poems

More lichen poetry and a bit of science

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It’s hard to stop at just one poem. Now I’m looking for quotes about lichens, and more poetry too.  So here is another lichen poem, by a trained biologist. This one goes deep into Lichen’s personal life. You might enjoy having a glossary of lichen terms nearby to get the most out of her verse, but even without that, I hope you are amused. She gives a fairly good synopsis of lichen life. Memorize the poem (why not?) and amaze your friends.

Lichen Poem  by Caryl Sue  (National Geographic/BioBlitz)

Their love can be a bit crustose

with areoles in bloom;

Their love can produce thread-like string,

called hyphae, when they plume.

Their love has colonized the Earth

from deserts to the ice;

These extremophiles exist

on sand, on trees, on gneiss.

Who could these star-crossed lovers be?

Why are they symbiotes?

They reproduce asexually

unlike us mammal folk.

A fungus, a mycobiont,

is one part of the pair-

It often lives all on its own:

itself, dead things, and air.

The other love, photobiont

can turn light into food;

The trick is photosynthesis

a skill that’s pretty shrewd.

Photobionts can be algae,

sometimes cyanobac;

Some lucky fungi can have both

at once, and that’s a fact.

A pair now caught between two worlds

not fungi, not algae

A composite organism

of one, or two, or three.

United now, this smart couple

sets out to reproduce;

Small spores or fragments of themselves

are set on winds, diffuse.

Some reproduce by using spores,

sped off to parts unknown.

These fungi that do not find mates

are doomed to die alone.

Soredia, isidia

are reproductive packs

In orange, or green, or yellow hues,

or purple, white, or black.

O foliose! O fruticose!

O squamulose, and more!

The fungi and the algae have

so many types in store.

Animals use them for their nests—

hummingbirds and turkey;

They’re almost all that reindeer eat

in the winter, murky.

People eat them as “famine food”,

They’re not a tasty treat.

They’re used in herbal remedies-

in dyes, and perfumes sweet.

So, once upon a time ago,

fungi, algae convince—

They fell in love, and they have been

lichen it ever since.

CO R 12-18
Lichens and ice on Cutoff Trail rocks Dec 2018

 

 

Lichen Poetry

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Poetry and lichens are two inspirations for me. I wrote a little lichen poem:

I’m liken’ lichens

they’re lookin’ lovely,

Like little lilies

all lined up on a log.

Of course it’s not very ‘good’! But it is fun. Lichens often seem very cheerful and playful. Any time there are so many shapes and colors, there has to be a party going on. I think it is the party of Life happening!

cropped-site-icon-website
Xanthoria sp. celebrating with bright colors

Greater poets than I have also noticed lichens, and each poet has a unique perspective. Pablo Neruda is one of my favorite poets. Here is his poem about lichens.

Lichen on Stone by Pablo Neruda

Lichen on stone: the web

of green rubber

weaves an old hieroglyphic,

unfolding the script

of the sea

on the curve of a boulder.

The sun reads it. The mollusk devours it.

Fish slither on stone,

with a bristling of hackles.

An alphabet moves in the silence,

printing its drowned incunabula

on the naked flank of the beaches.

The lichens

climb, higher, plaiting and braiding,

piling their nap in the caverns of

the ocean and air, coming and going,

until nothing may dance but the wave

and nothing persist but the wind.

If you are not familiar with Neruda’s work, read his Ode to Socks, and you will have a new love for a good pair of socks. Speaking of socks, I would love to have a nice warm pair of winter socks, with lichens crocheted or knitted around the top. It would go splendidly with my Lichen Hat. But my knitting skills are a long way from accomplishing those socks. Speaking of warm socks, now that it’s colder, and here in the Kickapoo, mostly damp and wet, it’s a good time to check your favorite rock or tree trunk for lichen activity. Of course, you won’t actually see any movement, but this is where memory is an important part of learning. Remember the last time you looked at that tree or rock?

CO R south facing- 10-17a
Lichen covered rock
CO R north facing 10-17g
Lichen covered rock

 

 

These two images of lichen covered rock are not exactly the same place, but illustrate the differences that can occur between wet and dry conditions. What is inconspicuous one day will be illuminated with color another day. Winter is a great time to see lichens, as the leaves that often cover them are gone. If there is not much snow the lichens are very visible, and of course on trees they are always visible.

If you see a beautiful lichen (use your hand lens!) and are inspired to write a poem, or just want to describe and complement the lichen, send your comment to this blog. If you give your name, I’ll send you a hand lens! Anonymous is ok too. Poems can be any length, any style, any degree of expertise; new poets are especially encouraged (I am one too). There will be a visit to the lichens, to read the poems to them, and anyone can come along for Lichen Hiking. Thanks for sharing this blog, and spreading Lichen Love!

BC 5A-DTtrunk Letharia vulpina 5.18b
Letharia vulpina on spruce tree in British Columbia

 

 

Lichen Poetry

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This is a small poem by Pablo Neruda, who was exquisitely observant of the world he inhabited. Does anyone else have a lichen poem? Send it to us!

Lichen on Stone

Llichen on stone; the web

of green rubber

weaves an old hieroglyphic,

unfolding the script

of the sea

on the curve of a boulder.

The sun reads it. The mollusk devours it.

Fish slither

on stone, with a bristling of hackles.

An alphabet moves in the silence,

printing its drowned incunabula

on the naked flank of the beaches.

The lichens

climb, higher, plaiting and braiding, piling

their nap in the caverns of ocean and air, coming

and going, until nothing may dance but the wave

and nothing persist but the wind.

-Pablo Neruda