by Troy McMullin
In March of 2020, the Canadian Museum of Nature hosted a vote for a national lichen. This initiative was led by Dr. Troy McMullin, together with several other lichenologists across the country. An online voting protocol was set up in which they invited the public to select the most appropriate species to represent Canada. Over 18,000 people voted and the winner was the Star-Tipped Reindeer Lichen (see photo above).
This incredibly beautiful organism lives almost everywhere in Canada, but it is especially abundant in the Arctic and Boreal regions that cover most of the country. In southern Canada and throughout the United States, it is more commonly found in the mountainous regions at high elevations. In the winter, it is one of the principal food sources for caribou.
The group who organized this campaign has also led the selection of provincial and territorial lichens. Fourteen species were selected by regional committees using public votes and consultations. Those selected are: Alberta (Spray Paint Lichen), British Columbia (Edible Horsehair), Labrador (Labrador’s Lichen), Manitoba (Golden-Eye Lichen), New Brunswick (Methuselah’s Beard), Newfoundland (Newfoundland Reindeer Lichen), Northwest Territories (Arctic Orange-Bush Lichen), Nova Scotia (Blue Felt Lichen), Nunavut (Whiteworm Lichen), Ontario (Powdered Sunshine Lichen), Prince Edward Island (Frayed Ramalina), Quebec (Grey Reindeer Lichen), Saskatchewan (Tumbleweed Shield Lichen), and the Yukon (Arctic Tumbleweed). Images of these species are featured on the monthly charts in this calendar.
It is hoped that someday these selections will become officially recognized. The goal is to bring awareness to lichens and to recognize their importance in ecosystems throughout Canada.