I’m Likin’ the Lichen

Lichen (pronounced “liken”) is a living, symbiotic organism typically found on rocks and is composed of a fungus and an algae.  The fungus anchors the lichen to its rock or tree host.  The algae feeds the lichen through photosynthesis, converting carbon dioxide into carbon sugars.  Both partners gain water and mineral nutrients through rain and dust from the atmosphere. 

Lichens are very important in nature because they eventually break down rock to form soil in which larger plants can grow on rocks and cliffs.  Lichens can also serve as food for some animals such as deer.  We like lichens because they are beautiful examples of natural rock art. 

The lichen above was found in Colorado National Monument, Colorado.  Following are more examples of lichen that we’ve seen on our trip and where we found them.


Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado


Arapaho National Forest, Colorado


Badlands National Park, South Dakota


Mojave National Preserve, California


Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah


Death Valley National Park, California


Rare blue lichen in Death Valley National Park, California

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