Photo courtesy North American Lichen Project
Lichens are lessons in co-operation we all could learn from. The body or structure of the lichen is made of a fungus, while inside the cells are a green alga. The fungus provides structure and water holding capability, while the algae make food for both through photosynthesis. This known as a symbiotic relationship.
Lichens may be found on rocks, ledges and older tree trunks throughout the area. Lichens release acids as they grow and are actually part of the weathering process that eventually wears away mountains. They also provide small micro-habitats for plants such as columbines by holding small pockets of soil.
Lichens are intolerant of air pollution, and the abundance of them in the Ozark forests indicates that we can breathe a little easier.