Lichens are a successful alliance between a fungus and an alga. Only certain algae and certain fungi can get together to form a lichen.
Mr. Fungus is ready to meet our friend the alga.
The lichen is created between the fungus and the alga.
Since only certain algae and fungi can get together, this means that each union creates a unique type of lichen body (thallus). This thallus body enables scientists to make identifications and assign names.
Lichens are important in many ways:
Lichens are sensitive to pollution in the air and can tell us if the air is clear and clean.
Drug companies make antibiotics from lichen substances.
Some lichens make nitrogen in the air usable to plants.
Lichens are homes for spiders, mites, lice and other insects.
Lichens can be used as a natural dye to color wool.
People eat lichens (careful - a few are poisonous, so don't experiment without adult help).
To teach people more about lichens and to explore their unique characteristics, a query page has been developed which will enable you to learn how to identify these mysterious organisms.