Kelly Vaughn

“There are five species of lichen in this image,” says photographer Bruce D. Taubert of his photo, which was made near Canyon Lake in Central Arizona. “Unfortunately, there are no common names, and the scientific names are almost unintelligible.” So, what exactly is lichen? Simply put, it’s a fascinating composite organism that is both fungal and plant-like in nature. Lichen’s outer skin is made of strands of fungal hyphae, or branching filaments. Its innards are interspersed with individual algae cells. There are at least 18,000 species of lichen and possibly many more, writes Walter Fertig in a story published by the Arizona State University Lichen Herbarium. And there are at least 969 species of lichen in Arizona — these five among them.