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Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre long
Heathland, hedgerows, lawns, mountains, rocky places, walls, woodland.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Lichens are a unique type of organism that are composed of a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an alga or a cyanobacterium. The fungus provides a protective structure for the alga or cyanobacterium, while the alga or cyanobacterium provides the fungus with food through photosynthesis.

Lichens come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors and can be found in many different environments, such as on rocks, trees, and even on soil. They are hardy organisms that can survive in extreme conditions, such as high altitude, arid deserts, and even in the polar regions.

Lichens are important indicators of air quality and can be used to monitor pollution levels in the environment. They are also used as a food source by various animals, such as reindeer and caribou.

Lichens have also been used in traditional medicine for centuries, and some species have been found to have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties.

Lichens reproduce both sexually and asexually. The fungal partner reproduce through spores, while the algae partner reproduce through cell division.

It should be noted that some lichen species are sensitive to air pollution and other forms of environmental damage, and their populations can decline as a result.


Lichen is a fascinating and often overlooked organism that grows wild in the UK. It is a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and either algae or cyanobacteria. The fungus provides a structure for the algae or cyanobacteria to grow on, and in return, the algae or cyanobacteria produce food for the fungus through photosynthesis.

Lichen can be found in a wide variety of habitats in the UK, including rocks, trees, soil, and even on man-made structures such as walls and roofs. It is an incredibly hardy organism, able to survive in some of the harshest environments, including the Arctic and Antarctic regions.

One of the most striking things about lichen is its diversity. There are around 1,800 species of lichen in the UK, with a wide range of colours, shapes, and textures. Some species are crusty and flat, while others are bushy or branching. Lichen can range in colour from bright orange and yellow to muted greens and greys.

Lichen plays an important role in the ecosystem, providing food and habitat for a range of animals, including insects, birds, and small mammals. It is also an indicator of air quality, with some species being sensitive to pollution. In fact, the presence or absence of certain species of lichen can be used to determine the level of air pollution in an area.

Despite its importance, lichen is often overlooked and undervalued. Many people don't even realize that it is a living organism, mistaking it for moss or simply as part of the rock or tree it grows on. However, lichen is an essential part of the natural world and deserves more attention and recognition.

If you're interested in exploring the world of lichen in the UK, there are plenty of resources available. Local natural history groups often organize walks and events focused on lichen identification and ecology. There are also a number of online resources available, including identification guides and databases of lichen species found in the UK.

Lichen is an important and fascinating organism that grows wild in the UK. It is incredibly diverse, hardy, and plays a crucial role in the ecosystem. By taking the time to appreciate and learn about lichen, we can gain a deeper understanding of the natural world around us.

Lichen has a long and interesting history, with evidence of its use by humans dating back to prehistoric times. Some cultures have used lichen for medicinal purposes, while others have used it as a source of dye or food. In fact, reindeer in the Arctic region depend on lichen as a major food source during the winter months.

Lichen can also be used as an indicator of climate change. As temperatures warm, some species of lichen are moving northward, while others are disappearing from their traditional habitats. This makes lichen a valuable tool for scientists studying the effects of climate change on the natural world.

One of the most interesting things about lichen is its ability to survive in extreme environments. Some species can survive in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Celsius, while others are able to withstand high levels of radiation or drought.

Despite its hardiness, lichen is facing a number of threats, including habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. In urban areas, lichen is often destroyed by air pollution, which can cause it to die off or change colour. This makes it even more important to protect and preserve the natural habitats where lichen grows.

In addition to its ecological and cultural significance, lichen has also been used for scientific research. Because of its symbiotic nature, lichen provides a unique model for studying the interactions between different species in the natural world. Researchers have used lichen to study everything from fungal genetics to climate change, and it continues to be a valuable subject of scientific inquiry.

There are also some interesting myths and legends associated with lichen. In some cultures, lichen was believed to have magical properties, and was used in spells and rituals. In Norse mythology, lichen was associated with the god Odin and was believed to have healing powers.

For those interested in studying or identifying lichen in the UK, there are a few things to keep in mind. Lichen can be tricky to identify, as it can look quite different depending on its growth form and the environment it's growing in. It's also important to be aware of the potential risks associated with collecting or handling lichen, as some species can be toxic.

Fortunately, there are many resources available for those looking to learn more about lichen identification and ecology. Local natural history groups and botanical gardens often offer workshops or courses focused on lichen, and there are many online resources available, including identification guides and databases of lichen species found in the UK.

Lichen also has some unique and interesting adaptations that have allowed it to survive and thrive in a variety of environments. For example, some species of lichen are able to grow in areas with high levels of heavy metals or other toxins, thanks to their ability to absorb and detoxify these substances.

Lichen can also survive in areas with little or no access to water, thanks to its ability to absorb moisture from the air. This adaptation has allowed lichen to colonize some of the driest regions of the world, including deserts and high-altitude regions.

In addition to its scientific and ecological importance, lichen has also been the subject of art and literature. Artists and writers have been inspired by the beauty and diversity of lichen, and its role in the natural world has been explored in works ranging from poetry to photography.

One of the best things about lichen is that it can be found almost everywhere in the UK, making it accessible to anyone interested in learning more about this fascinating organism. Whether you're exploring a rocky shoreline or a city park, there's a good chance you'll find lichen growing nearby.

In conclusion, lichen is a remarkable and versatile organism that plays a vital role in the natural world. Its ability to adapt and thrive in a variety of environments, and its importance to the ecosystem, make it a valuable subject of study and a fascinating part of the natural world. By taking the time to appreciate and learn about lichen, we can gain a deeper understanding of the world around us and the complex web of life that sustains us all.

Facts about Lichens

Here are some interesting facts about lichen:

  1. Lichen is not a single organism, but rather a symbiotic relationship between two or more different species - typically a fungus and an algae or a cyanobacterium.

  2. Lichen can be found in almost every habitat on Earth, from the Arctic tundra to the hot deserts of Africa and Australia.

  3. There are over 20,000 species of lichen worldwide, and they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

  4. Lichen is a source of food for many animals, including reindeer, caribou, and some species of birds and insects.

  5. Lichen can grow on almost any surface, including rocks, trees, and even artificial structures like buildings and statues.

  6. Some species of lichen can live for thousands of years, making them some of the oldest living organisms on Earth.

  7. Lichen has been used by humans for thousands of years for a variety of purposes, including as a source of dye, medicine, and food.

  8. Lichen is an important indicator of air quality, as it is very sensitive to pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

  9. In addition to its ecological importance, lichen has also been the subject of scientific research in fields ranging from genetics to astrobiology.

  10. Lichen can be difficult to identify, as different species can look quite different depending on the environment they're growing in and the stage of their growth cycle.

These are just a few of the many interesting facts about lichen. Whether you're a scientist, a nature lover, or just curious about the natural world, lichen is a fascinating organism that is well worth learning more about.


In conclusion, lichen is a remarkable organism that plays a vital role in the natural world. Its symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae or cyanobacteria allows it to thrive in a variety of environments, making it one of the most adaptable organisms on Earth. Lichen's ecological significance, including its role as a source of food and an indicator of air quality, has made it an important subject of scientific research. Moreover, lichen has cultural significance, having been used for thousands of years by humans for various purposes such as medicine, food, and even magic. Overall, lichen is a fascinating and versatile organism that deserves appreciation and study for its many unique qualities and contributions to the natural world.