Lichenworld I

lichen4Lichens are extremely sensitive to air pollution, so we don’t have all that many here in the city. We’re missing out on an amazing little universe as a result, one we’ve gotten used to not seeing. This is a perfect example of the way environmental destruction isn’t noticed: as species decline and disappear, we become used to what we see now in the present, forgetting what once was. Everything seems normal now, but isn’t, not by a log shot. lichen3Last week, however, I was thirty miles off the coast of Cape Cod, on Nantucket, where the frisky air is some of the cleanest on the East Coast. As a consequence, the place is a lichen wonderland. A similar habitat to Long Island, Nantucket thus serves as a window into our own past here. 89 species in 37 genera were noted in this quick survey in 2004. My examples here all come from the town, after two days of rain, a spot not surveyed then.lichen2Lichens are composite, symbiotic organisms, made up of fungus and algae and/or cyanobacteria. They come in some very interesting forms. lichen1
UlmusLichens can grow on almost any surface. An ocean-nestled place like Nantucket means they’re thick on wood, both alive and dead (fences, houses), but higher elevations and drier places will see them on rock. The base of this hoary elm has a particular rich landscape of lichen.

6 Responses to “Lichenworld I”


  1. 1 McMackin, Rebecca (BBP) December 7, 2015 at 8:40 am

    Lichen talk at Metro Hort tonight. Should be a great one.

    Rebecca McMackin
    Director of Horticulture
    Brooklyn Bridge Park

  2. 3 kristin wartman December 7, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Where do you meet for the Metro Hort group?

    • 4 mthew December 7, 2015 at 4:59 pm

      I don’t know; it seems to be members only now. They used to charge $15 for non-members to come; it’s a professional org.

  3. 5 Paul Lamb December 8, 2015 at 5:33 am

    Another great post. I have lotsa lichen in my Ozark forest, though it was despoiled by cattle in the past.


  1. 1 Merry Little Mossy Microcosm | Casual Flowers Trackback on December 26, 2015 at 3:56 pm

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