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British Soldiers

I love finding a bit of color in the drab winter landscape. The eye-catching British soldier lichen pops out in the winter woodlands. It grows on fallen decaying logs and tree stumps.

Lichens are two organisms that live together for the benefit of each other. Microscopically, you would see a fungus with algae growing on it. The fungus provides minerals and  a place for alga to grow and alga provides a source of sugar for the fungus. The specific lichen depends on which two combinations of fungis and alga live together.

Not only is the British soldier lichen green, it has red caps which are fruiting bodies that produce spores that break off and grow new lichens. It gets its name from the red hats the British soldiers wore during the American Revolutionary War.

You are likely to come across them in eastern U.S. woodlands from Maine to Florida and in several pockets in the western U.S.

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