Curious plants: Crustose lichen

This crustose lichen was pictured on Mt Ruapehu.

The filaments of crustose lichens release an acid that dissolves the surface of the rock which releases minerals from the rock that the lichen needs for food and allows it to adhere so tightly that it becomes part of the rock.

Crustose lichens are also found on tree trunks, footpaths and even glass and often can’t be removed without taking some of the surface too.

They grow very slowly – maybe only 1-10mm a year – so a large crustose lichen growing in tough conditions may be hundreds of years old.

Read more about the different types of lichen here and see some photos of lichens in New Zealand here.

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