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Let's hear it for lichen!

Date posted: Monday 7th December 2020

Let's hear it for lichen!

The logpile at the entrance to the dead hedge and beehive area is now hosting an intriguing white lichen.

Lichens are fascinating and, to me mysterious and fascinating organisms. When you look closely at a tree branch or a wall covered with different varieties it can seem like a whole eco-system in miniature. This fallen tree branch at Wakehurst Gardens was a veritable jungle of minute forestry:

The British Lichen Society provides an invaluable source for more detailed information but I’ve gone to the Woodland Trust for this slightly more user-friendly info:

‘Lichens are actually made up of two or more different organisms. These exist in a mutually beneficial relationship called symbiosis. So you can think of lichen as a successful partnership, between: a fungus and an algae and/or cyanobacteria. The fungus element requires carbohydrate as a food source. The algae or cyanobacteria on the other hand require shelter. As the algae/cyanobacteria are photosynthetic they provide the food for the fungus in return for that shelter. It’s a partnership that works.

You can see lichen in lots of places – with little blazes of colour cropping up on rocks, walls, twigs, bark and even on exposed soil surfaces. Different kinds of lichens have adapted to survive in some of the most extreme environments on Earth: across arctic tundra, hot dry deserts and rocky coasts.
Lichens are non-parasitic and don’t harm any plants they grow on. In fact, they’re useful to other wildlife, offering nesting material for birds, and food and shelter to lots of invertebrates – which in turn feed other creatures. Woods rich in lichens support more wildlife than any other.
Lichens can be big and bright or small and dark. What’s more, our amazing lichens can take on a variety of shapes and forms like: bushy beards; crusty spots; leafy pads and even small standing branches.

Lichens are also sensitive to pollution and can highlight the quality of the surrounding air. Crusty lichens are hardier to pollution, whereas the more delicate beard-like ones are mostly found in cleaner locations and are rarer.’ (Kylie Harrison Mellor www.woodlandtrust.co.uk)

So let’s hear it for those unsung stars of the micro-world in plant life, and keep our eyes peeled for more varieties around our site – anything interesting you see, please forward!

It’s a veritable bleak midwinter feel to everything at the moment – we were very lucky to have a day of bright sun for a visit to Wakehurst last Tuesday, and Jem moved a new beehive into place in the apiary area on Saturday morning, also in the sun – a few angry bees came out to investigate their new quarters, otherwise they’re in there feeding up on fondant.

I’m hoping that we might be able to plant a couple more crab apples in the orchard area in front of the beehives, possibly a variety of Butterball or Golden Hornet with their bright yellow round fruit that keep on the tree for a long period and would brighten up the area with their golden balls.