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Do You Know Your Lichen?
May 28, 2019

I hope everyone had a 'Blessed Memorial Day' weekend.

I also hope everyone remembered the reason for the special day.

To remember our Fallen Heroes.

To thank our living ones.

Everything you say and do, without having to look over your shoulder, give thanks.

For your Freedom, give thanks.

I know we do.

Temperatures are still below normal for southwest Michigan, yet I'm not complaining for the most part.

We still haven't hit 80 degrees around here.

Flowering trees have been beautiful this spring and the cooler weather has kept the blooms on much longer than previous years.

When I get the time, I'm out in the yard playing and in some cases working.

Several orioles are enjoying the grape jelly we offer them.

Put the suet cakes out too, as you see they like to snack.

A fledged dove made a visit this past week.

Isn't it darling?

House wrens are singing up a storm.

Pictured below are Sophie and Miss Penny, anytime there is a box around.

Brandy sleeping in her bed.

Karen was vacuuming, and placed the bed on the little stool.

It was a moment I had to preserve.

This week's topic is on Lichen.

Though there is much on this topic, many of us know very little about this life form.



You may know it as something many hummingbirds use on their nest constructions.

Especially Ruby-throated-hummingbirds.

About Hummingbirds

Did you know that at least 50 other species of birds in North America also use a form of Lichen in their nest building?

But what is Lichen?

Lichen lives a very interesting life.

Have you heard of the word “symbiosis” or the term “symbiotic relationship”?

A symbiotic relationship is where two life forms benefit from each other.

A couple examples would be flowers and pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

There is also all those birds that glean insects from bison and other animals.

Both benefit.

Lichen takes symbiosis to another level.

Lichen is formed when certain fungus and certain algae get together.

One cannot live without the other, it is as complex, or as simple as that.

More technically, lichens consist of a threadlike fungus entwined with an algae or a cyanobacteria.

Twenty-three different genera of unicellular green algae and twelve genera of cyanobacteria (formerly called blue-green algae) can be found in these lichen partnerships.

In all cases, the algal member of the pair can be seen only under a microscope; the fungus is the visible component.

Lichens are considered part of the Fungi Kingdom and take their scientific name from the fungal partner.

These odd couples live together successfully with a clear division of labor:

The algae produce the food by manufacturing sugars and starches photo-synthetically that the fungi cannot produce.

While the fungi provide moisture, structure, and shelter against ultraviolet radiation for the algae.

A marriage made in heaven.

Now pay attention here.

Because lichens are made up of two separate organisms from two separate kingdoms, the partners must reproduce independently, and then hope their offspring will hook up in some fashion.

There are at least 14,000 known different forms world wide and they are found just about everywhere on earth.

That's a whole lot of different fungus and algae getting together, isn't it?

There are different intricate patterns and they can grow on rocks, sidewalks, driveways, houses, trees and even underground.

Just about every where you look, you can spot Lichen growing.

You may be familiar with the gray-green colors that grow on trees and sidewalks, but they come in colors of red, orange, yellow and many variations.

Lichen is a main food source for Reindeer during the cold Arctic winters.

Lichen have been used in perfumes, homeopathic remedies and other neat things.

Though several birds use it in nest building, they don't corner the Lichen market.

What you may call moss growing on the North side of a tree or sidewalks is more than likely Lichen if it is a gray-green color.

Lichen poses no threat to trees or other plant material. In fact, if a branch or other object is more than 2 years old, chances are there is some form of Lichen attached to it.

So why do birds use Lichen as nesting materials and how is it attached.

Some birds like Bush-tits will weave a dangling form of Lichen into the nest, while hummers will attach it to the outside of the nest by using sticky spider webs.

Rubies build a nest that is so small (the size of a half walnut shell) that Lichen is used to hide or camouflage the nest into the natural setting.

Consider that most Rubies prefer to nest in a rural setting and near water, finding a nest is almost accidental as they often hide them so well.

Many other species of hummingbirds are more willing to build near people and some almost in small communities and several of them will indeed build with Lichen.

Can you imagine the time and energy involved in scraping Lichen from trees and other objects?

Especially for hummingbirds where the female does all the work in nest building, incubating and raising the young.

Next time your outside or taking a walk, take a moment to study Lichen.

Notice the intricate almost art like patterns of this living mass.

There is so much more to write about on these simple yet intricate life forms, but this is all I'm giving you for now.

Once again, it goes to show you just how amazing creation really is.

The more time I spend as a Naturalist and in the natural world, the more I appreciate what has been given to us.

The photos are but a few examples of Lichen, can you find it growing in your yard, on your house or other objects?

Lichen may not be the most interesting topic, but it is one taken for granted and serves a purpose in the Natural World.

Well, it's time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

By setting your own standards you develop these expectations ofyourself, and you start to say, "I do things because that's me." Theycan be as basic as "I don't lie, cheat, or steal", but it can also be"How good is the work that I do?"

General Stanley McChrystal

How easy is that?

What kind of a cop out do you use?

We say things like .......

“It's who I am.”

“That's how I do things.”

Be willing to make an effort to change.

From God's word.

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”

James 4:10

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb.

A Blessed week to you .

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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