Liking the Lichen

     I am amazed at how little information I really know. Where do frogs go in the winter? What does that cloud formation mean? What is the name of that star? I’m constantly looking things up online or in the many reference books I own but don’t have time to read through.

     On a recent Bounday Waters canoe trip my friend and I came across some incredible lichen on a rock wall. I had never seen lichen so beautiful. We started talking about lichen and about all I could come up with for information was, "It takes a long time to grow, it’s brittle when it’s dry and spongy when it’s wet." I don’t even know if that information is correct for all of the different types of lichen there are.

     I did look up some information about lichen and found the following from an old Conservation Volunteer magazine article by Arthur Kropp


A lichen is not an individual plant, but a combination of two plants- fungus and alga—living in mutualism. The alga provides nourishment (carbo- hydrates) for the fungus, while the fungus provides moisture and minerals for the alga… 

Once established, lichens grow very slowly. They may take 100 to 200 years to mature before attaining a maximum size of a few inches in diameter or length. Because they are naturally dry, lichens often appear to be dead, though a rainy or mistymorning will return them to their rubbery consistency.

About 4,000 species of lichens have been classified with an estimated 70 species occurring in Minnesota. Lichens can be found throughout the state, but not in our largest cities. These sun-loving plants need clean, uncontaminated air and are seldom found where pollution is a problem.

      I look forward to the day I have more time to learn about lichen. The idea of collecting lichen specimens as did the author of the above article sounds interesting to me. What do you know about lichens? Have photos of any? Please share your knowledge with me because I’m really liking lichens lately.


bwca lichen