Join Kristin Jakob and Shelly Benson to see the Lichens of Rock Spring.
LACE LICHEN NAMED THE OFFICIAL CALIFORNIA STATE LICHEN
California is first to designate a lichen as a state symbol
Governor Jerry Brown recently signed the bill designating lace lichen (Ramalina menziesii) as the California Sate Lichen. The law takes effect January 1, 2016, making California the first state to recognize a lichen as a state symbol. Lace lichen joins California’s other symbols which include the California poppy (state flower) and the grizzly bear (state animal).
The California Lichen Society (CALS) was instrumental in getting the state lichen passed. Shelly Benson, CALS president, explained that lace lichen has three strong qualities that made it an ideal candidate. First, it is easy to recognize even by those not very well acquainted with lichens. Second, it is common throughout much of California—growing along the coast from the northern to the southern borders and up to 130 miles inland. Lastly, and most significantly, it is an amazingly beautiful lichen.
“I see this as an important step in increasing public awareness of lichens. Lichens are found all around us, growing on almost any surface and found in nearly every habitat; yet, they are overlooked by most people” said Benson. Lichens are composite entities—composed of two or more different organisms. In its simplest form, the lichen is made up of a fungus and an alga. These two partners live intertwined in a symbiotic relationship. The fungus provides a structural home that protects the algal cells. In return, the alga feeds the fungus by producing sugars through photosynthesis.
While small in stature, lichens play a big role in the ecosystem. With nearly 1,900 species of lichens in California, they contribute to our region’s rich biological diversity. Lichens are known for their sensitivity to air pollution and climate, and are being used across California to monitor air quality and climate change. Lichens are an integral part of the living soil crusts that stabilize desert soils.
Additionally, animals use lichens for food, nesting material, and camouflage. Humans have found a number of uses for lichens as well. Possibly the most promising is in the area of medicine. Lichen extracts are being studied for their antibacterial properties.
Calling attention to lichens by recognizing one of them as the California State Lichen creates an opportunity for us to learn about and celebrate the things that make California special.
The mission of the California Lichen Society is to promote the appreciation, conservation, and study of California lichens. For more information and photos of the state lichen, visit www.californialichens.org.