‘Guest Naturalist on the Green Stuff’

By Joshua Sweet



Article Published: Sep. 6, 2012 | Modified: Sep. 6, 2012
‘Guest Naturalist on the Green Stuff’


What is the colorful plant growing on the trees at Bass Lake? — Wanders but Not Lost

The patchy and multicolored organism growing on tree bark along the Blue Ridge Parkway is not entirely a plant.

This organism, known as lichen, develops due to a symbiotic relationship between fungus and either algae or bacteria.

Often misidentified as moss, lichen can be found in a multitude of shades, including green, blue, orange and white.

Lichen is a favorite treat of white-tailed deer and many other animals.

This organism is a useful tool in analyzing an ecosystem, as it is a great indicator of healthy air quality.

In addition to growing on tree trunks, lichen can also be found commonly on various minerals.

Lichen is a decomposer and has a unique ability to break down living and nonliving things back into soil.

Nutrients in the soil can then be used by younger plants and animals as a food source. However, even though this process is taking place, lichen is not harmful to the trees along the parkway.

If you have a question about the Blue Ridge Parkway, or its flora and fauna, please email (dearnaturalist@gmail.com) All of your questions will be answered. Two will be featured next week. See you on the trails.

Ranger Joshua Sweet is an interpretive park guide for the Blue Ridge Parkway at Linville Falls. He is a Leave No Trace master educator and a wilderness first responder. Before moving to North Carolina, he lived in Northern Minnesota, where he taught environmental science to fifth- and sixth-grade students.

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