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YTO Nature Watch - Map Lichen

Map Lichen (Rhizocarpon geographicum), like all lichens, is not a single organism. It's a combination of fungus and algae living in harmony; both species benefit.

Lichen is one the oldest and hardiest species on the planet. After the asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs, it was the lichens they recovered first. At the end of every Ice Age, it was lichen that re-started the earth's eco-system.

Lichen comes in all shapes and sizes, but map lichen is probably the most familiar to walkers who spend time in the hills.

Map lichen grows directly onto rock, covering the surfaces with yellow and green shapes reminiscent of islands, hence the name!

As lichen grows, it releases the substances required to grow upon the rock using self-produced acids. It;s very good at making itself comfy and thriving in challenging conditions.

Map lichen can survive long dry periods and grow extremely slowly, just 1 mm per year. So, a lichen that is around the size of your palm has been living on it's rock for hundreds of years.

The next time you scramble up a rock, look under your feet, that's an ancient being you might be damaging!

Lichen may not be beautiful like the arctic alpine plants, or magical like fly agaric mushrooms. It does, however, contain lots and lots of information about when a particular part of the Lake District was freed from glacier ice and the conditions as the world came back to life.

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Unknown member
Jun 01, 2023

That’s really interesting Gemma, thank you 🤗


Emily Bennett
Emily Bennett
Jun 01, 2023

Hurrah for the lichen. And thank you for acknowledging our mini friends. ❤️

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