Sun 19: Lichens

Lichens—like us at the moment—are playing the long game. Let’s learn some lessons from our most patient plants…

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Below are some talking points and activities to pass the time, all relating to today’s story.

Talking points

Discuss the ideas presented in the video with your family—at home or over video conferencing. Find ways to involve as many people as possible, especially those who you know are isolated by the lock-down.

  • Would you say you have paid a little, or a lot of attention to lichen before reading this article? What colour lichens do you think you have seen before? What shapes of lichen have you seen—flat, hairy or crust-like lichen? Any others? Have you seen it on wood? Rocks? Gravestones? Asphalt?
  • What do you notice about the orange lichen, seen under the magnifying glass, in the second to top picture? Does the shape of the magnified lichen look a bit like a mushroom to you? Lichen is made by fungi and algae living together like flatmates—can you figure out where the fungi and algae might each be?
  • For a tiny plant, lichen is powerful—it can dissolve rock. How could this make lichen a “helping” plant in terms of supporting other plants and animals?
  • Lichens grow very slowly, so the largest lichens on Earth may be around 5,000 years old. They’re probably the world’s longest-living organisms. What does this fact make you think or feel about lichens? What might enable lichens to survive for such a long time compared to other living things?

Task—Lichen Riddle

Write a riddle about lichen. Riddles are traditionally written in the first person, using the word “I” and describing the mystery item using clues. Here’s a riddle about oranges:

I am as round as a ball
Bite into my shield and you will wince
But inside, a sweet surprise.
What am I?

Test out your lichen haiku by sending it to someone to see if they can figure it out!

Get Creative: Make a Fairy House

Fairy garden creation

Head outside with a magnifying glass, if you have one, and look around for all the lichens growing secretly around you!

  1. Then build a beautiful house for any visiting fairies.
  2. The bottom of a tree is a great place for a fairy house or garden.
  3. Use leaves, sticks, stones and flowers to make fairy-sized furniture.
  4. Can you make a table and seats, food for a feast, lanterns, beds or anything else?
  5. Add some lichen—it would be great in an acorn cup for some fairy soup!

Send us a picture of your fairy garden!

Fairy house bed

Table and chairs fairy house