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It is bad, but I cannot remember if I wrote this or if I borrowed it from Frank Funderburk,Bill Starr or maybe even Roger Sinyard. Either way it is a clever article and we have been getting tons of calls on the subject. Enjoy!

It will be hard for some of you to imagine, but throughout the entirety of my youth I never made one cell phone call, not one text, not one snap chat, and no face book.  It wasn’t because my parents were that strict; those things simply did not exist at that time. 

“Back in the day” as my kids say, if you wanted to communicate with someone you talked face to face, talked on a landline or you wrote them a note. Ah the joy of sending and receiving handwritten love notes. We didn’t have to worry back in those days about getting our cell phone taken up, but you did have to worry about being caught passing notes. If you were caught passing notes you might be faced with one of the most embarrassing moments of your life by having to read the note out loud in class.  

In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, I am going to share with you one of the best examples of true love revealed by a note being read in a classroom, as I remember it. Why this story is not a Hallmark Channel classic is beyond me.  I can remember it was a beautiful spring day sitting in biology class and there was a really pretty girl in the class we will call her Algae.  Algae got caught passing a note to the class clown. He was a really fun guy, so we will call him Fungi.  Algae unfortunately had to read the words she had passed to Fungi aloud in the classroom. The note simply said “I really lichen you do you lichen me? “.   

Fortunately for Algae and Fungi the relationship that started that day could not have worked out any better. From that moment on Algae and Fungi could not live without each other, literally. You see Algae and Fungi actually formed what is called a lichen.  So many of you have called or brought samples in with this lichen on them. This is why I needed to share this story with you. Just remember if you see this on Hallmark Channel you heard it here first.  

Lichens are that gray, green fuzzy stuff you see growing on some of your plants and trees. Lichens are composite, symbiotic organisms made up from members of as many as three biological kingdoms. The lichen fungi cultivate partners that manufacture food by photosynthesis. Sometimes the partners are algae, other times cyanobacterium, formerly called blue-green algae. Some enterprising fungi exploit both at once. The alga or cyanobacterium converts sunlight and carbon dioxide to food for the lichen fungus and in return the lichen fungus protects the alga/cyanobacterium from drying out (they truly can’t live without each other). 

The fungus obtains water and minerals from the air and the material it is growing on, it is not parasitic to the plant. Algae provides carbohydrates and vitamins. Some blue-green algae fix nitrogen that can be used by both the algae and the fungus. As plants are stressed and begin to decline, the reduced canopy allows sunlight to enter and support photosynthesis for the lichen.  

The presence of lichens is often an indicator of poor plant health but it is never the cause. Lichens are harmless to plants and, if overall plant health is improved, the vibrant canopy should inhibit any sunlight available for lichen photosynthesis. Simply fertilizing the plants will often help to reduce lichens populations. The combined life form has properties that are very different from the properties of the individual organisms. Lichens come in many colors, sizes, and forms.   I sometimes hear them referred to as mosses, and they may sometimes look like mosses but they are not related to mosses or any plant.  If you think you might have lichens growing on your plants or trees and you are just not sure, bring it by I will be happy to try and identify it for you.  Now that you have herd this story don’t forget to tell your significant other that you really “lichen” them.  I guess all that is left to do is to figure out which one of you will be Algae and which will be Fungi.  It really does not matter because together you become one complete organism that truly benefits from each other’s company. 

Contact your County Agent if you have questions or comments.

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