- A close, prolonged association between two or more different organisms of different species that may, but does not necessarily, benefit each member.
- A relationship of mutual benefit or dependence.
- Union for life of certain organisms, each of which is necessary to the other; an intimate vital consociation, or kind of consortium, differing in the degree and nature of the connection from inquilinity and parasitism, as in the case of the fungus and alga which together make up the so-called lichen, or of the fungus.
Lichens have scientific names as though they are a species of organism, but actually a lichen is a fungus and an alga living in a symbiotic relationship (both are benefited by living together.) The fungus cannot photosynthesize so it cannot create food from solar energy, but the alga can photosynthesize. The alga needs water but cannot hold it well, but the fungus is like a sponge more able to absorb and hold moisture. Thus, both species get their limiting resources from each other.
It’s fascinating to observe something in nature that only exists because of a mutual need for each other. The beautiful colours, patterns and textures of the lichen, combined with the beauty of its’ host (in these photographic examples – the rock) create one of a kind ‘works of art’, just like the unique nature of a snowflake or a fingerprint.
All of these images were taken in the La Cloche mountains within the boundaries of Killarney Provincial Park. They grow on both vertical and horizontal surfaces. These are nature’s ‘abstract’ paintings. They add a dramatic splash of colour to an overwhelming sea of green and blue – water, sky and trees.