Book Review: Lichenpedia: NewScientist

This month sees the publication of Lichenpedia, “an illustrated mini-encyclopedia about the weird and wonderful world of lichens”. There are a few facts that often get repeated about lichens, including that they’re a symbiosis between a fungus and an alga, and that when a tree is covered in lichen, it can indicate that air pollution levels are low. But if you want to get past the basics, Lichenpedia has 173 pages of varied and surprising information about lichens, including that the original manna from heaven that fed the Israelites in the Old Testament may have been a lichen such as Circinaria esculenta, which grows in deserts and can be blown long distances by wind. Apparently, it has “a starchy taste and a slight but pleasant sweetness”.

Illustrated with drawings, diagrams and scientific images, Lichenpedia is a fun little read about a lifeform you might not previously have given much thought.

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