Hi friends – Cornelius here. Thanks for coming back to read more of my blog series!
Today I will be sharing fun facts about one of my favorite plants around the park- lichens! They are ideal because I love to slither over their fun textures. They are most noticeable at this time of year after the autumn leaves have fallen.
Even though they may look like plants, they are not! Instead, they are a symbiotic organism made up of both a plant (algae) and a fungus. Algae typically live in wet environments, like ponds, lakes and streams. However, these algae have found a way to stay moist by living with fungi! In return, the fungi receive energy from the algae as they perform photosynthesis. The mix of algae and fungi species determines which shapes and colors are visible, as well as the locations where they prefer to grow. Lichens often get mistaken for moss, but moss is a plant with photosynthetic cells, just like trees and wildflowers.
Lichens have three main categories of shapes and textures. Crustose lichens have a crust-like texture, while foliose lichens have a leaf-like texture, and fruticose lichens are similar in shape to a very tiny shrub. Next time you’re at Newlin Grist Mill, see if you can spot all three types. Look out for them on trees and rocks!
Besides being more visible at this time of year, I thought today would be a good day to talk about lichens because of their importance to the holiday season. Without lichens, Santa’s reindeer would get very hungry! They are one of very few growing things that are able to survive the winter season. This is thanks to their unique partnership that ensures they have energy to grow year-round, no matter the temperature or amount of light.
Even when under deep snow, reindeer are able to use their noses to sniff out the lichens and uncover them with their hooves and antlers. They provide a lot of carbohydrates to the reindeer which gives them a consistent source of energy throughout the winter. Reindeer eat as much as 4 to 11 pounds of lichens a day!
Thanks for reading my blog! I’m taking a bit of a break over the holidays from my blog, but stay tuned for more posts from me and my friends in January! Happy holidays everyone!