I have been thinking about Indicator Plant species lately. These are plants that exist only if certain environmental conditions are met. This is an Ecology facet, and one that makes my understanding of the world expand for knowing about it.
Lichens are abundant in my community, and that’s a very positive indicator. Lichens are a delicate balance of two separate organisms living symbiotically as one being: an algae and a fungus team up to form a lichen. Lichens become, “indicator plants,” because this intricate symbiosis is only possible in ecosystems with pure air quality, like here in the southern Adirondacks.
Another indicator plant is, “Sedge.” To many people sedge just looks like plain, ordinary grass. The unique feature of Sedge, however, is that it indicates standing water. That is- at some point during the year, in order for Sedge to survive, there must be water sitting for a duration of days or more, or Sedge won’t continue to live.
There are many species that are picky or needy about specific ecological requirements. The trick for us is being able to decode the physical world’s secrets; only then can we read what these species are telling us about our environment. As I learn more and more about the process of succession and indicator species, the only surprise seems to be how true to form the patterns consistently persist. and so it is perhaps a case of seeing things with new eyes. (Special thanks to my first Botany teacher, Professor Dave Hodgson, for my -tenuous at best- grasp of these beautiful Ecological principles.)