Notice Nature Everywhere

You know this is lichen.  You’ve seen it everywhere your entire life. That’s because there are over 14,000 species of lichen in the world. Yet, what do you know about lichen? Here’s a secret: it’s one of the most fascinating organisms on Earth. And you’ve barely noticed it.

Orange, green, gray, and black lichen. Most likely from the species Xanthoria.

Lichen have a lifespan that ranges from 30 to 4,500 years, depending on the species. Lichen is a symbiotic organism of fungi and algae (or cyanobacteria). The algae make the food, the fungi make a home for the algae. Together the fungi and algae make a completely new organism—lichen. The rootless lichen is neither plant nor animal. It survives on nutrients from air, humidity, and rainwater.

The oldest lichen are found in Russia. The Arrowhead region of Minnesota supports one of the highest areas of lichen diversity in the world. Lichen in this region can live to be a 1,000 years old. Next time you notice a lichen, you may be connecting with an organism that was alive when the Magna Carta was signed.