Crustose, foliose and fruticose lichens of the Namib Desert - News - Gondwana Collection


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Crustose, foliose and fruticose lichens of the Namib Desert

Avatar of koney koney - 11. February 2020 - Environment

Crustose, foliose and fructose lichen all on the same stone: on the bottom left is Xanthoparmelia walteri (foliose), in the middle and top left the orange-coloured Xanthodactylon inflatum (crustose) and on the right the green Ramalina angulosa (fructose).

Dirk Heinrich 

A rock the size of a head, covered with lichens, is like a little colourful garden. The Lüderitz Cobblestone lichen (Acarospora luederitzensis) forms a yellow mosaic pattern to the surface of the rock. The grey Herero lichen (Santessonia hereroensis) on the other side, looks like a small shrub without leaves, surrounded by Lecanora panis-erucae, a rim lichen species which looks like white gravel. 

North of Wlotzkasbaken, a field of an orange shimmer can be seen. A closer look reveals thousands of fruticose Cape Hair lichen (Teloschistis capensis), which cover many square kilometres in the Namib Desert. Lichens are not said to be plants but rather a symbiosis of tubular mushrooms and blue-green algae. The mutually advantageous relationship between the mushroom and the algae allows the lichen to exist there. Professor Volkmar Wirth, an experienced lichenologist and the author of Lichens of the Namib Desert – A guide to their identification, explains that “categorisation is an easy way to describe the different shapes of lichen, but due to their transitions and forms it is very difficult to apply these terms”.  

The Herero lichen (Santessonia hereroensis) grows on pebbles all over the Namib Desert and in the Northern Cape Province.

According to Professor Wirth there are about 250 species of lichen in the Namib Desert. In the entire country, it is probably more than 1,000 species. A very large number of lichen species has not been identified yet, as it's not an easy task. It often requires an analysis of the substances and a microscopic examination.

More information about the lichen species in Namibia can be found at Namibia Outdoor.

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