My problem is that I don’t have much experience in lichen identification or classification, so I don’t know whether I’m looking at dozens of different species or dozens of variations of one species. I do have the Brodo text which, if based on weight, must be the best available. I know it’ll cut off circulation to the legs if you try hold it on your lap while reading. I also have some less detailed references, but I haven’t had the time to do any serious lichen studies.
I do know that lichens are a special type of organism formed through the symbiotic relationship of an algae and a fungus. The association produces an organism that is different from either one of the symbionts. It’s interesting enough to think of one type of algae and one fungus having this type of relationship, but to have thousands of different species combining to produce all of these myriad forms is amazing.
Lichens are very sensitive to environmental changes, both local and global. This should be reason enough to learn the lichens, so we are able understand what they can tell us. The abundance of lichens at Blue Jay Barrens should be an indicator that things in general are well, but how am I to know that crinkled edges and rust spots are not the signs of a lichen in the throes of death.
I’ll learn more eventually. For now, I try to be aware of the lichens and maintain a diversity of substrates upon which they can grow. One day I may be able to look at a patch of lichen such as this and tell you about air and rain quality and all the other factors that affect this patch of earth. For now, all I can see in the lichen pattern are such things as a deer’s face, a laughing man, a knight’s helmet and an angel.