Crustose Lichens, Mt. Charleston Loop


On 04/07/2011, I found these brilliantly colored lichen covered rocks in a wash area on a hike along Robber’s Roost Trail off NV State Road 158, also known as Deer Creek Road. Some of the least known forms of life, lichens are among the most fascinating living organisms on this planet. Their very structure is unique: a symbioses of two organisms -- a fungus and algae -- so complete that they behave and look like an entirely new being. A lichen can literally eat stones, survive severe cold, and remain dormant for long periods without harm. Those that cover a substrate like a crust are called Crustose lichens. Lichens need sunlight, but because of their small size and slow growth, they thrive in places where higher plants have difficulty growing. They often settle in places lacking soil, constituting the sole vegetation in some extreme environments such as those found at high mountain elevations and at high latitudes.