Sunday
Jun102018

What is a Lichen?

The following photo may look like an underwater scene, but I found this amazing lichen growing on a fallen limb.Lichens can be quite beautiful. You may find them draping from trees and covering boulders. They often grow alongside moss. Despite their plant-like appearance, lichens do not have real roots, stems or leaves and have little in common with true members of the plant kingdom. 

A lichen is a complex life form that is a fusion of a fungus and an alga. The partners maintain a symbiotic relationship: the alga photosynthesizes and provides food for the fungus, and the fungus helps the alga to grow and spread in different environments.

Lichens get all of their water and nutrients from their surrounding environment via air and rain. They are able to absorb everything in the air around them, including pollutants. Scientists can determine the levels of pollutants in the atmosphere and assess their ecological impact by extracting heavy metals and other toxins from lichen. 

Lichens are usually composed of layers of algae and fungi. The color of the lichen is often determined by whether it contains green algae or blue-green algae, as well as the color of the fungus. However, the components of some lichen are all mixed together in one uniform layer. The resulting growth is gelatinous, and these are called jelly lichens. Lichens can look like colorful crusts, or they may be leafy, flat, or full of ridges and bumps. They may look like little shrubs, or they may be long and hairy.

Lichens are an important food source for wildlife. They also provide nesting materials for birds. Fortunately, lichens do not harm plants on which they grow, although they may indicate poor plant vigor. If they are considered unsightly, prune out offending branches and stimulate new growth by mulching, watering, and fertilizing. Control on tree trunks is not necessary.

For more information, read my previous post about lichens:  Amazing Lichens

Sunday
May272018

Weeds and World Problems in the May Garden

An established moss path is low maintenance, but it does need to be kept free of leaves and debris, and it needs to weeded once in a while. Weeding my moss paths in the woodland garden is a mindless, repetitive chore, and I enjoy doing it.An overview of the May woodland garden

I use a thick old canoe cushion to protect my knees while kneeling, and I take my time. I like to do this after a rain because weeds come up more easily. I use several types of weeding tools, depending on the weed. One of my favorites is a fishtail weeder that is perfect for popping small weeds out of the paths and for getting up the tap roots of plants like dandelions.The main moss path in the woodland garden

When I am weeding I let my mind drift. I listen to the birds. I make a mental list of other needed chores and plan future projects for the garden. I think about people I know, and in general I mentally solve the problems of the world as one weed after another succumbs to my efforts. If only world problems could be so easily eliminated. World problems do, after all, have some resemblance to weeds.A favorite view of the little bridge in the woodland garden

Summer arrived this month, and the air is thick and warm and laden with moisture. The woodland garden is a deep green retreat from the hot glare of the sun. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to enjoy sun rays that filter through the canopy. We have had plenty of rain this past week, and often the light sparks off leaves still wet with raindrops. I can almost imagine myself walking in a primordial paradise, except for the weeds, which quickly bring me back to reality.

More views around the garden this month:

Here is a view across the front lawn.The woodland garden is in the small valley on the far side of the drive.

Views of the front garden

A view across the lower front lawn near the entrance to our propertyA tropical storm is headed our way in the next day or so. Lots of rain, and more weeds coming! 

Happy gardening to you; and, while we can't solve all the world's problems, may we each do whatever we can in our little corner of the world to make the world a better place.   Deb