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Foliose lichens may sometimes branch and appear to be fruticose.Fruticose lichens may have flattened branching parts and appear leafy.Colonies of lichens may be spectacular in appearance, dominating much of the surface of the visual landscape in forests and natural places, such as the vertical "paint" covering the vast rock faces of Yosemite National Park.
When they grow on plants, they do not live as parasites, but instead use the plants as a substrate.
Lichens occur from sea level to high alpine elevations, in many environmental conditions, and can grow on almost any surface.
It is estimated that 6% of Earth's land surface is covered by lichen.
Recent perspectives on lichens include that they are relatively self-contained miniature ecosystems in and of themselves, possibly with more microorganisms living with the fungi, algae, or cyanobacteria, performing other functions as partners in a system that evolves as an even more complex composite organism (holobiont).
This photobiont layer has photosynthesizing green algae 3. A tightly woven lower cortex, with anchoring hyphae called rhizines where the fungus attaches to the substrate.