The lesser known ‘lichenworld’….

Everyone knows about birds, bees, animals, flowers, trees….. some even study them, identify them and glorify them…. but…  few people have gone into the study of ‘fungi‘ and even fewer into the world of ‘lichens‘. On the Indian side… very little data to be found on the internet.. our botanists and scientists, hold this information as valuable and closely guard the secrets… Which is why I decided to post the species I find on the blog.. to let people see what is found here..

Cladonia scabriuscula

‘Fungi’, the better known cousins of ‘lichens’ are still commonly identified.. as the bread goes ‘mouldy’ or the damp and rotting clothes, wood etc. with ‘fungus’, or for those with a taste for finer things… delicacies like, ‘chanterelle‘, ‘boletes‘ or ‘morels‘…. but ‘Lichens‘……

I would not like to go into the detailed explanations of lichens (not qualified enough)… instead let it suffice that I went into observing lichens.. as I was studying fungi. And when the winters arrived… there were very few fungi to be seen around… and THEN.. I discovered lichens. Perhaps the same way as the wild animals do…. when in winters there is very less fresh food around, especially in the snowbound areas… or even deserts… they survive on lichens… Of course to my interest was the fact that they are also an indicator of the health of any eco-system… which made me interested to find out which types of lichens grow here in Kalatope-Khajjiar Wildlife Sanctuary.. an indicator of the true health of this forest.. is it as pristine as they say..?? The amazing thing is that they can grow on almost about any surface… the one’s I found growing on wood, had cousins growing on hard rock too.. and I’ve even seen documentary evidence of it growing on plastic… maybe there is a scope that they do not just recycle nitrogen .. but plastic too… Hey..!! Who knows..?? Someday…

Some local women here told me that they had heard about lichens being used medicinally in ‘old’ times… but that knowledge is lost now to the modern generations… however there are records in other parts of the world about lichens being used as medicine also as in Russia, for treating wounds. Of course American tribes used it as food also (not as tasty as morels) but good for soups, Egyptians in bread, turkish in jellies, and of course the wild animals used it for survival.. with its high carbohydrate diet…

The photos of (only lichens) I am putting in the albums of ‘Lichen & Fungi of Kalatope-Khajjiar’ are not necessarily growing during the given periods.. but are classified according to when I found them. Actually, lichens actually grow very slowly, it is said some only a millimetre or two in a year and some even thought to be the oldest living things on earth.

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