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Last Updated: Nov 5, 2008 - 10:12:07 AM 

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Saturation Point

Clean Air
By Karey Burek
Nov 6, 2008 - 10:06:45 AM

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I am not too familiar with things that grow on trees, other than leaves of course. I noticed during my hikes and my gardening out in the yard that there was a green crust forming on some of the trunks of the trees.The stuff growing on the trees in my yard was a cool green color and felt smooth to the touch. What I saw while hiking through the forest was a bright red color that presented itself almost like polka-dots on the tree trunk.

I was curious as to what this material was and if it was going to kill the trees in my yard so I started to do a little bit of research and found out that what I was ­observing was, in fact, Lichen, which is made up of fungus and algae. There is a little story about a guy named Freddy Fungus and a young lady named Alvina Algae who fell in love and formed a most harmonious relationship, resulting in Lichen. Their love is so strong that scientists cannot separate the fungus from the algae and have categorized it as a totally different species, lichen.
Red Lichen

According to there are 3 different kinds of lichen. One looks like a little shrub and is called bushy lichen, while the second is flatter but looks like it has ripples through it is called leafy lichen. The final is crustier, and is what I found on my trees and is called crusty lichen. All kinds of lichen are super-sensitive to pollution and scientists use the lichen as a clean air indicator -- so the air in my backyard is pretty clean! The red lichen that I observed while hiking through the woods is technically called Baton-Rouge lichen and is the top indicator of extremely clean air.

Basically every plant and animal relies on lichen to replenish the topsoil as it slowly erodes wood and rock. The love of the algae and fungus is spread throughout the animal and plant kingdom to make the circle of life continue, plus it keeps our air fresh and clean!

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