Lungwort

Lungwort | Lobaria pulmonaria
Lungwort | Lobaria pulmonaria

November storms provide an opportunity to look at lichens that are usually a little higher up and out of reach. This week, while walking at Miracle Beach Provincial Park during a lull between squalls we found some beautiful Lungwort (Lobaria pulmonaria) on a branch of Big-leaf Maple that had blown down in the high winds.

Lungwort | Lobaria pulmonaria - detail of lobe.
Lungwort | Lobaria pulmonaria - detail of lobe.

Lungwort gets its common name from the fact that early European physicians used it to treat pneumonia and other lung diseases. They thought that because it looked similar to the interior of a lung that it could be used for this purpose. In India it has been used to treat lung diseases, asthma, and hemorrhages and herbalists have used it as a remedy for tuberculosis. Unfortunately, there is no scientific basis for using Lungwort to cure these diseases.

Lungwort | Lobaria pulmonaria - showing soredia and isidia
Lungwort | Lobaria pulmonaria - showing soredia and apothecia

This is a distinctive leaf lichen and one that is fairly easy to identify. It is a large, bluish to bright green lichen that is often loosely attached to both coniferous and deciduous trees. Here on the west coast, I commonly find it growing on Big-leaf Maple in the moist coastal forests of the Pacific Northwest. The surface of the lichen has tiny white balls called soredia and brownish saucerlike apothecia on its lobe margins. The underside of this lichen is whitish/brown and finely hairy.

Lungwort | Lobaria pulmonaria - showing soredia and isidia
Lungwort | Lobaria pulmonaria - indicator species of healthy old growth forests.

In some ways, Lungwort can be associated with our lungs. Its presence indicates a lack of pollution and it is often found in rich, old growth forests. When you find Lungwort, take a deep breath – odds are you’ll be breathing in good, clean air.

Those interested in further reading about lichen should consider the beautifully illustrated Lichens of North America. Many of the images in this book can also be found at Sharnoff’s web site.

Macro Monday

6 comments

  1. The second photo in particular looks like a lung lobe. Very interesting post – again. What are those orange scabs in the last photos?

    I need a lung cure today; my hubby came down with what-I-hope-is-not Swine Flu.

  2. I was going to say – ‘and leafy lichens only grow in unpolluted areas’ and then I got to the bottom and there it was. You got there before me. Of course you did. LOL!

    Lovely photos, of something too rarely seen around here.

  3. Hi DB – the orange/brown discs are the apothecia, one of the reproductive organs of the lichen. Hope your husband is doing better!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *