Lichen, Beach Botany

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Lichens are established residents in Matanzas Pass Preserve. There are countless numbers growing everywhere. Lichens are bizarre organisms and no two are alike. A complex life form composed of two separate organisms, a fungus and an alga.

The fungi are a diverse group of organisms that are in their own kingdom (Fungi), separate from plants. Fungi are known for their role in decomposition of organic matter in ecosystems where they partner with plants and trees for nutrients.

Algae are in another kingdom (Protista) separate from plants and fungi. There are several types of algae: green, brown, red, white.  Algae is easily found on our beach.  They can survive in salt water and fresh water on their own.

Fungi is the dominant partner, however, Fungi cannot make its own food but it can transfer nutrients. The Alga, however, can produce food through photosynthesis. Fungi passes nutrients to the Alga and takes back Alga’s food. A symbiotic relationship.

Lichenologist Trevor Goward said, “The Fungi discovered agriculture.”  The red colored specimen in the photo was found on a tree in the Preserve.