Today’s the day we celebrate love and relationships. But did you know love is all around us in nature?
This Valentine’s Day we’re marking a different kind of romance, one that lives in the Credit River Watershed. This permanent pairing in nature isn’t an obvious one. It’s easy to think of animals, insects, or even plants pairing up, but have you ever heard of lichens?
Lichens are a life-long union between a fungus and an algae which get together from the start and stay together until they die. They are a perfect union in that they each provide for the other, and are dependent on another similar to a human relationship.
Essentially the fungus provides the structure of the “plant body” that protects the algae cells and keeps them safe and moist. The algae cells photosynthesize, making food from sunshine and leak nutrition out of their cells which feeds the fungus. This relationship is called symbiosis.
In some lichens partners cannot survive on their own. In others they might be able to grow separately but they do very poorly on their own. Talk about true love.
Happy Valentine’s Day. From nature!