COOL IMAGES: Lichen Lore

Science  04 Jun 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5420, pp. 1583a
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5420.1583a

It looks kind of like oak leaves, but this green stuff is actually tree lungwort, a lichen, or fungus living symbiotically with algae. The fungus sheathes the algae and in return eats sugars made by the plant. Medieval Europeans thought Lobaria pulmonaria looked like lung tissue, so they ground it up and used it as a treatment for respiratory ailments. The photo was taken in New brunswick, Canada, by Stephen Sharnoff for Lichens of North America, a guide that will be published by Yale University Press in 2001. You can see over 100 striking photos from the upcoming book and read about lichen's traditional uses in medicines, dyes, and more at

Navigate This Article