Lichens are flaky moss-like organisms that grow on the bark and branches of our landscape trees or shrubs. They do not attack and kill. They are a very natural part of landscapes and wooded areas on every continent of the world.
Lichen may look like moss, but it is actually an algae and a fungus living together mutualistically, an association which is advantageous to both organisms. The bulk of a lichen is comprised of fungal hyphae called rhizoids. Rhizoids serve to attach the lichen to things like rocks, bark, branches, etc. Rhizoids also obtain minerals from rain water, plant leachates and organic debris, like bird excrement and wind blown particles.
The alga gets water and nutrients from the fungus. The alga is a plant capable of manufacturing food (photosynthesis) for the fungus. The association with the alga is essential to the survival of the fungus. The fungi of lichen are only found as a component of lichens; they do not exist independently.
Plants covered with lichens may look trashy, but there are reasons why they are covered. They grow rapidly when exposed to sun and a bare plant or a plant with a thin canopy create ideal location for lichen to proliferate. If a plant is declining and covered with lichen, there is some other cause.
Lichens do serve an important role in the ecological community. So, after knowing lichens a little better, perhaps we should not panic and blame them for killing our landscape plants. Rule out lichens as the cause and start checking for other possibilities, like decline from insect, disease or water problems.
If you do not like the look of Lichen on your trees or plants, Southwest Florida’s Pest Authority Collier Pest Control can control the growth the Lichen. If you live in Naples, Bonita Springs, or Fort Myers call, 239-455-4300, for a full explanation on any of our services. Florida does not have to be shared with pests!