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Case Studies

Lichen verse

In issue number 12 of the Australasian Lichenological Newsletter, published in February 1983, Nell Stevens reported her discovery of the following anonymous poem in the Farlow Herbarium at Harvard University. The Newsletter's editor wrote that "...we include it especially for Alan Archer..." who was studying the Australian species of Cladonia.

I think that I shall never see
Such pitiful Cladoniae;
The squamules sparse, podetia small,
No apothecia at all -
Succumbing to pollution's pall
Upon a crumbling sandstone wall.
O, Lichenist, leave such things be,
You know damn well it will not key!

The 35th issue of the Newsletter (June 1994) published this poem by Robert Verdon, son of the Australian lichenologist Doug Verdon.


On Likin’ Lichen
by Robert Verdon


Don’t you think
It’s rather weird
To study Usnea
Or Old Man’s Beard?

Whose location, habits
And distribution
Would hardly start
A revolution.

Yet otherwise
Intelligent folk
When faced with lichen
Drool – no joke!

They’ve learned each genus
Has its brood
Of disputed categories
Strict or rude.

But is it spatting
Over species
(Which do at times
resemble faeces)

That fascinates
These rapt apologists
For fungi/alga:

Or is it that
Famed symbiosis
(Which, some say, brings
Swift sclerosis

To any grand
And rich synopsis
Of the world,
All for Placopsis?)

No! I cannot
Cop this schema
Those who ponder
O’er Collerna,

Or decide which
One is hairier,
Or Lobaria,

Are the finest
Folk around
Noses always
On the ground

Getting up to
Genetic tricks
With Relicina
or Bulbothrix

While searching for
Baeomyces’ thallus
Or even
Coccocarpia’s phallus…..

Yet those untrained
In spotting lichens
See them more
As mould than icons.

They realise not
The childlike glee
Felt at each

Now, one solution
To this plight
Is to shine
A gaudier light;

Could do worse
Than pen their papers
In peppery verse.

(With this final
Curt provisum
What the hell
Rhymes with Leptogium?)