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Lichens are composite organisms consisting of a symbiotic organism composed of a fungus (the mycobiont) with a photosynthetic partner (the photobiont or phycobiont), usually either a green alga cyanobacterium. (From Wikipedia) I have pinned most of, a lovely source of info - I love these organisms, they have the most unexpected variety, often are quite beautiful, and their common names are usually delightfully descriptive, and I have pinned some just for that. Like "Common toadskin" or "Speckled frogspelt". These often seem so insignifican a lifeform, and yet they have a huge range of uses and play a major role in establishing life in barren areas, being the first colonizers, and softening conditions for other plant-life. Widely beneficial, many very useful to humans as a variety of things such as: a source of medicines, a pollution indicator, a source of fibre, food in extreme conditions, a geological time marker, biome health indicator, and so on. Amazing stuff - too often overlooked in the wonderfully knit web of ecology.

Before weaving a rug or blanket, members of the Ramah Navajo Weavers Association raise and shear their own sheep, spin the yarns, and dye them with vegetal dyes. The warm browns in this skein of yarn and these weavings come from "ground lichen" (Xanthoparmelia chlorochroa), shown loose in the basket. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Ramah Navajo weavings

Usnea fillipendula ("fishbone beard lichen") on a spruce trunk, north shore of Lake Superior, Ontario. Species of Usnea contain usnic acid, which has well documented antibiotic properties. Usnea has been used medicinally since ancient times (in Greece and China at least) and throughout the world, except, apparently, in Australia. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Usnea fillipendula

The "elegant sunburst lichen", Xanthoria elegans, on rock, Yukon Territory. The Haisla and Hanaksiala in British Columbia used this lichen as a pigment for face paint. It is easy to confuse this lichen (common in western North America) with some of the lobate species of Caloplaca, especially Caloplaca ignea. A quick test is to gently peel up the edge of a lobe; if it can be removed from the rock without falling apart, it's the Xanthoria. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Usnea longissima, or "Methuselah's beard lichen", hanging from a Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) in the Oregon Cascades. This is easily the longest lichen in the world. It is extremely sensitive to air pollution and has vanished from most of Europe. Even in the Pacific Northwest, where one occasionally sees good stands of it, it has strict habitat requirements, is slow to grow or to spread, and it should never be collected. Usnea longissima was used for bedding and pillow stuffing in places as far apart as the Simla Hills of India and British Columbia, Canada, and it may have been the original Christmas tree tinsel. With names translating as "pine gauze" and "Lao-tzu's beard," it was described in the earliest Chinese herbal, from about 500 A.D. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Umbilicaria americana, the "frosted rock tripe", on a rockface, southern Idaho. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Thelomma californicum ("lobed nipple lichen") on a wooden fencepost along the California coast north of San Francisco. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Thamnolia vermicularis, the "whiteworm lichen", on alpine soil, northwestern Washington. The golden plover uses this lichen as nesting material. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Solorina saccata, "common chocolate chip lichen", on mossy soil, Yukon Territory. Don't think I will be making cookies of this one... Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Solorina saccata

Ramalina stenospora, the "southern strap lichen", on a shrub, northeastern Florida. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Ramalina stenospora

Psora pseudorussellii ("boardered scale") on mossy limestone, central Texas. Many lichen species prefer to grow on calcareous rock. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Psora nipponica ("butterfly scale") on a mossy rock in the mountains of southern Colorado. The growth form of this lichen, with its overlapping small lobes, is called "squamulose." The dark lumps are the fruiting bodies of the lichen fungus. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Pseudocyphellaria rainierensis, the "oldgrowth specklebelly", on a Douglas-fir trunk, southwestern Washington. This lichen is found only in the few patches of remaining old-growth forest in the Pacific Northwest. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Pseudocyphellaria crocata on a branch of manzanita (Arctostaphylos sp.) on the coast of Oregon. The yellow powdery spots are soralia, where balls of algea wrapped in fungal threads are produced--a non-sexual means of reproduction. This lichen is a source of brown dye for wool. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Pseudocyphellaria aurata, "green specklebelly", on the bark of a plane tree in the mountains of Tennessee. In Madagascar, a tea made from this lichen is used to treat indigestion. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Porpidia flavocaerulescens ("orange boulder lichen") on rock, along the Denali Highway, Alaska. The black discs are fruiting bodies of the lichen fungus. Dark lines form where two individual lichens meet. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Placidium tuckermanii (syn. Catapyrenium tuckermanii, English name,"tree stipplescale") on mossy bark at the base of a tree, Arkansas. It was photographed while it was damp; when dry it is tan rather than green. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Pilophorus acicularis, the "devil's matchstick" on a mossy boulder, northwestern Oregon. Often a pioneer on road cuts and other newly exposed surfaces, this lichen contributes to soil fertility by supplying fixed nitrogen. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Pilophorus acicularis

Physcia aipolia, the "hoary rosette lichen" on oak bark in the mountains of eastern Arizona. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff

Physcia aipolia

Phaeographis inusta, one of the "dark-spored script lichens", on the bark of a hardwood tree, western New Jersey. The dark lines are fruiting bodies of the lichen fungus. Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff