The Lichenologist, or, Taking a Liking to Lichen

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist! ) This bad pun was even made by our instructor at a recent class B. and I took at the Pepperwood Preserve, a nature preserve focusing on conservation, research, and public education. We knew nothing about lichens before, just always noticed them on hikes locally and abroad.

Lichens aren’t plants, but rather a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae, and grow on bark, stone, a wide variety of surfaces. California is the first state to adopt a State Lichen! These and other fascinating facts we learned from our teacher, a member of the California Lichen Society, which offers educational information, citizen science opportunities, and membership resources.

A recent Atlantic article profiles a man who fell in love with lichen later in life. And during our class hike around the preserve (as well as in nearby Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, home to Sonoma County’s tallest peak, Mount St. Helena), we were struck by the beauty and versatility of lichens – as well as their fierce tenacity in different harsh conditions. It’s easy to become obsessed with these amazing organisms.

For the Lobaria, Usnea, Witches Hair, Map Lichen, Beard Lichen, Ground Lichen, Shield Lichen

Back then, what did I know?

The names of subway lines, buses,

How long it took to walk twenty blocks….

When I saw you, later, seaweed reefed in the air,

you were gray-green, incomprehensible, old.

What you clung to, hung from: old.

Trees looking half-dead, stones.

Marriage of fungi and algae,

chemists of air, …

Transformers unvalued, uncounted.

Cell by cell, word by word, making a world they could live in.

-Jane Hirshfield


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About thislittleplot

Writer, hiker, loafer
This entry was posted in Language, Local Area Hikes and trips, Nature, Poetry, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Lichenologist, or, Taking a Liking to Lichen

  1. I’m liking all this talk about lichen ;)

  2. owlwoman says:

    The lichen joke never gets old!

    I notice some very fluffy lichen in one of your photos – a good indicator of clean air.

  3. Shonna says:

    How delightful! I have this bizarre herbal spray from my Naturopath for acne… the main ingredient is Old Man’s Beard lichen. It works really well, also has Cayenne in it so it makes you cough a little when you spritz it on.

  4. mfreeman706 says:

    Great post, great organism. Didn’t know they were half and half. Beautiful poem too.

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