glenn's cove landscape
During your outdoor adventures you probably see many green things growing on trees and rocks (epiphytes)….fungus, algae, moss, lichen….it can be easy to confuse them, especially moss and lichen…..what is the difference?  Simply put, lichens are not a plant, and mosses are…did you know that?
Mosses are green plants somewhat similar to algae except they have a complex structure that resembles stems and leaves.  Through a magnifying glass, you can clearly see individual leaves arranged on stalks, like minuscule houseplants densely bunched together to form what might look like a fuzzy mat from a foot away.  Because they contain chlorophyll, mosses can manufacture their own food.  Mosses grow on soils, on tree trunks and branches, on rocks, and in water.  They are typically soft and prefer damp shady areas.  Even though mosses make their own food through photosynthesis like other plants, they do not have flowers or seeds. Instead, they send out spores or can reproduce when one part of the moss breaks off and lands in an appropriate place for growth.

Lichens have two components—a fungus and an alga or cyanobacteria living in association with one another to give the appearance of a single plant. Lichens grow on soil, on trunks and branches of trees and shrubs, and on rocks….they are rarely found in water.  Lichens come in numerous growth forms, so it can be confusing to tell what you’re looking at.  Some are vaguely leafy looking (foliose lichens) while others are just kind of low and crusty (crustose lichens) and still others look like hair or fine filaments (fruticose lichens).  The fungus part of the lichen can not make its own food, which is why in lives symbiotically with algae or cyanobacteria-the algae or bacteria provide the lichens with photosynthetic energy.  Lichens reproduce either through the production of spores like most other fungi, or can sometimes reproduce when fragments of the tough, bark-like structure break off and fall on an appropriate surface.  Lichens are really good at the long game. They grow extremely slowly, can live hundreds of years, and can survive droughts and complete desiccation for long periods of time thanks to their fungal housing.

So, next time you take a walk in the woods, look for epiphytes and see if you can identify what type they are!

-Melissa Brogle, Volunteer Coordinator

glenn's cove farm house
2 volunteers picnicing at glenn's cove
volunteers walking along the marsh
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