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Spring brings renewed life: the warmth and light to initiate new growth. It is the perfect time to plant a bean seed in a jar, and once again be awed by the process the seed will go through: gentle swelling, new root tendrils snaking downward seeking moisture, nutrients that will sustain the plant, and finally the first upward thrust of newly formed leaves. Welcome to the world we are most familiar with!

By contrast, there are other worlds just as complex, miraculous and beautiful: the non-seed bearing plants. This category includes, of course, ferns, mosses, mushrooms, to name a few- and lichens. Fortunately I came across an amazing book entitled: Lichens of North America by Irwin Brodo, Sylvia Duran Sharnoff and Stephen Sharnoff- a six-pound wonder covering thousands of species and a perfect place to introduce non-seed bearing plants to our little science enthusiasts. I was able to bring in a few varieties from Marin for hands on examination, but from the book- here’s what we learned:

1. Lichens are not one plant but 2 or more living together and depending on each other for existence

2. There are nearly 14,00 species in the world

3. They are found at the icy poles, the tropics, on mountain peaks, on tree bark, and even growing on the backs of insects.

4. They can only grow where the air is pure and unpolluted (which is why they are not found in cities!)

Here are some beautiful examples- two are commonly seen in our Northern California environments. Have your children help you find them when escaping the confines of the city and enjoy the clean, pure air!


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