Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Liking Lichen

The Springfield Chapter's own lichenologists presented an extensive introduction to lichens of the Ozarks this Monday night.  The Darrel and Pat Blech were a tag team with Nancy and Hammons Schanda in explaining the symbiotic relationship which produces organisms covering eight percent of the Earth's land mass.  Lichen are found around the globe in diverse environments such as deserts and the Antarctic.  We are most familiar with those occurring on trees, dead wood, and rocks.
Filamentous fungi provide the structure for algae or cyanobacteria  which photosynthesize the energy that the fungus requires.  These fungi require the photosynthesis to live, essentially creating a completely new organism, while the algae can survive on their own. 
The role of the humble lichen in plant succession, turning rocks slowly into soil, and providing food and shelter to wildlife widely appreciated.  They have been an important source of dyes, used in the manufacture of perfume, and medicinal uses are being explored.  You gotta love those little lichen.