our garden. As for our air: good except during the stifling hot months of July and August. Never visit DC in August!
    Cheers,
    Loi

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    1. I expect that you have air conditioning Loi to make it more bearable, but I will remember the tip.

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  10. Oh, you hit my button with this lichens post. I love them; so beautiful. I photograph them too and gather them to add to potpourri. I learned things about it I didn't know, so thanks very much! Beautiful photos.

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    1. Thank you Sanda - I had not thought about putting them in potpourri, but I expect some would look nice in a small white dish on their own or a little wooden bowl too.

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  11. Hi Rosemary,
    Sorry it has been such a while, I have been so busy in the world of
    working on our house I haven't spent much time on my computer…
    Hope you get some snow soon!!!
    Hugs,
    Marica

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    1. Nice to hear from you Marica - hope you and the children had a lovely Christmas, and a belated Happy New Year to you.

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  12. Dear Rosemary,hope you get some snow soon,your photos are amazing!I have see lichens in our forests,in many species!I realy enjoyed waching you post!Have a lovely week!!
    Dimi..

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    1. Dear Dimi - glad that you enjoyed the post - the lichens are really interesting little life forms.

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  13. Hello Rosemary, all the snow here inToronto have melted due to the Spring like weather last weekend. So nice to learn about the lichens. Thank you.

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    1. Dear Pamela - glad you enjoyed seeing and learning about the lichens - they are fascinating things.

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  14. Dear Rosemary, What a treasure trove of lichens and all on one tree! It takes a special eye to see the beauty in what otherwise could be overlooked. Isn't it interesting, when closely observed, how intricate and beautiful Nature's secrets are exposed.

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    1. Dear Gina - the lichens make such interesting shapes, no two are alike and I love their soft green colour. I had hoped to photograph our Beech tree woods in the snow, but it seems that it is not to be.

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  15. Rosemary, compared to your superb images of lichens snow scene photos are two a penny. These are wonderful, so crisp and clear and so varied in shape and colour, all backed up by fascinating factual information. I did enjoy this!

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    1. You know how to make a girl feel good Perpetua - so pleased that you enjoyed the information about these wonderful little life forms from nature which are all around us.

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  16. Dear Rosemary,
    What a beautiful collection of images! I'm so glad the lack of snow inspired you to take a close look at these marvelous lichens. They really are fascinating-- I think you were having a Donald Culross Peattie moment, finding poetry in the most unexpected places. You've dedicated time to the close observation and appreciation of the world around you and inspired us to do the same--thank you!
    Warm regards,
    Erika

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    1. Dear Erika - I am glad that you enjoyed seeing the lichen. Sometimes we just do not realise what is lying right under our noses. I am always surprised how revealing the macro lens is when the photos go on to the computer and are enlarged. The lichens survival and life cycle is so interesting.

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  17. Dear Rosemary,
    I probably will put a dampner on your wish for snow. My wish is for sun. I am not a worshiper of the sun.. but just become depressed when its cold ,miserable and wet.

    I am very impressed with these Lichen photos and the way they live.
    Here there is very little lichen.. I think its the Alentejo air. There are lichens in the forests and up north.
    fascinating plants.
    val

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    1. Dear Val - to be honest I do not want snow and do not even like it, but I did want to be able to photograph my Beech tree wood in the snow, and for that would have been prepared to put up with it as long as it did not linger. However, that was not to be. There is still plenty of time for snow to appear so who knows.
      The lichens are curious life forms and I am only really aware of them in the garden when the trees have shed their leaves.

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  18. Wonderful photos Rosemary! The faded colours and interesting shapes remind me of lacey fabric creations. I would think all the fairies wear them :)

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    1. Perfect fairy fabric Rosemary - I can just imagine how pretty they would look.

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  19. Never thought lichens can make such an interesting story. Your images make them appear as beautiful silvery lace. Beautifully captured and captioned. If I ever see such stuff in my garden, I will proceed to excise them or amputate the whoe branch for fear that they would weaken the tree. Are they parasitic?

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    1. I am glad that you liked the photos and the story about the life cycle of the lichens, but please, please do not remove them from your trees if you have any. They do absolutely no harm whatsoever, and they are not parasitic. If you have them growing in your garden it is a sign that you have good and very pure air.

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  20. I have learned about lichen and algae here. Thank you Rosemary for this fascinating lesson. Delighted to hear the air is pure in your neighbourhood. I hope you get some snow this winter.

    Helen xx

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    1. The lichen are lovely little life forms which often go unnoticed. I love their soft green grey colour and the different shapes that they become. Plenty of time for snow to come still. Selfishly, all I want, is to be able to photograph it in the Beech woods near my home, and then go on its way.

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  21. Lichens are indeed fascinating. I didn't realise they are so slow growing but it makes sense as you find them on old plant growth and other undisturbed items.

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    1. They are fascinating little organisms - nature is wonderful

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    1. Thanks Ioanna - glad that you found it interesting.

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  23. You can show Lichens as much as you like as I love them and find them fascinating along with fungi and thanks for the lesson! Suzy x

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    1. Same here Suzy - I love their curious structures both the lichen and fungi, and their soft muted colours. Glad that you enjoyed their story.

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  24. Beautiful pictures and very interesting! I'm sorry you don't have snow to take pictures of. We had snow but it has left us for now. I am happy, but I know it will be back and that is okay too. I hope you are having a wonderful week.

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    1. I think that my wish is about to be fulfilled - I have just looked out at the night sky and big white blobs are fluttering to the ground. The morning may see me donning my boots and setting off with my camera.

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  25. I like to photograph lichens too :) Your photos are beautiful, Rosemary ! I enjoyed your post and the comments too :) Thank you !

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    1. Thanks Dani - lichen are such fascinating organisms, and their story too makes them very interesting little life forms.

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  26. I wish to have you snow because I wait for your photos ! But this lesson today is interesting . I did't know all these about lichens ... The photos as always are wonderful and I am glad that you live in pure air !!!I saw snow at my hometown at west of Greece but here in Thessaloniki never snows , we are near the sea and the air is almost polluted as in every big town !Have a lovely evening !

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    1. Dear Olympia - I have just looked out of the window and in the darkness of the night I can see white blobs fluttering to the ground. You may have your snow pictures of the trees even yet. Take care♥

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    2. Oh , oh !!!When it snows I stay in front of the window (at my mother's home ) and I like to see the snow falls !! I hope that in your town will be tomorrow morning in a white blanket !!! May be this is not good for you but I shall have the opportunity to see your lovely around area in a white colour.I have patience and I will wait ....If you go out ,please take a lot off care !

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    3. Fingers crossed Olympia, and may be I will make it to the woods tomorrow.

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  27. A favourite walk of mine is through the forest to a small cove. The trees are covered in lichen, gold and green and grey. I had always appreciated their beauty but I had no idea they had such a fascinating story.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the lichens fascinating life story. Perhaps you could show us your lichen sometime in the future?

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