This week we have been looking at lichen. We found these examples in our garden. Lichen is an example of symbiosis: two or more organisms that live together (coexist) and depend upon each other. We found out that Lichen is made up of fungi and algae, the fungi provide the structure and the algae provides the food. This National Geographic video explains lichens are made up of two different fungi plus one alga.

For 150 years, scientists believed lichen were defined by a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and algae. The fungus provides structure and support for the organism, while the algae produces food through photosynthesis. However, researchers recently discovered that certain lichen have an additional fungus in the mix. This threesome was revealed after a team set out to explain what made one type of lichen toxic versus another that was seemingly identical.

National Geographic Website


Lichen Dyes

We gathered some Lichen from our garden.

We put the oak moss in a glass jar and covered it with boiling water. We did the same with the greenshield.

The jars were placed in our slow cooker with some water in the bottom. (This is sometimes called a bain marie).

We left them all day and then in the evening added some strips of white cotton fabric. The green shield had turned the water a dark brown colour; the oakmoss, a light yellow.

The next day we removed the strips of fabric. You can see the results below. (Pictures to be added soon).

We were pleased with the results of the greenshield dye. The oakmoss was a little disappointing. Perhaps it might have given a stronger colour if we had boiled it on the stove. There are lots of tutorials online. Some lichens give bright blue and purple colours, usually with the addition of ammonia and a longer wait!


P1040468 (Medium)
oak moss (fruticose)
P1040469 (Medium)
greenshield (foliose)
P1040470 (Medium)
P1040471 (Medium)
crustose (close up)

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