Winter is a time when gardeners and homeowners are more likely to notice a grayish green crusty or mossy looking growth on the stems and branches of trees and shrubs (photo left, taken by Chad Gore). This common organism, known as lichen (pronounced “liken”), is a primitive life form and is the result of two different organisms, an alga and a fungi, living together. Lichens will grow on anything that sits still long enough, including slow growing plants, tree trunks, rocks, fence posts, fallen logs, tombstones, and even the ground. When lichens are found growing on trees or shrubs, it may simply be a sign that that particular plant is naturally slow growing, such as Japanese Maple, or that it is an older plant that is not growing at a vigorous rate. Lichens do not harm the plants they grow upon, but often plants that are struggling will be covered in them. When lichens are found growing prolifically on a plant that also has lots of dead twigs and branches and that produces few, undersized or off color leaves it is usually a sign that something more serious is going wrong.
Find out more! Click here to read to read the entire article from the Pender County Cooperative Extension website.