What Is It?

  • I’m named for a coat.
  • But my cap’s what you see.
  • I have leaves and branches.
  • But I’m not a tree.

In February, the bright red “caps” of British soldier lichen pop into view. This algae-fungi mashup is named for the red coats British soldiers wore during the Revolutionary War. Most lichens look like scaly, gray green plants, but they’re not. They form when the right fungus meets the right alga. The fungus gives the alga water, and the alga returns sugar made from sunlight. Together they grow and make more of their combined kind. Learn more at mdc.mo.gov/field-guide.

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