How much is there to know about lichen?
Lichens are a fascinating subject of the natural world to the extent that many people, artists included, become lichen enthusiasts!
We will be going into more depth on lichens over the coming months towards the end of the year when they (as well as many fungi, moss and algae) grow more readily because of the greater rainfall and shorter days; we hope to see what is growing around the garden and local areas and maybe discover a little more about them - did you know, for example, that to see lichen growing can be a sign of good quality air or that lichen has been used to make perfume and dyes!
Lichen are the resulting symbiotic association between fungi and algae and/or cyanobacteria. The fungi provide the structure, giving protection to the algae/cyanobacteria. The photosynthetic algae/cyanobacteria provide food from carbon dioxide and water.
Different lichen have many different forms and come in a variety of colours. The lichen in the photo above is a leafy type. A useful guide to identification can be found at: https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/lichenwalk/wp-content/uploads/sites/4888/2021/08/ID_GUIDE.pdf.
Is lichen edible?
Many types of lichen are edible to animals and with careful preparation most can be eaten as food, made into spices or used in medicinal recipes for humans!
An artistic approach
Lichens are beautiful to draw, although it can take time to get all the shapes accurate; they are often seen as a therapeutic process and can be rewarding when the picture is finished. Many artists over time have tried to capture their intricate patterns; even today some artists who have taken up the challenge to draw them draw almost nothing else for months, sometimes years, in pursuit of perfection.
The following plate ‘Lichenes’ showing a variety of lichens was based on the detailed drawings done by Ernst Haeckel that were published in his book Kunstformen der Natur in 1904.