I’m Liking Lichen

Lichen Nature Study

Pretty cheesy pun, I know, but I am suddenly appreciating lichen after years of never giving it a second look.  Lichen is so prevalent that it seems ordinary, and I’m guilty of not taking the time to really observe it or point it out to my children.  But, as with many things in nature, the more I pay attention the more fascinated I become!  Participating in the Outdoor Hour Challenges with Barb from The Handbook of Nature Study blog encourages me to study topics in nature I may overlook.

Luckily even in Maine where the ground is still covered in snow like it is this March we can find lichen.  We walked in the woods and were surprised at its diversity. I grabbed a couple branches from the ground with samples to bring home.

Since I had never paid much attention to lichen coming into this study I felt like Barb did in her post about moss and lichen back in 2008, when she said she had to do more research and observation for this study because she was so uneducated about it.  The information on lichen in the Handbook of Nature Study book was uncharacteristically slim, but Barb’s newsletter had a very useful page on the three kinds of lichen that I printed and kept on our nature table.

I also found two helpful videos.  The first video from Science Friday helped us understand what lichen is–actually three different organisms (fungi, algae and bacteria) coming together to make a composite organism that can survive in almost any environment.


{As an aside, I love their videos.  Science Friday is a two hour radio show on NPR, but they also make short videos.  All of the ones I’ve watched so far have been wonderful!  They are concise, the narrator speaks clearly, and they always talk with an expert in the field–in this particular case a lichenologist.  Check out Science Friday’s YouTube channel, I think you’ll love it!}

The second video is from Clemson University’s extension program, and it describes the different varieties of lichen and what lichen needs to grow.

After the videos we inspected our samples with magnifying glasses and a stereo microscope, making drawings for our nature journals.

Drawing Lichen

My son’s page cracked me up.  He really enjoyed the Science Friday video and the cartoon they used to illustrate the different components of lichen (you can see the characters at the very bottom of his drawing).

Nature Journal Lichen 1

(Notice the question mark over the bacterium because they aren’t sure what it’s purpose is.)  He also then took his drawing into another room to secretly cut it out and back it with green paper because “he knew I’d like that.”  He knows his crafty mom likes it when he spends time making his work detailed.

We learned quite a bit, and I’m already noticing us paying a lot more attention to lichen when we’re out and about.  Touring a sugar bush for Maine Maple Sunday found us also pointing out interesting lichen samples.

lichen sample

Next I hope to learn a bit about moss, since we can still find samples above the snow.  I plan to copy Barb and bring moss in for our nature table, and I like her printable for moss observations.

OHC button

Any one else working to keep nature study going in a long northern winter?

4 Responses to I’m Liking Lichen

  • Well you have just educated me! While in Florida I found a couple of pieces of driftwood with lichen on it, but I thought it was moss (two different kinds). I thought that Barb was doing a moss study this month, so I grabbed them and brought them back to the house for us to observe and study. We just never got around to it. I probably would have taught my poor kids that they were some kind of moss. But, you have just showed me they were LICHEN! Now I have something we can study next time we are there.

  • Yes, I do so agree that there is so much to learn about lichen and its place in our everyday worlds. I love that so many have been able to complete the lichen/moss study even if they had snow outside….thanks for sharing the additional resources/videos too!

    Thank you for contributing to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival.

  • Tricia says:

    Love your study and the play on words!!

  • Makita says:

    Great videos! Thank you for sharing your families study. :)

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Hi, I'm Heidi and I homeschool my two sweet kids. I want them to know that learning is an exciting lifelong adventure! We love great books, unit studies, notebooking, lapbooking, and hands-on learning.

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