Boundary Layer: Lichens, Fungi and Mosses

 Project Statement

The top few inches of the earth’s crust is home to some of the most fascinating and necessary micro habitats on the planet. Before early land plants first escaped the oceans, the way would have been prepared by crustose lichens whose enzymes have the ability to break down the hard, rocky surfaces. Lichens attract and retain moisture and dust particles that in turn create the perfect conditions for micro plants like mosses and liverworts to survive desiccating winds and manage water resources.  Mosses also provide a home for the water-loving hyphae of fungi and a microscopic zoo of creatures. These small organisms form the necessary foundation for a succession of larger vascular plants to thrive.


Medieval Reliquaries from the Art Institute of Chicago inspired the creation of this work. These bejeweled receptacles housed the venerated bones of saints and provided an apt metaphor for  valuing and celebrating this community of diminutive plants and organisms.

Photos by Cindy Trim

Many thanks to the scientists and organizations that helped me learn about these micro habitats and the organisms that inhabit them.


Office of the Provost, Columbia College Chicago      

Dr. Patrick Leacock, School of The Art Institute, Illinois Mycological Association

Paul Mayer, Field Museum

Wyatt Gaswick, Field Museum

Lorinda Sues, Illinois Mycological Association for their permission to use photographs for reference

Burns Bog at the Delta Nature Reserve, Vancouver, B.C. Canada

Dr. Erin A. Tripp, University of Colorado, author of “Field Guide to the Lichens of White Rocks Open Space”

Dr. Matt Nelsen, Field Museum

Dr. Matt Von Konrat, Field Museum

Michael Kuo, author of “Mushrooms of the Midwest”