The World of Lichen

Students will learn how to identify 3 forms of lichen.
Grades: 5-7
Seasons: All
Time: 30-60 minutes
Supplies: Magnifying glass, clipboard with lichen sheet (page 3) and pencil.
Resources: Lichen Scavenger Hunt
Lesson Plan PDF

It’s amazing what is happening all around us in nature without us even realizing it.

Immerse yourself in the world of small with Wildsight Educator Patty as she shares her favourite things about lichen and helps you to identify the different types of lichen you might find.

Then grab a magnifying glass and continue exploring the magical world of lichen using this Lichen Lesson Plan and the Lichen and Moss Scavenger Hunt – we promise you’ll find something you never noticed before!


Lichen is composed of 2 or more organisms: an algae, cyanobacteria and a fungus living together in a symbiotic mutual partnership (see page 2 for a glossary of all bolded words). Lichen covers 6% of our planet with over 17,000 different species of lichen worldwide. Approximately 1,100 species of lichen are found in British Columbia.

Lichen can provide food and habitat for many animals and can help break down rocks to become soil. The fungus provides physical structure and water: the algae and cyanobacteria, using photosynthesis, produce food. Lichen is an excellent indicator of air quality, making it a bioindicator. These hearty pioneer species can be found on every continent on earth. Have you noticed any lichen in your favourite spot in nature?

Rare lichen found in the ITR. Photo: David Moskowitz


• With your clipboard, pencil, lichen sheet and magnifying glass, head outside to your favourite place in nature.

• Look for the three basic forms of lichen: Fruticose (shrubby and branch-like) Crustose (flat and crusty/dusty) and Foliose (leaf-like and has 2 sides).

• Note all the different colours, textures and forms you find on your sheet and try to draw the different forms of lichen you find.

So what about moss?

Lichen and moss are often mistaken for one another. While certain types of lichen might resemble moss, they are very different. Mosses are defined as simple plants with the most basic of root structures, leaves, and stems. Lichens are a very different type of creature, called a composite organism. Lichens are actually a single entity created from a joining of algae and fungus.

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