Have you ever heard the one about Alice Algae and Freddie Fungus? Seems they took a lichen to each other.
Lichens are everywhere here on Cape Cod and many people are confused as to whether they are an algae or a fungus. They are neither, actually, but sort of a combination of the two. They get the advantage of the symbiotic qualities of the fungus as well as the photosynthetic abilities of the algae and can survive in what may otherwise be very tough and hostile habitats.
There are lichens such as the shield lichens that grow on tree bark and lichens that seem to grow in the air off of tree branches, like the dead man’s beard. In the coastal dune areas we also find a lot of reindeer lichen which has little branchlets that resemble antlers and my favorite, the little red capped British soldiers.
Every year I try to learn a little more about these interesting plants. There are thousands of different kinds and I don’t really know how many we have here on Cape Cod but it would be fun to go out and see how many we could find.
For more information check out Gil Newtons’ Cape Cod Coastal Ecology Website.