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How are we using Lichens and Mosses?

 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Good morning, Permies!

I was just reflecting on some posts from a while back, concerning the creative use of lichens and mosses in permacultural design, and so I checked to see if there was already a thread. If there was, I missed it, so here we are!

So I put it to you: are you using lichens and mosses in your designs? Do you wildcraft them? What do you do with them? Do you do anything with them that you want to share, or is there a way you think they can be put to use?

I will go first. I was replying to a post about a moss monolith urban art project that apparently cleaned the air to the same degree as a large number of trees, I don't remember the number, and it hardly matters. The exchanges in the post lead me to think about those foamcore and stucco retrofits done on older buildings, and I started thinking about the stucco as a mineral substrate for mosses or lichens.

This took me to thinking about how, to do way better than the air-cleaning art project, we didn't need to replicate its efficiency, but rather figure out a way to make moss and lichen grow as blankets over urban concrete as cheaply as possible. That concrete would otherwise just absorb the sun's energy and increase the urban heat island effect, which for my city dumps directly into nearby Lake Ontario. If we could do that on all impermeable surfaces, the knock-on effects alone would more than justify it. Plus we'd have gorgeous moss and lichenscapes to design aesthetically and play around with.

Imagine all the concrete covered in different species of lichen, and moss in the perpetually wet spaces, encouraged to grow as an UV barrier. Now those would be sustainable green walls.

I also know, in another vein, that some livestock, goats especially, can eat some lichens. Is anyone growing any as fodder?

Is anyone cultivating any type for medicine? I hear usnea is pretty potent for some applications. Or is it more of a wildcrafting thing?

-CK
 
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Location: Puget sound region (salish sea) cascadia
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Great idea, wonderful concept. I'm interested in what folks gotta say bout the mosses and lichens. I'm located in western Washington area in the PNW where there is a natural abundance of diverse types and forms of such organisms and life forms. People joke about how folks who live here, have moss growing between the fingers and toes cus it is forever raining and humid out here.
 
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Location: Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep clay/loam with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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At the moment I'm mostly photographing them and trying to ID HERE

The lichens that I actually collect and use are both of the usnea, Bearded Lichen (Usnea longissima Ach.) and bushy beard lichen Usnea strigosa (Ach.)

I have a usnea tincture that I've made stored in my cupboard but haven't yet needed to use them and have a bit of both dried as 'wound powder' also just in case.

I'm interested in the lichens used as natural dyes, especially those that through fermentation create purples
LICHENS FOR VEGETABLE DYEING
 
pollinator
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Deer moss grows wild here in east tn. Doesnt taste like much, but has nutrition.

Usnea tincture is used daily at our house. I made a batch when flu season kicked in. So far so good.

But I simply wildcraft forage it. It's not an integrated part of our forest design. It's a good thought.

How does it reproduce? Anyone had success bringing it home and getting it started on their property?
 
Judith Browning
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J Davis wrote:Deer moss grows wild here in east tn. Doesnt taste like much, but has nutrition.

Usnea tincture is used daily at our house. I made a batch when flu season kicked in. So far so good.

But I simply wildcraft forage it. It's not an integrated part of our forest design. It's a good thought.

How does it reproduce? Anyone had success bringing it home and getting it started on their property?



quote from a wikipedia article

Morphology and reproduction
As a fruticose lichen, Usnea appears as a shrub-like growth on host trees. Unlike other similar-looking fruticose lichens, species in this genus have an elastic chord or axis running through the middle of the thallus that can be revealed by gently pulling a filament apart from either end.[3] It reproduces via vegetative means through fragmentation, asexual means through soredia, or sexual means through ascogonium and spermatogonium.[4] The growth rate of lichens in nature is slow, but the growth rate has been sped up in laboratory conditions where Usnea is being cultured.



Here, it seems to only grow on cedar trees and only in certain areas, really rare.
We pick up small amounts after storms and never off of the trees themselves, just a bit of windfall.  We did bring home a little and draped it on our own cedars years ago.  It was there for awhile and might have been 'growing' but so very slowly and we've moved since so don't know if it really 'took' or not?
 
gardener
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One thing that people need to keep in  mind when deciding to grow rock type lichens is that this organism, in all its forms, is designed to break rock and organic materials down into microscopic sized particles that then fall onto whatever is beneath them.
The rock lichens are responsible for creating soils from rocks, the tree lichens do the same but by digesting the bark of the trees they grow on.

While it would look great to see buildings covered in lichens and perhaps mosses, those buildings will age out far faster, on their way to becoming new soil, making the growth on concrete structures a not so great idea perhaps.
Since the Romans used a lot of concrete, activity of lichens might eventually make the ruins still around, simply dissolve into the land scape. The amount of time it takes is fairly evident on some of their structures today. (some of the old aquaducts are showing signs of decay under the lichens that have taken up residence).

I have both on Buzzard's Roost, we have some large rocks (50 to 80 tons each) that I've started some extra lichens on in depressions so that I may be able to plant some items there in the future and the data I am collecting might even be of some use for using the lichens to remove already crumbling building concrete by helping to break the stuff down into soil sized particles. Granted this is an extreme, long term idea but it would at least be helping some of our creations return to the earth mother instead of just sitting for a thousand or more years waiting for weather to break the stuff down.

Most of my Hickory trees harbor lichens and when you look at the soil beneath those trees, you can find evidence of the lichens work in the small piles of decomposed duff materials.

I'm hoping to discover just how long it takes for lichens to make a significant amount of reduction, they are, being one of natures digesters, beautiful to look at and I think a building would look great decomposing because of the lichens growing on the concrete structure.
Now I just need to discover something that will do the same to plastics and glass.

Redhawk
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
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The decompositional nature of lichens was the reason why I thought that application to a minerally-appropriate stucco-like substrate applied overtop of the buildings' envelopes would be the best idea. Were this combined with a retrofit including some sort of rebar mesh to turn the stucco outer coating into something more structurally relevant for buildings, bridges, roadways, overpasses and such, it wouldn't be such an issue as applying directly to the outside of a building.

Besides, considering the life expectancy of buildings built in the last few decades, I doubt that lichen will be what brings them down. In all likelihood, we're just talking about having a healthy lichen population on the rubble remaining from these structures when economic drivers decide that the old must be replaced with something temporarily shinier. That way, when they're dumped, for instance on the Leslie Spit, here in Toronto, where they're continuously adding to an infill-created peninsula in Lake Ontario, the mineral recyclers are already there to clean up.

-CK
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I agree with you Chris, a disappearing land fill is perfection isn't it? not only that part of your idea but the visual appeal of the "stone type" buildings would be softer and don't forget, we humans can eat several species of lichen too.
I think this is a great way to get rid of the outdated, tossed aside or forgotten building materials. I just want to see if we might be able to speed up the little lichens so things disappear a bit faster, that to me would be fantastic.

"whatcha doing", "watching that old building rot", "how long will that take?", "Oh, not long in a geological sense, only a few thousand years."

Redhawk
 
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