Lichen My Maple


There is always music amongst the trees in the garden,

but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.

Minnie Aumonier


Just wanted you to know that both blogs are experiencing a few glitches since we moved them to a new host server.  Things should smooth out soon, but you may find a comment is missing or you cannot access the blog.  I appreciate your patience as things work themselves out.  Now on to the post….


In my last tree following post, I mentioned my fascination and curiosity regarding the lichen that grows so heavily on my maple tree.  Some folks speculated about the lichen, and I thought I would dig into the story behind lichen a bit more to bring its story to light.tree-logo

I am linking in with Lucy@Loose and Leafy’s Tree Following meme that happens around the 7th of every month.

The tree, now fully leafed out, is providing lovely shade for us and shelter for many birds who are still frequenting the garden especially the wrens who are raising a second brood nearby.





Lichen is formed from a unique relationship between fungus and algae.  Fungus gives protection and support, and algae provides food for photosynthesis.

Lichens can be found in land or aquatic areas all over the world.  They are found particularly where there are weather extremes (much like where I live), and you usually find them on rocks and tree bark.  But be careful to distinguish lichen from moss.  Lichens appear dry, thin and coarse.  You can see both in the growing down from the crook of the tree with moss being a dark green growing down the center.





A great many lichen species are found in undisturbed habitats such as ancient forests.  And since lichens are vulnerable to changes in the habitat scientists use lichens to target areas that should be protected.  It is also said that lichens cannot grow in areas with heavy pollution.

You can find thousands of lichens throughout the US and Canada and well over 2500 have been found in the National Parks where habitats are less disturbed.





To figure out which lichen you may have you have to look first at the surface texture which can be granular, smooth or veined.  Then look at color which can vary from white, grey, orange, reds, yellow-greens and greens.  I have gray, green and orange lichens that appear smooth.  The last thing to look for are what are called lobules.  These are growths coming out from the lichen that are used in the lichen’s reproductive process.  

Determining which type of lichen you may have can be difficult and may require an expert.  But most experts say that you will generally find three types of lichen in most backyards:  Crustose, Foliose and Fruticose. 

Mine appear to be mostly of the Foliose variety.  Foliose is so named because this lichen looks like foliage or leaves.  As this lichen ages the edges will curl up.  It appears my lichen is quite old in spots as it is curling up in the picture above and below.




DSCN9756 Lichens have a been used by wildlife and people for centuries.    

In particular native people have used lichens to dye yarn and fabric.  There is one specific lichen used for its antibacterial and antifungal properties in some countries, and here in the U.S. it is used in perfumes, toothpaste and natural deodorant sticks. 





Lichens are used extensively by wildlife because of their ability to retain water. They serve as a refuge from predators for some amphibians and insects, who  also lay eggs in lichen. 

Many species of birds in North America use lichens.  Some like grouse and wild turkey eat lichen.  Others like Warblers, Vireos and hummingbirds use lichens in their nests.  

There are mammals who also eat lichen like mountain goats in Alaska, and flying squirrels like to use lichen in their nests too. 



Do you notice lots of lichen on your trees?  What does it look like?   






Trees embellish a landscape and a garden.  Even in small places where size is restricted, the mere presence of just one tree…instantly adds a serious dimension to the overall effect…  ~Mirabel Osler








Visit my new blog: 

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I wanted to thank all the wonderful people who visited me last Thursday and this past Sunday as I continued to post at my new blog, Living From Happiness.  It is a blog to celebrate life, lessons, change, challenges and creativity.

I do hope you will join me there.  

There will be a new post tomorrow.




Next up on the blog:  Monday brings another Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day, and Wednesday I will have an update on the veg garden.


All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.



56 Replies to “Lichen My Maple”

  1. Lovely post Donna, I find lichens fascinating and during the winter months they are very satisfying to observe, when so much is dormant. Glad too your wrens are raising a second brood in your Maple.

    1. Thanks Julie…it was fun to find out some more info on my lichens. I too love to fixate on them all winter…they really stand out then!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Sue. I love the idea that my lichen is used by wildlife! I hope to learn a bit more about the lichen in my garden.

  2. Oh yes, I’m fascinated by lichens, as well. And mosses. And mushrooms. They’re the underappreciated adornments that quietly go about their business while the loud and vibrant plants and trees and shrubs get all the attention. Great post!

    1. Thanks Beth. I agree that lichens, moss and fungi are the most fascinating organisms in my garden too…and so important to wildlife.

  3. Donna, I love lichen and moss growing on trees, so it’s a good thing I live in the PNW, because they grow everywhere here, even on young trees. Sometimes people worry about them, but they do the trees no harm.

    1. Alison, we can tell folks that trees and the environment need lichen. Such an amazing organism. They say it rains and is as gray here as it is in Seattle/PNW. I’ve been to both and have to agree…but one of our perks is all that lichen and moss!

  4. Lots of great information here! I have seen those pieces of lichen in bird nests too.

    But, which pronunciation do you use for lichen??

  5. I’ve always been fascinated by lichens and the trees in our backyard are covered in them. I also like moss and encourage it to grow on the north side of some of the big rocks we have.

    1. I too encourage moss in my garden Judith. If it is growing there then it is important to the ecosystem. I have some wonderful moss growing on my brick patio and I adore it.

    1. Thanks Donalyn. I bet your woods are amazing especially all the different lichen there. It is a healthy area with all that lichen.

  6. Looked for lichen on my tree but not a sign – it would probably be the nitrophilous kind as opposed to your lovely florets which grow all the way up your maple. You still have a good deal of green foliage too for this time of year

    1. Laura I would love to see any lichen you find around you especially those that are a different variety.

      Our summer is still going strong so our leaves will stay green through August. We will start to see a slight change as September moves along especially if the nights cool off more. In the mountains the leaves will change sooner than here at 100 feet above sea level. I hope the change over stays at bay longer as my veg garden is behind and needs more time in the heat!

  7. I hadn’t realised there are that many lichens. Have always felt that the symbiosis of fungi and algae makes them like science fiction beings. I think reindeer eat lichen too. Maybe that’s what Father Christmas puts in their nose-bags.

  8. I always used to notice lichen on trees, fallen and living, then I got too busy clearing trees. It’s neat you could identify the kind you have. I would have no idea how to do that or figure it all out. I think my trees don’t have so much lichen. They carry things like poison ivy and Virginia creeper and those two vines–especially poison ivy-get quite hairy and think so much so I can’t even see the bark of some trees:( I have to be careful around them but I will look tomorrow when I am out there working.

    1. Yes Tina those are 2 very worthy opponents when they entangle trees. We have an old vine of one of our trees that does not grow but we don’t know which it is…so we stay clear as it could be poison ivy.

      There is quite a bit of info online about lichens in the US so I bet if you wanted to, you could find some info on yours too.

  9. Gosh Donna, whoever would have thought it ? Thanks for an interesting post about Lichen, I will never look at it the same again ! Also loved your shots of it ?

    1. Thanks Jane. I have been admiring the lichen here for a while and it was fun to learn more. Glad you enjoyed the info.

  10. What a great quote from Minnie Aumonier! And a fascinating introduction to the world of lichens. We see the best ones on the Inner Hebrides, off Scotland, where the air is pure.

    1. Caroline I loved that quote too. I bet your lichens there are incredible as they flourish the most in pure air!

    1. Thanks Jason. I couldn’t resist it! I love walking in old woods just to look at the tree bark and what nature has done to it…

  11. I just think they are darn interesting and pretty on the trees. I “lichen” your title. I guess you know your site has been down here and on your new blog. I thought you made them private. I tried for days to get to Living From Happiness. I sent a new reader to that blog and she had a hard time subscribing. Kinks to work out I guess.

    1. Actually we had to move hosting services and it takes the internet a while to update. The technical aspects are so crazy but now all is well we hope. We did finally put up a maintenance sign since it was taking so long. Thank you for hanging in there.

  12. Wow, fascinating! I had no idea lichen was used in so many different ways! When I was a kid, we had a lot of Reindeer Moss lichen around, and we used to play house and decorate our ‘house’ with it. I love how lichen looks – it’s so pretty!

  13. Indie what a lovely memory. I love finding bark that has come off the tree that still has lichen and moss on it.

  14. What a great topic for a post. I have long been enchanted by lichens. This post will get me to stop and look more closely at those growing on my trees. Thanks!

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post Jean. I would love to see what lichens you have growing in that clean, fresh air in Maine.

  15. I love the title of this post. It’s so clever. 🙂 I have lichen growing on the roof of a bird house and on my wooden fence. I love the sense of age it implies. Plus, it’s just a cool plant.

    1. I just couldn’t resist the title as it was too perfect when I decided to write about lichen…it is such a cool plant!

  16. Love your tree Donna! I think I planted a Maple because I love the lichens that grow on their beautiful trunks and branches – ok, really I planted a Red Maple for its wildlife value and good thing, too, since our neighbor’s Sugar Maple was just taken down. (It died.) Now my Maple should thrive I would think! Anyway, we have so much lichen here along the river. It is fascinating. I will need to study those three different kinds you mentioned and see if I can identify all three! I love when I find rocks with lichen on them. The lichen continues to live in my garden if I bring them home.

    1. If we didn’t already have maples I would have planted a red maple….besides the wildlife benefit, they look great too. Kathy nice to have lichen covered rocks in the garden too!

  17. Great post and some interesting information there.
    I love lichens and their subtle colours, although I guess their dyes are surprisingly bright, or at least dark.
    All the best 🙂

  18. thanks for an interesting post Donna, there are a lot of lichens where I live and many years ago they were used as a natural dye, locally in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland Lichen is also known as Crottle, it is rarely used in dying now as it is illegal to pick it in the wild, I think lichens add further texture and interest to the bark of a tree, yours looks great, Frances

    1. Frances it is fascinating to hear that there too, years ago, they used lichens for dyes. Love the name Crottle. I agree they add so much more beauty to the bark of a tree….glad you enjoyed the post!

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