Canada’s National Lichen

Canada’s National Lichen

Vote for Canada’s National Lichen

The Canadian Museum of Nature is holding a vote for a national lichen. Seven lichen candidates have been selected by a panel of lichen experts–read more on the website and vote for your favourite at

Voting closes March 20th

Active fungi and lichen naturalist, Juliet Pendray, brought this opportunity to vote to our attention. Her favourite is Bryoria, but most important is that she wants us all to vote. Please click on the website, read about the seven lichen candidates, show that you care about lichens and VOTE.

Lichens are diverse and ecologically important. They are symbiotic organisms composed of fungi and one or more photosynthetic partners (usually algae, sometimes cyanobacteria, and occasionally both). Lichens occur in a wide array of colours, shapes, and sizes and they live in virtually every terrestrial environment worldwide.

In Canada, lichens are particularly rich and abundant. There are more than 2,500 species and the environments where they are most abundant—the boreal forest and arctic-alpine—cover most of Canada’s large land mass. Canada is a country with perhaps the highest lichen biomass globally.

Lichens are included in the diet of numerous species of invertebrates and vertebrates, including serving as the primary food source for caribou in winter months. Many species also use lichens as nesting material and for camouflage. Other important ecological functions include erosion control and nutrient cycling, particularly nitrogen fixation. 

Human use of lichens is widespread. They are used as medicine, poison, dyes, and in scientific studies, particularly as indicators of air quality and ecological integrity as many species only occur in environments that have remained undisturbed for long periods of time, such as old-growth forests. 

This important, beautiful, and ubiquitous group is often overlooked and underappreciated, which is why we are promoting greater recognition of lichens in Canada by proposing a national species.

Please read about the species that have been nominated by Canada’s lichen enthusiasts and select the one you think will make the best representative of this unique group in Canada.

Thank you for participating. 

Dr. Troy McMullin
Research Scientist, Lichenology
Canadian Museum of Nature

Rhizocarpon geographicum (the map lichen)
Photo by Kelly Sekhon
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