What are they doing to our mountains!Lichen:
A living partenership of a fungus and an algae. The fungus helps absorb food from it's surroundings. The Algae, through photosynthesis produces food. Both working together to allow the lichen to live and grow.
The colors of lichen are due to the combination of the chlorophyl from the photosynthetic green algae and fungi or the fungi and a blue/green bacteria.
Where do they grow and what do they do?
Lichen grow on soil, tree bark, and our favorite, Rocks. The lichen release acids that slowly break the rock down to soil. This makes it more hospitable for the lichen to live and grow.
18,000 to 20'000 Species have been identified throughout the world.
Lichen grow excruciatingly slow, adding only a few millimeters to thier length or diameter in a year. The fastest growing add no more than 30 mm to thier length in a year.
Some lichen, found in Greenland within the arctic circle are more than 4,500 years old. Scientists have used the size of large specimens to estimate how long it has been since glaciers covered arctic and mountain areas.
Lichen are common food for insects and slugs. In the arctic tundra, reindeer and caribou rely on lichen during the winter when no other food is available. This goes for humans too! how about a meal that took 500 years to prepare! you better be really hungry.
Using lichen for medicine:
In some cases, lichen have been used to produce antibiotics. These have been used to treat tuberculosis and some skin diseases.
In ancient Greece the many colors of lichen were used to dye clothes. This method was also discovered by the Native Americans.
Studies in the last 50 years have found that the variety and number of lichen have declined in many industrialized areas due to pollution. But it has also been found that when these negative influences have been removed the lichen can make a healthy comeback!