Lichens can often go unnoticed but they are everywhere on farms, hanging from trees; growing on rocks, wooden fences and sometimes on old animal bones.
If you could look at a lichen under a microscope you’d see that most of a lichen is actually a fungus which gives the shape and a small algae which makes the food through photosynthesis. The algae and the fungus work together perfectly and because of this they are found in every continent and you’ll find them growing on boulders at the sea up to rocks at the top of Ireland’s highest mountains.
Apparently over 8% of the world’s surface is covered with lichens, and it’s reckoned that there are close to 1,200 lichen species in Ireland – compare that to less than 1,000 plant species found on our small island.
This picture is of at least three lichen species growing on the branches of an old Hawthorn in the middle of sheep grazed field in North Leitrim. The ‘fluffy’ lichen is Usnea, and it’s usually found in areas where air quality is good. So when you see this type of lichen, make sure to take a deep breath and enjoy the fresh, clean air.
For more information and pictures of lichens see http://www.lichens.ie/.