Lichen Lemon Tarts
One of the wonderful things about wildlife is that there will be some around whatever the weather, and it can cheer you up on a grey day. My mood was instantly lifted by this vibrant yellow lichen, which has made a home of a metal park fence. In the dull light, it just seemed to glow.
In a conversation with a Kew biologist earlier this week, I was told that during a workshop, a group of children had named one of the lichens they found at Kew “Lemon Tart Lichen”. Looking at the specimen in front of me, I had to admit it was a truly perfect description for the small concaved discs on the lichens surface!
These discs are actually are called apothecia, and contain the microscopic reproductive spores of the fungal part of the lichen. These spores drift away in the wind, and if they happen to land in close proximity to a suitable algae partner, then a new lichen is formed. Lichen is a symbiosis between a fungi and an algae; two organisms growing as one.
Through a combination of photosynthesis and absorbing nutrients trough rain water, lichens can grow without proper roots, even on metal as seen here!
As lichens absorb what ever chemicals are within rain water, they are particularly susceptible to pollution. The fact that we are seeing more and more lichens in London says a great thing about our air quality. Hurray. Think I’ll have a lemon tart to celebrate.