Lovely Lichens

By: Kailey Kreienbrink

The first time I ever went for a hike in Oregon I was amazed by how green the trees were. I was hiking with my family, and my mom kept commenting on how the trees looked like something out of a Dr.Suess book. Being Minnesotans we had never seen the green plants growing on the trees quite the way they were in Oregon. I never really knew what it was that was growing on these trees until our February wetland wander “Lovely Lichen”. The green plants are a combination of moss and lichen growing on the trees. Mt.Pisgah, the location of our wander, has 150 plus types of lichen growing on their land. After a 2 hour wander, I now can confidently ID a few types of lichen!! They are all unique and beautiful in their own ways.

So what exactly is lichen? Lichens are made up of two organisms, algae and fungus. The algae and fungus are living in a symbiotic relationship. Symbiosis describes any relationship between two dissimilar organisms. In the relationship between algae and fungus they each provide different things to the relationship. The algae produces food and the fungus gathers water and provides structure, together they can survive harsh conditions that they would not be able to separately. 

At Mt.Pisgah there were a few lichens that really stuck out to me. I am including pictures of these lichens so that you too can go out for a lichen walk and try to identify lichens. The first one is Old Man’s Beard Lichen, or Usnea. I found this one to be easy to ID because it looks just like its name!

The next one is the Fishnet lichen, also known as Ramalina menziesii. This one was really cool, if you pull it open gently it has grown in a pattern that is identical to fishnets!!

Lastly we have my absolute favorite, hooded tube lichen. Its scientific name is Hypogymnia physodes. It is the most 3D looking lichen I noticed, and when you touch it is squishy! 

There are many, many, many more types of lichen than these three. These are a good place to start though! If you missed out on the wander this month, I have included a video that one participant from the wander created…you may even be able to ID some of the lichens featured in it now!

Lichen Wander Video Link: