British Soldiers

What did you expect in a garden blog? Of course it’s Lichens! Also known as Red Crest Lichen, I like the name British Soldiers, for the little red fruiting tips. You might prefer to call them Cladonia cristatella, a fruticose lichen.

Lichens are dual organisms, composed of a fungus and an alga. The fungus supplies the alga with water and minerals while the alga manufactures carbohydrates, also used by the fungus.

I found these beautiful lichens growing on pieces of petrified pine, which we call ‘lightard’ or light wood, left when termites eat away the soft cellulose, leaving hardened, resin-rich inedible parts of pine logs and stumps. Lichens grow best where the air is clean and they can grow undisturbed.

Foliose lichens grow along this log, with moss.

I thought these non-flowering plants particularly beautiful, conditions for them being just right as the weather cooled and there was sufficient moisture to sustain them.

I’ve found British soldiers growing on discarded fence posts and other weathered wood. I even found some at the college once, growing on a bench outside the science lab, to the delight of the Biology Professor, Dr. Perry, who had not noticed nor had any of her students. British Soldiers are easily identified by the greyish color and the red tips at the end of fruiting bodies.