Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - not even close

An old friend of TPP, Dr. Chips, sent along this image, a nomination for a FFF posting, and that isn't such a bad idea, so this is pretty unusual for him. This isn't a flower, or even in the technical sense, a plant, although it is a photosynthetic autotroph that can really take your breath away upon first seeing it. This is a lichen, more of a fungus, especially reproductively, but not wholly so either. Lichens are truly symbiotic organisms, a functional and morphological association between a fungus and an algae. The curious thing about the lichen as an organism is that it only looks like this when the association is taking place, but both the algae and the fungus can live apart from the other, however when free-living neither looks like this! Somehow the association of algae and fungus produces a new form, one that is recognized as a lichen. About a year ago TPP posted a blog about the birth of a lichen, how a lichen fungus captures the algae and begins forming a lichen.
This one has a flat, lobed thallus that reminds one of thalloid liverworts to some extent, but there is no real plant tissue present only a highly organized filamentous mycelium. Weird. Dr. Chips took this image on Vancouver Island, and just based on appearance, this lichen may be Peltigera neopolydactyla (the "new many fingered" lichen?).  Perhaps someone more knowledgeable of lichens can assist and provide a verification or a correct ID.  It would be appreciated.


Anonymous said...

Dearest Phactor,

given the colour, could it be Peltigera glauca ?

...just a suggestion from someone who lives a long long way from Vancouver Island...and who likes his algae / cyanobacteria au natural not all mixed up with this fungus-stuff.


The Phytophactor said...

Sorry, no P. glauca in Lichens of North America, although it would certainly be an appropriate specific epithet.