Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Don't Worry about Lichen on Your Plants; They're Not Causing Any Damage and, in Fact, Are a Sign of Clean Air

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Don't Worry about Lichen on Your Plants; They're Not Causing Any Damage and, in Fact, Are a Sign of Clean Air

Article excerpt

Byline: TERRY BRITE DELVALLE

A common question, especially when plants are bare and just leafing out, goes like this: "My plants are dying and are covered with a flaky moss-type growth. How can I save my plants?"

The growth is called lichen, and it's a natural part of our environment. If your plants are dying, it's not from the so-called "killer lichen."

Lichens grow on practically anything that doesn't move, including mail box posts, rocks and plastic. So it's safe to conclude that lichens are not getting any nutrition from the plant but are simply using it for support.

Lichens are typically gray-green and have no roots, stems or leaves. They are a combination of two organisms, an algae and a fungus, growing together in a symbiotic relationship. The algae make food through photosynthesis and share the food with the fungus. In turn, the fungus provides water and minerals for the algae. This enables them to live in some of the harshest environments including Antarctica, deserts and on mountaintops.

These opportunist plants grow on the bark and stems of many of our landscape plants and are more noticeable during winter months, when plants are bare. Lichens grow rapidly when exposed to increased sunlight, which is why they are more prolific on plants with a thin canopy that are often in a state of decline.

They appear as patches of small gray-green, blue-green or red-green flakes on branches and trunks of trees and shrubs. Lichens spread by tiny, wind-borne spores or when small fragments break off and ride the rainfall.

There are many different types of lichen that take on different appearances, depending on the surface on which they are growing. The three main types of lichen on landscape plants are cructose, foliose and fruiticose.

The cructose has a flat crusty appearance and adheres closely to the bark. …

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