Bordering the recreation grounds opposite where I live is a magnificent long line of copper beech trees. Their leaves provide a glorious show of colour in spring, summer and autumn but the trees look rather barren during the winter months. However, if you look closer, you’ll find their bark is alive with algae, mosses and lichens, and the colours, shapes and patterns of these small organisms are, indeed, many and splendid.
A lichen is a complicated entity – it is not actually one single organism but rather a fungus living in a symbiotic relationship with a photosynthetic partner, which might be a green alga or a cyanobacterium or both. The fungus is the farmer and the alga and/or bacterium produce/s the food it survives on.
Next time you see a lichen, look closer and be amazed!