Earth Wisdom: Lichen
Botanical name: Usnea barbata
A lichen is a symbiotic relationship of two organisms, a fungi and a green algae living intimately and in harmony on the bark of trees, bare rocks, desert sand or cleared soil. The word lichen means solitude, a suitable name as they find peace and development in barren landscapes.
The fungus provides the structure and collects water and the algae produces the food. With no roots, lichens gather their water and nutrients from the air. They are capable of growing in extreme environments (heat, cold and drought) where other plants cannot establish themselves.
The slow growing lichens draw moisture and minerals from the atmosphere and serve as filters to the air we breathe. Despite their ability to survive in the extreme environments on Earth, they cannot tolerate pollution in the air and will not grow when accumulating airborne pollutants. If you live in an area where lichens are prevalent, it may mean you have exceptional air quality.
What a beautiful relationship to observe in the natural world. Look to lichen essence to maintain strength in difficult environments, for support and understanding in relationships, and tap into their slow moving pace when outer influences are overwhelming.
As an herbal tincture, usnea lichen is a powerful immune tonic. It contains a chemical called usnic acid that may help promote excretion of the kidneys and the urinary tract, leading to a healthy microbial balance within the urinary system.
The lichens pictured in the photograph were found on trees in the moist, cool woodland trails of the Walking Dunes of Napeague in Montauk, New York.