Lichen Facts



  • Lichens are a remarkable partnership between algae and fungi.
  • The algae in lichen are tiny green balls which make the food from sunlight to feed the fungi.
  • The fungi make a protective layer around the algae and hold water.
  • There are 20,000 species of lichen. Some grow on soil, but most grow on rocks or tree bark.
  • Fruticose lichens are shrub-like, foliose lichens look like leaves, and crustose lichens look like crusts.
  • Lichens only grow when moistened by rain.
  • Lichens can survive in many places where other plants would die, such as the Arctic, in deserts and on mountain tops.
  • Some Arctic lichens are over 4000 years old.
  • Lichens are tiny and slow-growing – some growing only a fraction of a millimeter a year. But they are usually long-lived.
  • Lichens are very sensitive to air pollution, especially sulphur dioxide, and are used by scientists to indicate air pollution.
  • The oak moss lichen from Europe and North Africa is added to most perfumes and after-shaves to prevent flower scents from fading. Scandinavian moss is lichen that is eaten by reindeer. It is exported to Germany for use as decorations.
  • Crustose rock lichens form dense crusts which attach themselves to the rocks by their whole undersurface.