I took these pictures Sunday near the Santiam River, a tributary of the Willamette which flows down from the mountains east of Salem.
Trees in Oregon are often covered with epiphytic growths like these. The things that look like brown, scaly leaves and the things that look like white coral are lichens. Lichens are composite creatures, made up of fungi and microscopic algae, bound in a symbiotic relationship. I believe the word “symbiosis” was first coined to describe lichens. The algae photosynthesize food for the lichen, and somebody once described lichen as “fungi that have discovered agriculture.”
The green stuff is moss. Moss are bryopthytes, or non-vascular land plants, which means they don’t have the circulatory system that most land plants require.
Moss and lichen are not related. In fact, they belong to different kingdoms. I remember when I first learned that the fungi had their own kingdom and weren’t related to plants any more than we are. Fungi are heterotrophs, which means they don’t make their own food through photosynthesis, like plants do; but rather have to steal life energy from some other living creature, like we animals do.
Fungi are kind of creepy, and yet people still eat mushrooms as if that’s normal or something.