Life as I know It

My photo
San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Friday, February 15, 2013

Kindle Some Passion for the Little Things in Life!

Some passions, like mine for lichens, never die. I first began to explore the tiny world of lichens in 1969. Oak moss lichen, above right,  is often used as a fixative in pot pourris.

Was I ever really that skinny? This is my journal from that time, which was an exciting one. We took a 28,000 mile nature trip up, down, round and round America, exploring every nature stop, birding area, refuge, and campground we could find. We had a book called See America for Free, and since we were young and poor, that suited us fine. 

A close-up of my favorite lichen, British Soldiers.

We bought a brand new Volkswagen van, converted it into a cozy camper, and set off for our adventure. Along the way, I drew and painted things I loved, and we took photos and wrote in our journal every day. It was on this trip that I discovered British Soldier lichen, first in New Hampshire, then Maine, and Connecticut. I fell in love with their tiny world. From that time to now, the passion still remains. I can't pass by a rock or log, tree or fallen branch, without stopping to examine and enjoy the beauty and diversity of lichens.

I hope you will kindle some passion for lichen too. You'll discover lichen nearly everywhere– from the Sahara desert to the Arctic, from rocks to buildings and trees. Now pick up a magnifying glass and take a walk. You're sure to find some of these ancient tapestries.

When Jeff and I were in England's Lake District, doing research for a children's book, we were able to view an entire collection of lichen and mushroom paintings (at the Armitt Museum) done by Beatrix Potter, who was not only an illustrator, but also an amateur scientist. Beatrix did amazing work into the science of lichens. Although she was not allowed to present a paper on her work (she was a woman, after all), she is now recognized as a luminary in the field of scientific illustration and studies. In 2012, she was celebrated by the prestigious Linnean Society of London for her work with fungi and lichens. Finally.

I've included a few of my favorites for you to enjoy. These photos were taken in a wonderful class sponsored by our local chapter of the California Native Plant Society in San Luis Obispo, California.

This is a sampling of some types of lichen, from foliose, which has two sided foliage, and fruticose, which is shrubby, to the crusty looking Crustose, such as the lichens on the surface of rock above.

You can see why this is called Lace lichen (top) or Fishnet lichen. It is often mistakenly called Spanish moss, but it is a lichen, which is distinctly different. A lichen is a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an algae. This lichen festoons trees like veils. It DOES NOT injure trees, but it does offer nesting fiber for birds, food for deer, and it traps fog moisture and slowly drips it onto the soil, thus watering the trees. Native Americans gathered quantities of the lichen and used it for diapers. Take about recyclable, but ouch.

Jeff sits at the end of our table of lichens. 

This foliose lichen is often found on conifers.

Perfect name for this one. Viewed through a hand lens, it does look like teensy cobblestones or tiles.

Yep, perfect description. See the little red dots?

Before I end this posting, I am thrilled to offer this early copy of Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman's new organic gardening and cook book, The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook (Workman Publishing). I have spent hours going through the pages and copying recipes for the future. You'll love this book. Just leave a comment on my blog, and you will be eligible for the drawing. Grimy Hands Girls' Club members will also receive an extra surprise gift if drawn. I devoured every page. Take a look at some of the interior shots, mostly photographed by Barbara.

Delicious photographs

Leave a comment and keep your fingers crossed.

And the lucky winner of the antique bird nest and egg print in glass is...Rebecca of A Gathering Place.

Sending love across the miles,


P.S. I want to thank so many of you for unexpected cards and gifts. Susy Stone, I love your paper bird, and have now made almost a dozen. This is a great project for children. So simple even I could do it.

Nellie Bragg, your card meant so much to me.

Patsy Lee Anderson, I love your handmade bookmark.

Thank you all for your e-mails too.


Anonymous said...

oh my gosI couldn't beleive it when the title of this post came up, I share this passion, you have an amazing collection of lichens! I have alwyas admired their lace like beauty, the colors and the hardiness of these creature plants.They survive where all else fail.I enjoyed everyword of this post, and every image.It makes me feel so good to know someone so far away thrills in the beauty of lichens, best wishes from Canada, may be when the snow leaves us (april) I could send you a little scavenged lichen,

Thea said...

I didn't realize Lichen was so diverse and fascinating! t

Rebecca Nelson said...

Oh my gosh...I can't believe I won the print! HOW EXCITING my friend. I'm jumping up and down with joy.

I soo enjoy your blog and especially love this post about how you first began exploring the world of lichens back in 1969. I turned 10 that year and one of my best memories are of the nature walks my father and I went on together.

Thank you so much again for the win. You bless me.

A Gathering Place

Gail said...

I do love lichens...they are wonderful in all their complexity...Now that I am taking classes to be a Master Naturalist I am learning to see more in our natural world. It's so uch fun. Please put me in the drawing for BD's new book. Thanks, Gail

Vee said...

Oh I do love to find British Soldiers in a damp place where a log is rotting a bit. When I taught, the children would create a terrarium every spring and finding those red-topped lichens was a highlight. That and the emerald green mosses. I did not know all you shared about Beatrix Potter...very interesting.

Nellie said...

Oh my, Sharon. I'm touched that you have made reference to the thank you note I sent. Truly a testament to your fine character that you would mention it in this way.

Such a wonderful "learning" post! This kind of opportunity was missing in my life.

Sending wishes across the miles for a happy week-end!

From the Kitchen said...

Sharon: An interesting post. Although lichen is all around, I've never known the different types or appreciated the beauty in them. Thanks for opening my eyes!!


Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Beautiful lichens. Always learn something new with you, Sharon. I would love the new cookbook from Elliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch, such a talented couple of gardeners. Sending a cold gust of wind from the cold east. BTW, how's your cottage in Maine or did you already say and I missed it! xxoo LVL and The Herbal Husband

Janessa said...

me, me, pick me!!

Michelle said...

I love the Firedot Lichen. I don't think I have ever seen that variety out in the woods.

Julie Marie said...

Hello cousin Sharon... this is one of my most favorite posts ever of yours!... I love lichen!... we see it everywhere on our Nature walks... your "British Soldiers" is gorgeous, I have never seen that before... what a fun trip that must have been for you and Jeff!... and I love gathering little "treasures from the trail" as I call them too... oooh how I wish I could meet you in person soon... and we could take a long Nature walk together!... I just posted about Nature on my blog today and my love of it... and I always learn so very much from you!... much love, xoxo Cousin Julie Marie PS Congrats to my friend Rebecca on her win!!!

Bonnie K said...

I also love lichens. We have a lot of the gold cobblestone around here. The little paper birds are so cute. I love the photos in the cookbook. Glad you are enjoying the little things; they add up quickly.

Cris, Oregon Artist said...

Oh my..we have many of these covering our trees and things here that I thought they were invasive fungus ruining our trees. I will take a better look at them now and appreciate them from now on.

Hill Country Hippie said...

Eliot and Barbara have been my idols ever since I first caught an episode of their little TV series, Gardening Naturally. In fact, they are probably the reason I went back to school to study horticulture, and first tried to grow edibles. I would love to see their new book!

Spinneretta said...

Those lichens are quite something!
I'd love to learn more about them, to be honest, because they are such an interesting thing.
Sounds like a great book, too :)

Blondie's Journal said...

Oh, Sharon...I won't pretend I knew what lichens were before your post! You amaze me and your comments prove that I am only a nature lover in the sense that I love birds and flowers and the change of the seasons. But how interesting it is to learn something new and admire those that have a love for these commonalities.

Thank you always, dear friend, for enlightening me. You are a breath of fresh air in my life!


Pondside said...

Lichens we have aplenty up here on our green island. I will have to pay better attention - perhaps go out for a walk with a guide.
I wish you a good trip north next week, to Seattle and the Show. I wish I could have made my schedule fit yours, as I'd loved to have heard your talk! Nonetheless, I am really looking forward to my two days at the show.

Tina said...

Your lichen blot was very interesting. Learned a lot. Would love to win the book.

Tina said...

Your lichen blot was very interesting. Learned a lot. Would love to win the book.

Rachel- Mozart's Girl said...

Good morning, dear Sharon! Your love of lichen is inspiring...I'm a fungus girl, myself...but I did find some stunning saffron yellow lichen covering a dead tree recently & had to take many photographs. So beautiful. It's all there, around you constantly remind your readers. We just need to take a good look! Sending much love to you and Jeff ...spring is springing here....slowly! Xxoo

Patti said...

I've always wondered about lichens, but never took the time to study them, so I loved this post. I enjoy Beatrix Potter's stories, so I think this fact about her is quite interesting. I love all the beautiful nature that God has created!! Enjoy your day!

P.S. Love the birds- they are so sweet!

Cristy said...

We will have to look for lichens the next time we are in the woods. For about a year now, my kids and I have been making a conscious effort to learn nature around us. We have never inquired into lichens, but we will now!

The new book you are offering sounds great.

Anonymous said...

Sharon - I love this post! Lichens are one of my favorites in the woods although mosses rank right up there with them. I haven't seen all the types you show so this was fantastic. You've made my day! Sharon from Maine

Happy@Home said...

I had no idea there was such a wide variety of lichen. I will now be looking at it in a whole new light. Fascinating.
The book looks amazing and right up my alley. I'd like to be entered in your drawing.
Thanks so much.

Comfrey Cottages said...

I especially love learning about all the ways the lace lichen provides so many wonderful things for other plants, animals and even people. How wonderful that must have been seeing Beatrix Potter's work in person!
I also am in love with your story of Jeff and yours VW journey! Lovely journal of that time and Sharon, you look just the same to me :)Thanks for sharing all these fabulous photos! Anyone not taking the time to click on your photos to enlarge them are missing out!
I had a friend recently post about using a lichen in her wool dying process. Fascinating!
That book's photography looks appetite inspiring!
big hugs and much love, Leslie xxx

Rebecca said...

Your American tour of the 60's must have been AMAZING! I see that nature & adventure have been in your blood for a long, long time :) What a treasure - that journal!

Hearts Turned said...

Wonderful post, Sharon. I love lichen, too. I've had the privilege of working as a docent for our county parks here in Monterey for about 12 years now, taking elementary school children on hikes and teaching them about the Ohlone and our native flora & fauna.

One of my favorite moments of the hike is when I choose a child to hold the lace lichen as I teach about it's wonderful properties, and then proceed to tell the kids that the Ohlone used it for toilet paper...usually it's dropped very quickly!

Thank-you for all the beauty you share...


Denise said...

Thank you so much for allowing me to see a world I know little about. I love visiting your site! So sincerely, Denise Wysong

Susan said...

I live in the Pacific Northwest and love's a requirement:-)))) Your collection is absolutely amazing and I love how you've kept a journal, what a keepsake. XOXO

camp and cottage living said...

Your quest to study lichen has taken you many wonderful places!
It is beautiful and apparently useful-diapers:)If only I'd known when I was raising my four children.
The Four Seasons Farm book has such inviting photos. I can't wait to see if my library has a copy.
I've enjoyed a trip through your eyes to places I'll probably never journey. Thanks!

Barbee' said...

Lichens always seem to belong in fairyland... another world. I have a scrawny American holly at my kitchen sink window. I enjoy its lichens every time I look out the window. I would love to win that wonderful book. They are authors I have enjoyed over the years through Organic Gardening magazine and publications.

Kay G. said...

Dear Sharon,
You would love the lichen that we see on Arabia Mountain, there is one that is just the palest green and it is beautiful!
Also, we went to a Nature Festival last year and one of the displays was by some Native Americans and I was told that you could even eat lichens, if you were lost in the woods, they might not taste good, but they would keep you alive.
I like lichens! xx
Congrats to the winner of the bird's nest drawing, I have my fingers crossed for the book!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Kay,

Yes, some are edible, but some aren't and have high concentrations of usnic acid, which makes it distasteful to grazing animals. Some of the Usneas are used in medicine, cosmetics, and I used them in my natural dye classes in college.

Good luck!


Nancy Baetz said...

I am forever enamored with Beatrix Potter's art--and yours too! Thanks for all the little blessings you give when you write and illustrate your books. The beauty around us in the amazing creation we call nature makes life worth living. <3 Thank you Sharon!!

Nancy Baetz

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

This was fascinating, I am so clueless when it comes to knowing much about horticulture!

Should you ever visit Carolee, perhaps I can join you two and really learn something. I send my herb questions her way. :)

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Sharon from Maine,

Yes, they're fascinating. Over 17,000 species, all distinct, all over the world.



Lynn Hunt said...

Me likey lichens here in the NC mountains!

Dani said...

Wow, I learned something today. I don't think I've ever met anyone who collected lichen. The Damrosch/Coleman cookbook looks terrific, too!

Rebecca Sweet said...

Clearly your readers have much better taste than I as none of them said the first thing that came to my mind: I'm lichen this post, Sharon! Sorry - had to do it. :)

Unknown said...

That cookbook looks wonderful! You presented all those lichen beautifully. I have several lichen covered sticks and branches stuck in various spots in my dining room that I love to just look at -- the lichen encrustations are so intricate.

Jimmie said...

I don't know very much about lichens, but I do have a small collection just because they are so beautiful. Now you've inspired me to learn more. You never cease to amaze me with how you make what some folks would consider "ordinary and mundane" be thrilling and exciting!

The cookbook looks scrumptious. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be the lucky winner.

Diane in North Carolina

Unknown said...

Love lichens! The cookbook looks wonderful.

Rosemary said...

Dear Sharon - lovely to see someone else with a passion for lichens. I love photographing them and seeing into their little world. I find it so interesting that dual organisms, fungus and algae, live together in a mutually beneficial symbiosis, and that they can live for hundreds of years.

jerilanders said...

I am staring at a chunk of lichens right now, a cabbage-like mass I collected from our woods. What could be more beautiful! Well, mosses, come in a close second. Beatrix really was a marvelous scientist and Botanical artist. But aren't we lucky she never was accepted into that "Mans World", or we may never have met Jemima Puddleduck and all the other inhabitants of her imagination.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Rosemary,

Scientists have analyzed some patches of lichen and feel that they may live for thousands of years. Amazing, no?

Thanks for stopping by,


Anonymous said...

Hi Sharon its nice to see your blog ! I have been hacked and removed from bloggland 3 times so I no longer have Patchworksails as my name ! Izzy from NJ.

Lori ann said...

dear sharon,

i really loved this, your extensive knowledge of lichen and your journals, what a treasure those are. (and you are still skinny!)
i've seen and photographed lichen from african savannahs to the arctic tundra, and although i love seeing it, i don't know what i'm looking at! maybe you could make a book!

that looks like an awesome cookbook, i will have to look for it at tecolate bookshop.
xox lori

Merlesworld said...

I alway loved nooks and crannies where moss and lichen grow,like tiny forests.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Fabulous artist Jeri Landers ( makes a great point. If Beatrix Potter's scientific forays had been recognized, well, it is possible that she wouldn't have written (and self-published) her first book.

Thanks Jeri!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Woops, Jeri's blog is

Pay her a visit!

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

My woods
are filled with
much I now know a
little more about.
Do not forget me
in the gardening club :)

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Of course I won't forget you!


Sandra said...

Thank you for this post! I know next to nothing about the lichens and moss; what I sure know is that moss is wonderful for fairies' beds I'm making :)

Mary A said...

Thank you for the chance to win that scrumptious looking cookbook! I have been fascinated by lichen too. After all, lichen is what sustains Santa's reindeer! ;) Mary A.

Darla said...

As always, I learn the most interesting things on your blog. I will have to pay more careful attention to lichens. I am a huge fan of Barbara Damrosch and must sneak a peek at this lovely cookbook.


Hi Sharon, One of the silver linings of winter is that the leafless trees reveal the lichens more prominently. We have bazillions of oak trees here and those tiny,curly lichens are so cute.

I don't know that I've ever seen British Soldiers though. I'll have to be on the lookout.

I hope you're enjoying your time at the NW Garden show. Take care.

Vicki Boster said...

Sharon dear- you truly are amazing! You have such varied and interesting passions-- I'm just in awe of your knowledge about lichens-- I love the little soldiers variety also! If I were ever to be on the "Millionaire" game show-- I think you would have to be my "phone a friend"!!!

I'd love to have a dinner conversation with you-- you and Jeff are so very interesting--

Sending love and hugs--

suzanne said...

Dear Sharon

Today was my day to start a new...I have loved reading your blog posts that I have missed out on. As I write this comment, I am looking out onto my courtyard. February is the best month here. The weather always perfect. My roses are heavenly, my lemon trees are full of yellow brightness. I couldnt be happier and more grateful for my little place under the sun.

I hope you and Jeff are well and happy~

Lots of love to you

Unknown said...

I enjoyed your post on Lichen and remember making fairy cloths from lichen in the Pacific NW. THe book you are offering looks interesting. I am relearning to garden in Missouri after 20 years in the desert.

Thank you for your lovely blog

suzanne said...

Thank you, thank you Sharon for your kind words...My heart is full of love and joy~

I had felt your kindness from so far away.

Have a wonderful day dear friend


Willow said...

Lichens love it is. Little lichen is so helpful and versatile. My favorite little Ruby Throated hummies make their nest with it . I just love holding it softly in the palm of my hand and peeking into its' little lichen world. I am so glad you mentioned the scientific aspect of Beatrix , she was such a remarkable woman.

Anonymous said...

Sharon - Looking through your post on lichens again and wondered if anyone else noticed what looks like a prehistoric creature poking its arms into the container next to it (2nd photo above the group shot around the table). It's nice to think of lichen creatures hiding in the forest. Sharon from Maine

Evelyn Vincent said...

Lovely piece on the Lichens, reminds me that I want to make time to include learning more about them.

I don't know if I'm too late for the giveaway, I have loved Barbara and Eliot since the early 1990s, absolutely love what they do. I will have to start paying more attention, hadn't realized that they came out with the cookbook!

Much love to you and thank you for all the delightful information and photos you bring to our lives!

Mim said...

Lichens always seem like miniature worlds to me - so magical and intricate. I've enjoyed this post so much, so peaceful seeming.

Teri said...

Always hopeful Teri leaves a comment in hopes that she is the lucky winner. I remember Barbara from the PBS show. I sure wish they would do more things like that again. The gardening shows have really become lost. Remember "A Gardener's Diary"? I used to wait for Saturdays to arrive so that I could watch that show. It is no longer showing currently. The lady who did it would take the viewers around to all sorts of gardens and I would always get so inspired and try and incorporate the ideas in my own yard. are that for me. I love your style and wish that I could just move into your place. Just pack my bag and stay for a month!!! (Ever need a house-sitter?) Good luck Teri.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Teri,

I cracked up when I read your comment. Who knows? Sometimes I DO need a house-sitter when my regular one isn't available.

Funny, Jeff and I are drawing plans to re-do our back Birds, Butterflies & Bees Garden. We will keep you posted.

I too miss all those gardening television shows. Someday maybe they'll return.


Little Bird said...

A new book by Barbara Damrosch! Excellent news! She is such an exemplary gardener. I sure enjoyed your post about little lichen. As always, you inspire me. Thank you, Sharon.

amy rene said...

Now I want to learn about lichen!

Stephen Covey Quotes said...

When you really listen to another person from their point of view, and reflect back to them that understanding, it's like giving them emotional oxygen.
Stephen Covey

Lydia said...

Oh my! I could have used you last week in Portland, Oregon to sort all the lichen and whatever I was looking at.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

Sharon, getting ready to turn computer off and I see your email.
You surely lifted my spirit and put a smile on my face - telling me I won the special book.
Doctors today and eye surgery coming up.
This was a special gift.
Thank you....Ernestine

Anonymous said...

I love lichen and moss too!Could you recommend a guide book for identifying the various kinds ? I'll have to have a look for the cookbook.It looks like it will have some interesting(and tasty !) ways to use some of the garden produce.Love your blog,very inspiring and beautiful.Kathy S.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Kathy S.

I could not reply to you because I don't have an address for you.

Check at your local library for a book on lichens. I saw a HUGE book of all the lichens of North America, but what you really need is a book on lichens found in your region of the country. Spring is sure a great time to look for and identify these beauties. Cheers!

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

I love your life Sharon!
What a neat post, so many interesting things, I would love to win this.

Lili said...

Oh my goodness, another fascinating post that I almost missed! I did not know that about lichen and potpourri. And I am always seeking out beautiful lichen here, especially lately, adding them to miniature moss gardens I'm experimenting with. You always teach AND inspire me! xo

CarolK said...

Hi Sharon, I'm new to your blog spot. I found you thru FOSB. I love books, gardening, crafting, all that stuff. I think I have your little book Sunflower House somewhere in my extensive library. I'll have to hunt to it. Anyway, love your blogspot and will be a follower now. Carol K from NJ

Laura said...

That's so cool! I have a fascination with mushrooms, mainly morels, imparted to me by my dad. Now my 5 year old son loves to help me look for morels in the spring! Digging around the forest floor and releasing all of those damp scents and seeing what we can find - what fun!