Fairy fluff

Often, when I’m hiking, I’m concentrating so much on not falling over a root or rock, or on not getting lost, that I lack good observation skills. I know I miss bits of nature that I’d enjoy seeing and I’d probably walk through fewer spider webs if I could really be in the moment. Fortunately, I never miss the wildlife sightings because my dog sees it as his personal duty to bark at anything that moves. I’ve seen the white tail of more deer than I care to count.

On my most recent hike, I was fascinated by cream colored white puffs that carpeted the forest floor. I called it fairy fluff and could imagine the fairies gathering it to stuff pillows and bedding so soft that sweet dreams were inevitable. An informative sign told me it was Deer Lichen, but I like my name for it better.

Also called deer moss, this plantlike organism is just a few steps beyond normal because it is actually a dual plant: fungus and algae live together in a mutually beneficial relationship. The algae, full of chlorophyll, is responsible for photosynthesis and the fungus provides the algae with minerals and water.

These slow growing patches take 75 to 100 years to develop and because they are sensitive to air pollutants, their presence signifies good air quality. I’m not sure why it is called Deer Lichen. Fortunately, despite the name, the lichen are deer resistant.

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