Manitoba might have its official lichen

Manitoba might have its official lichen, Iryna Chyrkova

Canada lichenologists unite to choose a lichen for each province.

Now, Manitoba has official bird, tree and flower and in the nearest future it might also have its official lichen. Hundreds of studies are conducted across the country to identify lichens and, accordingly, to create a new official symbol of Manitoba and other provinces.

The idea came back in 2016, and in 2017, Canadian scientists began to draw attention to it. People usually do not pay attention to the lichen, but it is important enough for nature.

"They're definitely not on everyone's radar — people often ask what a lichen is when I tell them that's what I study," the Canadian Museum of Nature scientist, Troy McMillan, said. "But they're really important ecologically. They do all kinds of important things, everything from being food for different organisms — particularly for caribou, that's how they survive in winter — to controlling erosion."

Manitoba official symbols are the Prairie crocus as the provincial flower, the white spruce as the provincial tree, and the great grey owl as the provincial bird. Scientists say that it is not so easy to choose a lichen.

Troy McMillan added that Canada has more than 2,500 species, but there are certain lichens in each province.

"Lichen is everywhere. It grows pretty much in any terrestrial environment around the world. They're on the trees in people's front yards, they're on the sidewalks," McMillan said. "I like to call them the coral reefs of the forest, they come in so many different colours and so many different shapes and sizes."

There is no guarantee that each province will take the research and proclaim lichen as its symbol. Despite this, scientists are happy to raise awareness of residents and to draw attention to this topic.

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