On a beautiful sunny Sunday, leader Suzan Will-Wolf introduced us to the corals of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. Well ... they're not really corals. Corals are a composite organism made from symbiotic algae and Cnidarians (think jellyfish). These little specks are actually a symbiotic friendship between fungi and algae, so, similar in form but not evolutionary history. Does it matter? All 17 of us in attendance were really lichen the field trip regardless.
Lichens come in three main forms - crustose, foliose, and fruticose. Crustose lichens are flat and leafless, foliose lichens are flat but have leaf-like structures, and fruticose lichens have protruding stalks, tufts, or strings. Lichens of all forms tend to be scrappy survivors that eke out a living where other organisms - like plants - can't. There are thousands of different lichen species around the world and over 100 in Wisconsin. Only 10 different lichen species are reported in the Preserve on iNaturalist today (4/9/23) but I bet one motivated friend could double that count in a single outing - try it! We saw a whole spattering of lichens just on one boulder.
If you want to learn more about lichens, you must read Suzy's guide linked here. Please also see pictures of the lichens we saw walking up the access road from the Picnic Point entrance taken by attendee Sean Sanders. Thank you for the photos, Sean, and thanks Suzy for all your lichen enthusiasm and expertise!
Crustose lichen photos by Sean Sanders:
Foliose lichen photos by Sean Sanders:
Report by Will Vuyk; photos by Will Vuyk, Glenda Denniston, and Sean Sanders.