What you will see on a Table Mountain hike

No matter where you hike on Table Mountain you will probably see a lichen of one form or another. In fact one of the questions I am most frequently asked refurs to the yellow or red blotches on many of rocks.

A typical lichen on a rock found on Table Mountain

A lichen is an example of a mutualistic relationship between 2 organisms. Thus a lichen consists of both a fungus and an algae in a relationship in which they both benefit. The fungus provides water and  and inorganic nutrients whilst the algae produces carbohydrates and other metabolic products for growth. The fungus is the dominant partner and forms the main visible part of the organism.

Although lichens are tolerant of an extremely wide range of environmental conditions they are extremely sensitive to air pollution. Thus their presence of Table Mountain is an extremely positive sign.

Their are many different varieties of Lichen, many of which can be found in abundance on Table Mountain.

1. Crustose lichens, such as the picture above have the appearance of being painted onto the rock.

2. Fructiose lichens are bushlike and often hang from trees or rocks. An example of this is “old mans beard” often seen hanging from trees especially on the Kirstenbosch side of the mountain.

Old mans beard on trees in Skeleton Gorge

3. Foliose lichens have leaf like extensions

Another Table Mountain lichen