As of 2016, California was the first state to adopt a lichen as a state symbol, joining the California poppy as the state flower and the grizzly bear as the state animal. Strinkingly beautiful, ramalina menziesii, aka lace lichen is a combination of fungi and algae. Both organisms benefit from each other and have a symbiotic relationship. They are just one of 1,900 lichen species found in California and serve important functions such as being provisions for food, habitat, nesting material and camouflage for animals. Humans have found a number of uses for lichens as well. For one, these lichens are sensitive to air quality and climate change and will detect pollution. Like small signposts, these curious organisms can tell us a lot about the air we are breathing. Additionally, lace lichen extracts are being studied for their medicinal antibacterial properties.
The images shown are from the Land Trust’s Wantrup Preserve, where lace lichen grows on blue oaks. The Land Trust sees this designation as an important step in increasing public awareness in the significant roles that lichens play within our natural environment. Calling attention to lichens by recognizing one of them as the California State Lichen creates an opportunity for us to learn about, share and celebrate all things that make California special and specifically lands protected in Napa County.