Twelve Readings on the Lichen Thallus

Twelve Readings on the Lichen Thallus is a series of personal essays written by Trevor Goward and currently running in Evansia, the journal of the American Bryological and Lichenological Society. Through the vehicle of these essays, Trevor encourages the lichenological community to step outside itself and look back in at lichens and at our own perspectives on them.

Lichens, he argues, have relevance far beyond their interest as objects of scientific inquiry. Lichens exist at a doorway, a portal. Look out this doorway in one direction and what you see is ecosystem – a collective of unrelated species, fungus and alga and bacteria. But look out the same doorway in the other direction, and what you see now is organism, in a sense no different from any other macroscopic organism.

What the physicist Niels Bohr once said of the physical world is now proving true also of the biological world: The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. The double status of lichens as organisms and ecosystems makes them ideal model entities through which to contemplate a new scientific, philosophic and artistic paradigm now in process of emerging.

Trevor’s essays are posted here, often with corrections to the original published versions.