The site navigation utilizes arrow, enter, escape, and space bar key commands. Left and right arrows move across top level links and expand / close menus in sub levels. Up and Down arrows will open main level menus and toggle through sub tier links. Enter and space open menus and escape closes them as well. Tab will move on to the next part of the site rather than go through menu items.

The Buzz

Things We Love: Those Lovely Lichens




About this series: While many people love nature, different people love different aspects of it. One may have a soft spot for flowers, while another gravitates toward a particular animal. And yet for others, it's all about the scenery. "Things We Love" explores those jaw-dropping parts of nature that one person finds particularly special. In this edition, Angela Rafac, an interpretive naturalist at Four Rivers Environmental Education Center, tells us why she loves lichens.

(Photo via Shutterstock)

What is there not to love about lichen? That is the real question. The more I learn, the more my appreciation grows. I could go on and on and on, but I will sum it up simply: I love lichen because it is strange, strong, sensitive and striking! 

Lichen results from a strange symbiotic relationship between fungus, algae and sometimes cyanobacteria. While it appears to be just one organism, this mysterious partnership has given these species independence. It is an algae sandwich with fungus as the bread. The fungus has freedom to leave its usual habitat because the algae is providing the food, and algae can leave its watery home and travel the world protected from the elements by the fungus. 

Lichen is a power duo! It is a pioneer species, braving inhabitable grounds and surfaces, slowly and patiently paving the way for diversity. How cool is that? It grows on rigid rocks, paved paths, benches and fences. You can see it everywhere! It is also strong during cold, crisp winters. Big beautiful trees shed their leaves and rest, birds fly south, mammals and reptiles hide out and wait for warmer weather. But lichen is alive and thriving no matter the temperature, even if buried under a sheet of snow.

Despite its hardiness, lichen is also extremely sensitive to its surroundings. If something is in the atmosphere, lichen absorbs it. So not only is lichen cleaning the air by absorbing pollutants, it is a bio-indicator of the pollutants and used in many air-quality monitoring programs. It’s amazing and helpful!

By far, my absolute favorite thing about lichen is just how beautiful it is. Its striking colors and textures brighten landscapes. As I walk along, I see small twigs completely covered and bark and boulders blanketed with mustard yellow and minty and darker greens. Multiple species living in harmony … my delight never dwindles. Lichen is at its most brilliant when wet. On gray and gloomy days, its vibrant beauty reminds me there is so much to be grateful for.

Lovely little lifeforms

Incredibly intricate and interesting

Colorfully clinging like a crust

Harmoniously hardy and healing

Easily enlivening all environments

Naturally nourishing and noteworthy

 

_______________

Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to The Citizen, our weekly digital newsletter that provides subscribers with updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family. If you're only interested in programs, subscribe to The Weekly Five, which outlines the five must-do programs each week. Signing up for either newsletter is easy and free of charge.

Watch Your Step: Stink Bugs Are Making Their Way Indoors

9/18/2020

With summer-like temperatures behind us, it's the time of year when stink bugs start making their way into our homes. Resist the urge to stomp on or squish them or you'll quickly learn how these insects got their name.

Read More


Quiz: Are You A Monarch Master?

9/16/2020

Test you knowledge about monarchs with this 10-question quiz.

Read More


What's The Difference: Frog Vs. Toad

9/11/2020

Frogs and toads are both amphibians, and the differences between them can be confusing and subtle.

Read More


Sign up for a Newsletter