You are on page 1of 42

Uses of Lichens: Past and Present

Uses of Lichens
Food for humans and other animals Medicinal problems and uses Lichens as dyes (past and present) Lichens in the perfume industry Biodeterioration problems Miscellaneous uses and problems

Lichens as Food
Lichens as Food for Humans
– Human consumption is limited: Umbilicaria (“rock tripe”), Bryoria used by native peoples of North America – Sometimes used for survival (Cladina, Cetraria islandica) – Generally most taxa are bitter tasting and provide little nutritional value


Lichens as Food (cont.)
A Secwempec (Shuswap) elder near Kamloops, British Columbia, placing soaked Bryoria fremontii into a pit oven for cooking. Photo copyright Sandra Peacock 1992. Bryoria fremontii was the most widely used edible lichen in North America -- a famine food for many groups, and a delicacy for some.

Lichens Used as Food Bryoria fremontii and Cetraria islandica .

Nutritional Value .

) Lichens as Food for Animals – Eaten in winter by reindeer.Lichens as Food (cont. and deer • A definite “browse line” can be found in many northern forests due to winter feeding by deer – Sheep in Libya graze on Aspilicia esculenta in the desert – Some mollusks and insects eat lichens on a regular basis . caribou.

Lichen behind the deaths of nearly 300 healthy elk. Wyoming Game and Fish Department — March 22. 2004 Can Xanthoparmelia chlorochroa (“tumbleweed shield lichen”) kill elk? .Elk Deaths (?) Wyoming elk-death mystery solved.

Medical Problems Contact dermatitis sometimes occurs in lumbermen who become sensitized to constant exposure to lichens Called “woodcutters eczema” or “cedar poisoning” Problem is caused primarily by an allergic reaction to various lichen acids (as in Evernia prunastri) .

Evernia. Usnea and Xanthoria species have been reported allergenic.” . Parmelia. Cetraria.Contact Dermatitis Evernia prunastri “Alectoria. Lecanora. Cladonia. Physica.

however. lichen sclerosus. not caused by or related to lichenized fungi – The term. lichen puctatus etc… . confuses the literature and often the public – No pathogen is actually present and causes are unknown – Various versions of the disease are known as lichen planus.“Lichen” in Dermatology A skin disease known as “lichen” is. fortunately.

“Lichen planus” .

Medical Uses Historically. some lichens were thought to have medicinal properties and were given names indicating this (“doctrine of signatures”) – Lobaria pulmonaria and Parmelia sulcata (cure for lung disease) – Peltigera canina (cure for rabies) – Letharia vulpina (used as a poison against wolves) .

Medieval Medicinal Lichens Letharia vulpina and Lobaria pulmonaria .

Medicinal Uses (cont. usually prepared as a “tea” .) Other species are (or have been) used in “folk medicines” around the world.

) Usnic acid has been shown to inhibit the growth of gram+ bacteria Active ingredient in some topical ointments sold in Europe and Russia (“USNO. BINAN”) Some lichen fatty acids and carbohydrates have anti-tumor effects in study animals. – Most of this work has been done in Japan .Medical Uses (cont. None have been developed for humans yet.

Bacterial Growth Inhibition .

Ochrolechia. and Evernia) .Dyes from Lichen Substances Orchil (purple dyes) – Earliest documented use from ancient Rome as a purple dye or togas using Roccella species from rocks around the Mediterranean – This use was discontinued later when a longer lasting dye was obtained from snails Crottal (brown dyes) – Extracted from Parmelia.

especially on the Outer Hebrides Considerable amateur application of lichen dyes today from a number of species as well as extracts of other plants .Dyes from Lichen Substances (cont.) – These extracts are used still to dye wool and produce the “Harris Tweed” of Scotland.

Wool Dyeing in Scotland .

Scottish Harris Tweed .

Dyes from Arctic Lichens .

Arctic Lichen Dyes .

) .Other Lichen Dyes (cont.

Navajo Rug Weavers Lichen is primarily Xanthoparmelia spp. .

10 ml for about $30.00 . many companies buy many of tons of lichens every year Probably involved in the manufacture of “moss” and “leather” fragrances in perfumes and some types of soap Oakmoss oil.Perfume Manufacture Hard to find out precisely how the lichens are used because of extreme secrecy However.

Perfume Manufacture Collection of “oak moss” and “tree moss” (species of Pseudevernia and Evernia) .

Biodeterioration Problems Damage to stained glass windows in old cathedrals in Europe due to “etching” of the glass by lichen growth or Caloplaca/Xanthoria on roof tiles .

.Biodeterioration (cont. especially in Italy.) Considerable work in the last 15 years has been done of the deterioration effects of lichen growth on monuments and artwork in Europe.

Mayan Ruins Other problems include removal of lichen growth on Mayan ruins in Central America which develop once the ruins are restored and exposed to light .

Cleaning Mayan Ruins Before After .

landscape designs and architectural renderings – Decorative displays Illustrations for stamps (good example from Uruguay) Uses by Animals .Miscellaneous “Uses” Production of litmus paper Commercial Products – Material for model trains.

Litmus Production in Europe .

Commercial Products .

) .Commercial Products (cont.

the “yerba de la piedra” .Uruguayan Stamps Usnea densirostrata.

Costa Rica airport “Lichen Bear” at craft show in Arkansas 2005 .Decoration Photographed at the San José.

com A excellent chapter on “Lichens and Animals” can be found in the Seaward book.lichen.Utilization by Animals Use by North American vertebrates has been well documented by Steve Sharnoff – See www. “Lichen Ecology” (see lecture notes in Lichen Ecology and Biogeography) .

Animal Uses .

Camouflage Blends in perfectly on Xanthoparmelia species .

Are lichens edible? Evansia 8(1): 9-14. Biology and Importance. New York.Literature Richardson. Vanishing Lichens. Their History. Egan. D. & R. Moore. . 1991. 1974. P. Hafner Press. S. H. D. S. 231 pp. (Nice general site.lichen.lichen.html Human Uses of Lichens – http://www.Web Sites Contact Dermatitis from Lichens – http://bodd. in French) .htm – Lichens and Animals –