According to the ancient doctrine of signatures, plants that resembled portions of human
anatomy were thought to be meant to cure those parts. Lungwort’s resemblance to lungs
resulted in its attempted use as a cure for various respiratory ailments. It is found in
North America as well as Asia, Europe and Africa, in damp old growth forests such
as the pacific northwest. (There is another completely
unrelated plant that is also called lungwort.)
Most lichens are “collaborations” between a fungus and an algae; while lungwort is
a symbiosis of three unrelated plants, cyanobacteria being the third. The fungal component
brings a tough protective cover to the plant, while the algae and cyanobacteria provide
the power plant, via photosynthesis.
Identification: Lungwort’s leathery, leaflike lobes,
spotted with depressions, look a little like a cross between oak leaves and seaweed. They are
green when wet, like the fog-fed images at right, fading to olive brown when dry. The
reproductive structures, called soredia and isidia, are visible as bumps in photo 5. Lungwort prefers damp areas.