There are upwards of 30,000 species of lichens in the world; some 2000+ can be found in the UK, a statistic easier for me to find than the number of species in the US. I will forever be fascinated by lichens because of a nature walk conducted by a park ranger at Acadia National Park when I was…. goodness… not even 15 years old. These strange non-plant-plants, these “things” that take the first step in turning rock into soil by knocking off the tiniest bits of sand from a giant rock because of the heating and cooling and freezing of water in the organism — I wonder at them every time I see them.
A lichen (/ˈlaɪkən/LY-ken or, sometimes in the UK, /ˈlɪtʃən/, LICH-en) is a composite organism that arises from algae or cyanobacteria living among filaments of multiple fungi species in a mutualistic relationship. Lichens have properties different from those of their component organisms. Lichens come in many colors, sizes, and forms and are sometimes plant-like, but lichens are not plants. Lichens may have tiny, leafless branches (fruticose), flat leaf-like structures (foliose), flakes that lie on the surface like peeling paint (crustose), a powder-like appearance (leprose), or other growth forms.
But now, in my 70’s, lichens are a very different kind of inspiration. They speak of longevity and simply being. There’s no grand flower, there’s no massive growth, but there is continued life. Kind of like getting older as a human.
I don’t know about you but there is so much about the world around us that gives meaning to the way we live our lives. So many things we don’t have time to think about when we are younger no matter how thoughtful or into our heads we might be. The world is filled with wonder and we only need look about us to find it.