Path to Enlichenment | Part I: Sweet Pixie Cups
Meet the mealy pixie cup lichen:
As described in this well-written broadcast, these fairy-dust-coated miniature goblets do indeed look as though they were set on a table of bright green moss, waiting to have single raindrops fill the cups so they may be gulped down by tiny wood sprites.
Each Cladonia chlorophaea (Flörke ex Sommerf.) Sprengel is created from a symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae. Put simply, the fungi creates the structure, and the algae provides food through photosynthesis. Each granule of fairy dust, or soredia is made up of a few cells from each of the two organisms. The lichen are reproduced when the granules are spread, which can happen in a variety of ways: perhaps a strong wind, or a drop of water plunking into the cup & splashing onto the surrounding earth, or a passing deer trampling a patch of them.
More luscious pictures & thoughts: