I’m Liking Lichen

My husband and I had the lake in Colorado, at 11,000 feet elevation, to ourselves except for occasional hikers a mile away—colorful specks on a timberline trail whose voices carried in the thin air. While Jeff fished, although I wasn’t bored exactly, I began noticing lichens. I’m here to tell you, Rocky Mountain lichens are as impressive as lava flows.

According to Wikipedia, lichen is comprised of a fungus and a photosynthetic partner (usually green algae). Lichens occur in some of the most extreme environments on earth—arctic tundra, hot deserts, rocky coasts, and toxic slag heaps—as well as  bare rock, walls and gravestones.

Lichens that are vulnerable to environmental disturbance may be used by scientists to assess air pollution, ozone depletion, and metal contamination.

These lichens looked fragile yet were cemented to the stones. In any case, I wasn’t enough of an environmental disturbance to detach them.

Sit still long enough, and wildlife forget you’re there. Squirrel-sized rodents that looked like guinea pigs popped in and out of the rocks, squeaking like dog toys. Our terrier went nuts whenever she heard a pika (also called coney or rock rabbit). In determined yet fruitless pursuit, she used four-paw drive to navigate the uneven terrain.

That evening, outside a rustic cabin, we cooked trout over an open fire. Deer kept returning to a nearby clearing, gazing at us as though we were from another world. Indeed we were.


About Debra Lee Baldwin

Debra Lee Baldwin gardens on "an inhospitable half acre" in Escondido, CA, near San Diego. She is an award-winning photojournalist and artist with hundreds of articles and columns to her credit. Debra's books are Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens and Succulents Simplified. www.debraleebaldwin.com.

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5 Responses to I’m Liking Lichen

  1. Cindy Davison September 5, 2012 at 1:42 am #

    What a beautiful location, Debra. I was just reading today that lichen is one of the materials hummingbirds use to build their nests with ~

    Really? Wow, that’s wonderful! Come to think of it, I have seen it in hummingbird nests. — Debra

  2. Susan in the Pink Hat September 5, 2012 at 9:47 am #

    Those little rodents are Pikas. You were lucky to see them. They are very shy and skittish.

    Hi, Susan — I was holding my camera when the pika popped out of the rocks, and ever so slowly, lest I startle it, I snapped a couple of shots. Even so, this one has been cropped from the original. –Debra

  3. Susan from Vista September 5, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    I have had a fondness for lichen since being introduced to them at 6 th grade camp on Palomar Mt. Now, I even have more appreciation for them. Thanks DLB

    Hi, Susan — You know, ever since returning home, I’ve been looking for lichen on rocks and haven’t seen any. We hiked the Discovery Hills trail last weekend near you. I suspect it’s too dry here. — Debra

  4. ricki September 6, 2012 at 4:24 am #

    I have had similar experiences as the non-fishing member of fishing trips. Love the lichen shots.

    Thanks, Ricki. I’m seldom bored when I have my camera! As long as there’s light, there’s beauty. — Debra

  5. Noel Kingsbury September 18, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    I’m glad to see someone picking up on lichen. They really are beautiful. I remember really getting in to them as a teenager interested in plant life. We can’t grow them, nor will they necessarily survive being moved around if their substrate is moved (like the wooden garden furniture that gets garnished with lichen in the west of England and Wales), so you have to appreciate them where they are.