Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Next time you are pass a patch of lichen as you walk or hike in Pine Valley, consider the fact that a dinner plate size lichen could be a thousand years old and that it is one of the most amazing living things on Earth. Lichen represent a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and either algae or cyanobacteria. The fungus uses the algae or bacteria to produce energy (amazingly from a lifeless rock) while the algae or bacteria enjoys the protection the fungus provides.

Although we usually just ignore lichen, Bill Bryson thought it interesting enough to writes about it in his book “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” “Lichens are just about the hardiest visible organisms on Earth, but among the least ambitious.” They thrive in Antarctica and other harsh climates, and they are so successful that there are 20,000 species of them. They are very slow-growing and as a result are often hundreds if not thousands of years old. As humans we are inclined to feel that life must have a point. We have plans and aspirations and desires. We want to take constant advantage of all the intoxicating existence we’ve been endowed with. But what’s life to a lichen? Yet its impulse to exist, to be, is every bit as strong as ours—arguably even stronger…. Like virtually all living things, they will suffer hardship, endure any insult, for a moment’s additional existence. Life, in short, just wants to be.

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