Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Cladonia coccifera

This cup lichen is common in forests, sand dunes and heathland. It grows between moss and grass and is about half a centimeter tall. It has a red-colored spore forming fruiting or apothecia.

Lichens are tough organisms which can survive on the most unlikely places, where plants cannot grow. For example, in the desert, in the Antarctic, in high mountains.

Lichens are a collaboration between fungi and algae. The fungus, which contains no chlorophyll, is dependent on the photosynthesis in the algae, the algae can exist also without the fungus. Through this partnership, the combination of both organisms survives. Most lichens live on water which is present in the air and the substances produced by the photosynthesis in the algae. They do have roots, but these serve for attachment and not for the absorption of substances.

Because lichens are dependent on the air, they are very sensitive to air pollution.

Usnic acid (C18H16O7) is found in Cladonia coccifera and especially in beard moss (Usnea) and has an anti-bacterial effect. It is quite easy to extract from the lichen with hot acetone. Usnic acid is widely used as an ingredient in creams, powders, toothpastes, mouthwash, deodorants, hair shampoos and sunscreen products.

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