Kindling Neighborly Connections between People and Nature.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thankful for Liverworts, Lichens and Fungi

Liverwort means "liver-like small plant."
It's Thanksgiving and I'd like to express my thanks for liverworts, lichens and fungi.

Liverworts, because around 460 million years ago these strange leathery textured plants emerged as the probable link between green algae and terrestrial plants. Liverworts, having an affinity for moist habitats are still around today. Thank God for our Wild Neighbor liverworts!

Lichens on a rock overlooking the Canyon.
Lichens, because 395 million years ago these symbiotic organisms which are a delightful partnership between algae, fungus, and cyanobacteria began to eat rock. Yes, you heard correctly. Lichens have the miraculous ability to turn barren rockscapes into places where terrestrial plants can thrive. This phenomenon can be observed in places like the Alpine Tundra of the Adirondack High Peaks among other places. Thank God for our Wild Neighbor lichens!

At least two species of fungi work on decomposing a fallen tree.
Fungi, because 560 million years ago fungi made life on land possible on planet earth...and because 90% of plants are dependent on the mycorrhizal networks of fungi today. Fungi made life possible many millions of years ago and still do today; helping plants and trees obtain the nutrients that they need from the soil, and performing an invaluable role in the decomposition process through which things that were once living become nutrient-rich soil again. Thank God for our Wild Neighbor fungi!

Each of these three groups played critical roles as life evolved into what it is today over the course of a long, long, long, long long...long time. Fungi and lichens are so easy to overlook; yet both are vital to the health of ecosystems near and far, wild and domestic.

All this is to say, as you and I celebrate the beauty of today and the gift of biodiversity, let us each take a moment to thank a lichen, a fungi, and a liverwort for the gifts they bring.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Turkey-tail fungi

My finger next to a liverwort for scale.

Source material:

Lichens of the North Woods. Joe Walewski. Kollath Stensaas Publishing; Duluth, MN, 2007.

Mushrooms of the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada. Timothy J. Baroni. Timber Press Field Guide; Portland, OR, 2017.

Prehistoric Life: The Definitive Visual History of Life on Earth. Ina Stradins, Editor. DK Publishing; New York, NY, 2012.

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