January 16, 2014

Lichen

January 16, 2014 Photo (016/365): "Lichen"

Do you see the resemblance?

I liken this lichen to coral "under the...tree!"

Maybe it's my desire to be in a tropical paradise rather than in wintery Wisconsin, but the lichen on this tree reminds me of undersea coral formations. I can almost imagine colorful schools of fish or funny sea turtles swimming among the crevices.

Lichens are formed when green algae combines with a compatible fungus. The algae produces the food for the duo, while the fungus provides support and moisture. This codependent relationship is beneficial for both partners as well as for the surrounding ecosystem.  Lichens are able to survive extreme cold and heat to thrive throughout the year. A bit of research revealed that lichens can soak up excess gasses such as carbon monoxide from the atmosphere, thus serving as natural air filters. Some lichens even provide nitrogen to fertilize the surrounding soil. Since they produce their own food from moisture and sunlight, they do not compromise the health of the trees on which they grow.  In fact, I think that their lovely green-gray color and abstract shapes only add to the beauty and interest of this maple tree's bark.