Lichen | Sun Lakes, WA | February 2020

A lichen turns red — or orange or yellow — when its dinner buffet gets shut down by harsh growing conditions. Dim sunlight, reduced moisture, extreme temps. In frustration, it’ll shed its green-gray photosynthetic food layer and go nude and hued. (Look away now if you’re prudish.) The exposed, colored, flat-leaf structures adjust to surroundings and, remarkably, whip up new recipes, new buffet selections — sort of like replacing everyday mashed potatoes with eggplant casserole. OK, that’s my final smorgasbord reference except to say that extensive scientific research has revealed that lichens prefer the all-you-can-eat option. But don’t we all?

Bonus photo: Lichen 2