Lichens are fungi
They are all around you as soon as you step out of the house – on your roof, on the pavement, on the trees, the walls and the fences. Yet most of us do not notice them. They grow where little else can, slowly but steadily. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – flat and round, scaly and shrubby. They are, of course, lichens. Lichens are fungi that behave like plants because they have little green algal cells inside them. Together they form the lichen body. The algal cells make sugar and give it to the fungus. In return the fungus shelters them from excess sunlight and water loss.
The easiest to find are those on the pavements. All those white or yellow blobs or stains are lichens. Some look so like chewing gum that they are called the Chewing Gum lichen. Or take a close look at the trees behind the library which sport a great variety of them. And what use are they? You might have heard that reindeer eat lichens but did you know that they are also eaten by humans, used in medicine, cosmetics and dyeing and making litmus paper? They can help prospectors looking for precious metals and will be contained in your sprinkling of Garam Masala. So next time you slap on your Brut or Eternity, or anoint yourself with Estee Lauder or Yves St Laurent, thank the humble lichen.
The Wildlife Group are preparing a Lichen Trail round the village which will be downloadable from the website so if you see members lying on the pavement or examining the gravestones with hand lenses that will be the reason – you do need to get up very close to them to appreciate their colours, the tiny fruits that many of them will be growing; even the spores that help to identify the different species. If you are interested in getting to know more about them, do contact the Wildlife Group.