What do British soldiers and fairy puke have in common?

The answer is that they are both lichens.

Yesterday was lichen day with the South Shore Young Naturalists Club. It is usually Matt who accompanies the girls, but I wanted to go because the talk was on lichens. I’ve been mildly obsessed with lichens since finding the witches whiskers. Yesterday’s talk didn’t disappoint. The teacher, Frances Anderson, knew her stuff and sent us home with a box full of 12 lichen specimens from this part of the world, plus a hand lens each. Swag!

Lichen is a symbiosis of fungi and algae. Frances explained with a pita bread (the fungus) with a bunch of sprouts inside (the algae). The fungus surrounds the algal cells making a unique organism that differs from both fungus and algae. All it needs to survive is water, sunshine and clean air. Plenty of that in Nova Scotia.

All 12 are found commonly in the South Shore. We spotted most of them on a walk through the woods today. You can eat them if you get really hungry, but they taste like cardboard (Lily reliably informs me).

Here are photos of some of the specimens we came home with. (Photos by Matt, I’m not patient enough to take careful close-ups!) Aren’t they beautiful!

From left to right:  British soldiers, fairy puke, pixie cups, map lichen, bottlebrush, sunburst, lungwort (before and after being sprayed with water — this brings out the vivid green colour). Got to love these common names! Makes witches whiskers sound positively dull.

4 thoughts on “What do British soldiers and fairy puke have in common?

    • I should post the rest of the photos… the reindeer lichen was pretty cool but there’s no photo of that here. It’s a staple for reindeer/caribou during the winter months and apparently eaten by desperate polar explorers, too.

  1. you have found a good club there; we heard our first Nightingale of the season 2 days ago.
    Have you looked at the Cuckoo tracking site?

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