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Lichens Paperback – Sep 17 2000


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Paperback, Sep 17 2000
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Books (Sept. 17 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560988797
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560988793
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 0.8 x 23.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 458 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,455,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

About the Author

William Purvis became a lichenologist at The Natural History Museum in London in 1988. He is the author of Lichen Flora of Great Britain and Ireland and is actively involved in using lichens as bioindicators of emvironmental health.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kate McDonald on Nov. 10 2002
Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Paperback
This book provides a great introduction to the study of lichens. In concise text that assumes very little specialist knowledge, Purvis explains what lichens are and how they grow. He goes on to explain their role in ecosystems and many of the various uses that have been developed for lichens over the years. He delves into the use of lichens for biomonitoring at great length, and provides many examples of how lichens have been used to monitor or detect air pollution or metals contamination. The book includes color pictures, illustrations, and graphs on each page. At the end of the book, Purvis includes some suggested serious lichen research projects that even beginners could undertake. There is a glossary, an index, and list of books and Websites for further study. This book is a great place to get started in lichenology. It would also make a great science or ecology text for older homeschoolers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 14 reviews
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Excellent overview March 29 2003
By Erika Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book provides a great introduction to the study of lichens. In concise text that assumes very little specialist knowledge, Purvis explains what lichens are and how they grow. He goes on to explain their role in ecosystems and many of the various uses that have been developed for lichens over the years. He delves into the use of lichens for biomonitoring at great length, and provides many examples of how lichens have been used to monitor or detect air pollution or metals contamination. The book includes color pictures, illustrations, and graphs on each page. At the end of the book, Purvis includes some suggested serious lichen research projects that even beginners could undertake. There is a glossary, an index, and list of books and Websites for further study. This book is a great place to get started in lichenology. It would also make a great science or ecology text for older homeschoolers.
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Another Beautiful Book from the Smithsonian Press! Aug. 5 2004
By David B Richman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Several books recently published by the Smithsonian Institution Press have been especially well produced. In an earlier review I noted the excellent "Dragonflies of the World," which is much more than a coffee table book. Similarly "Lichens" by William Purvis has illuminated a little known part of the biological world - the obviously composite "organisms." Lichens are a cooperative unit formed by fungus and an "alga" or a cyanobacterium. Some are easily separable into their component species, while others are almost single entities.

With exquisite photographs, interesting text and an attractive format, "Lichens" appears to be just about everything you ever wanted in a short introductory text. It is full of interesting facts about lichens.

I was disappointed in that Simon Schwendener, who was the first to discover that lichens were symbiotic entities, is discussed, but there is no mention of Beatrix Potter (well known for her children's books) for her role in supporting the symbiotic theory of lichens. Both were dismissed in their day, but later their ideas were accepted as it became obvious that they were right.

This is a great introduction to these weird entities, once thought to be likely candidates for native Martians. The price is very attractive as well!
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Very attractive and informative Nov. 10 2002
By Kate McDonald - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Just What I Needed Feb. 25 2008
By Barry A. Grivett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Another satisfied customer, amateur lichenologist/naturalist and macro photographer. Splendid introduction to a little-known aspect of our environment. I'm indebted to the three previous reviewers.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Excellent May 11 2013
By Magellan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This would make a great first book on lichens for any budding naturalist or anyone who wants to learn about this most obscure of botanical subjects. The obscurity of lichens among the general public and even avid naturalists belies their actual importance in the world's ecosystems, which has become more appreciated in recent decades. Dr. Purvis is a lichenologist at the Natural History Museum in London and his enthusiasm for lichens and their beauty and uniqueness as organisms is contagious. In clear, easy to understand prose he discusses the basic biology of these unique, composite organisms, their structure, ecology, and uses, which are more extensive than one would think, and which include lichen dyes and even lichen antibiotics.*** Accompanying the well written text are many beautiful photographs and microphotographs which make the book very visually appealing and educational as well. Despite their general obscurity, lichens are very photogenic with their beautiful colors and striking and unique diversity of structures and morphology, and this book does a wonderful job of conveying that to the reader. Although only a little over 100 pages long, the book packs a lot of information into those 100 pages but isn't so long and ponderous as to be overwhelming to the beginner.

Thirty years ago I was fortunate enough to take one of the few lichenology classes offered in the U.S. at the time by Dr. Harry Thiers at San Francisco State University. I wasn't a botany grad student but a doctoral student in neuroanatomy and neurobiology, but I had become interested in lichens during my nature hikes in northern California and the Pacific Northwest, which are especially good areas to observe lichens, and I wanted to learn more about them. There were no introductory textbooks at that time on the subject, or anything like the nature guides of recent years with their beautiful macrophotography of lichens. That situation has changed dramatically in the last 20 years and as a readable introduction to lichens with beautiful and interesting photos this book is the best I've seen.

If you're interested in going on with your study of lichens I would recommend the encyclopedic work by Irwin Brodo, who is one of the great living lichenologists. At over 800 pages and with many more stunning photographs of other species of lichens it's truly a tour de force. Although not cheap, it's well worth the money to anyone interested in furthering their knowledge of the fascinating, wonderful, weird world of lichens.

*** I'd like to include this quote from the Lichen Antibiotic Homepage, written by Mike Crockett, Stacie Kageyama, Delfina Homen, Carrie Lewis, Jane Osborn, & Logan Sander, which I thought was fascinating:

"Historically, a large portion of the world's medicine has been derived from plants and fungi. Salicylic acid is the active ingredient in aspirin and this acid is found in the genus Salix. Important antibiotics such as penicillin are of course derived from fungi. Lichens are another type of organism that may hold the potential for medical exploration. In the past, Native Americans used lichens for ancient medicine and ceremonial practices. For example, both the Nitinaht and Makah of the Pacific Northwest used Usnea longissima as a dermatological aid for dressing wounds. The Cheyenne, Oweekeeno, and the Yurok Indians used Letharia vulpina to make a yellow dye. By investigating traditional uses of these lichens, modern science is given a foundation for exploration of lichen species and their chemical constituents.

Lichens produce protective secondary metabolites that serve to deter herbivory and colonization by pathogens. Usnic acid, stictic acid, and vulpinic acid are a few of the 700 plus secondary compounds that are produced by lichens. Researchers found that pure extracts of usnic acid, evernic acid, and vulpinic acid inhibited the growth of gram positive bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, and Bacillus megaterium, but the acids had no affect on the gram negative bacteria Escherichia coli or Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Interest in the antibiotic potential of lichen compounds was extremely high during the post-World War II era through the end of the 1950's. A secondary compound that generated a high amount of interest and considerable research was usnic acid. In fact, sixty-four papers are known to have been published on usnic acid between 1950-1959. In the 1970's, usnic acid was reported to have potential as an anti tumor drug. Once again there is an interest in the potential uses of antibiotics derived from lichens as lichens may be a valuable source of antibiotics for the pharmaceutical industry in the future. The goal of our study was to determine the potential antibiotic properties of four lichen species from the Pacific Northwest: Hypogymnia apinnata, Letharia columbiana, Lobaria pulmonaria, and Usnea filipendula, and to detect what secondary compounds may be present in the four lichen species by using Thin Layer Chromatography. Along with determining what secondary compounds are present in the four lichen species, a tincture of Usnea barbata purchased at a health food store was also analyzed for compounds present."


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