Through the course of our nature clubs and writing the NaturExplorers units, the following question has come up several times. “What’s the difference between a lichen and a moss?”
The answer is really quite simple. Lichens are not a plant, while mosses are.
Lichens reproduce either through the production of spores like most other fungi, or can sometimes reproduce when fragments of the tough, bark-like structure break off and fall on an appropriate surface.
Lichens grow in all sorts of climates and on all sorts of things from trees to gravestones to metal poles. Normally, finding a fungus growing on a tree is a bad sign for the tree since the mycelia from the fungus grow into the tree and compromise its health. However, many naturalists believe that lichens are actually a good thing for most trees and can provide them with healthful nutrients!
Lichens don’t always look alike, but a general description is a dull, flat, leafy, crusty growth. You can view some of my recent lichen photographs below.
Mosses are plants. They’re typically soft and grow in dark, damp places like a rock in an intermittent stream or on the floor of a damp wooded area. One good way to describe a moss is like a green mat that you might place on your porch.
Even though mosses make their own food through photosynthesis like other plants, they do not have flowers or seeds. Instead, they send out spores or can reproduce when one part of the moss breaks off and lands in an appropriate place for growth.
Below are pictures of moss we found on a recent nature walk.
I hope this helps! Please ask if I’ve left any question unanswered concerning lichens and moss.
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