This is a marvelous introduction to lichens. The author is a lichenologist at The Natural History Museum in London and is enthusiastic about his subject. The book is a very manageable length-a little over 100 pages-and explains what a lichen is (a combination of two organisms: a fungus and a photosynthesizing partner, usually an algae), and other topics such as lichen evolution, the ecological role of lichens, lichens in forests, lichens in extreme environments, and biomonitoring. The author also includes a chapter on practical projects-collecting, monitoring, and photographing lichens-which motivated me to order a magnifying glass. One of the projects the author suggests is to visit churchyards to learn about lichens and their ecology. As he says, "The thing that makes churchyards so useful is the multitude of conveniently dated surfaces."
The book is profusely and attractively illustrated with one or more color photographs, drawings, or diagrams on every page. Many of the pictures show different lichens, either in a natural setting such as on a tree or as a close up. Some features are illustrated with both a regular and a microscopic photo. For example, there is a picture of a lichen with a lovely gray color on the fruiting body (the structure that forms fungal spores for reproduction) and a scanning electron microscope picture of the calcium oxalate crystals which cause the color. I enjoyed the sidebars on various topics like "Tests for lichen substances" and "Why do different lichens grow on trees."
The book includes a glossary, a bibliography, web links for more information, and an index.