Gardening Nana: Fog Fingers, Dragon’s Funnels, Water Bears, Oh My!
Writer / Nancy Craig
Last month when I was telling my sister who lives in Florida about my article on moles, she thought I said molds or moss. She sent me pictures of the Christmas wreath lichen that she found on her walks in the Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine. Of course, I told her that was interesting, thinking what does this have to do with moles?
Later when I was looking through the book, “Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World” by Julia Rothman, it has a chapter called “Take a Hike” that tells about lichens. “Lichens are a fascinating union of fungus and algae living as one organism. Lichens are not bright green like mosses and lack a leafy structure.” Lichens have very descriptive names like white-worm lichen, elegant sunburst lichen and tumbleweed shield lichen.
In a bulletin by The Ohio State Extension called “10 Things You Should Know About Lichens,” they listed even more exotic names like rock pimples, fog fingers and dragon’s funnel. This article also answers other questions like “Do Lichens Damage Trees?” I was glad to find out that they do not damage trees since I have a red bud tree that looks like the lichens have possessed it. Other fun facts are that caribou and reindeer like to eat lichen. ohioline.osu.edu/sc195/029.html
This month, my great nephews, Max and Eli, will be going with us on hikes through Turkey Run State Park, and we will search out lichens and mosses along the trails. The Rothman book also tells about water bears or tardigrades that live and feed on mosses and lichens. They are eight-legged microanimals less than a 16th of an inch long, so we won’t be able to see them unless we check them out in a microscope. Actually, I think they are creepy looking, and the name moss piglet is more descriptive.
While we are hiking in Turkey Run, we won’t find the pretty Christmas wreath lichen, but maybe there is pumpkin face lichen. Who knows, it will be fun to check out nature’s curious parts and pieces.