Wherever one drives on the reserve one finds a kaleidoscope of colours dabbed on rocks, trees and sometimes on hard packed soil, which was most definitely not applied by a human hand. The correct term is lichen and it is not just alive with colour but actually alive. It comprises of a mutual symbiosis of colonies of minute organisms. A mutualistic Symbiosis is a collaboration of two or more organisms for mutual gain.
The original understanding was that lichens consisted of firstly an algae or cyanobacteria (blue green bacteria able to photosynthesise) which converts sun energy into food along with the help of basic minerals and secondly of a fungal partner that’s function is attachment to the substrate be it rock or bark and the further breaking down of the attached surface to provide the basic minerals needed for food production.
Recently, though, it was discovered that there might be a third party involved. This previously unnoticed partner it seems is another fungus more akin to yeast that according to early research results, it appears might be tasked with defence of the lichen.
Whatever the scientists decide we’ll just appreciate these complex organisms for the simplest reason, their striking and colourful beauty.