On Sunday LV and I went for a walk with Charlie; I was on the lookout for some resin growing off of the trees in the forest we walked through but alas found none. What I did find however was another gift: rock lichen! How it grows clinging to the rocks fascinates me so I took just a couple pieces and began tincturing.
This beautiful creature is a happy dance between between a fungus and one or more alga and only certain types of fungus and algae interact in this way — it’s a classic example of nature’s symbiosis, living together.
In researching this impressive botanical I found out some stimulating things, mainly, since we’re talking perfumes, that it’s used as a fixative, to hold a perfume in place longer on the skin. This comes as no surprise as some of nature’s mysteries are quite evident: lichen are called “extremophiles” because they thrive in polar and alpine regions where they are subjected to extreme dryness.
Lichen provide stability, hence their use as a stabiliser in perfume. In their natural environment they help reduce erosion and in the case of rock lichen, can even very slowly break down rocks. Some lichen even extract nitrogen from the air and make it available to plants, this process is called “nitrogen fixation”. See why it’s not a mystery?
I have to admit that learning to prepare my own tinctures for use in perfumery has given me a whole new respect and consideration for nature. I find myself approaching them with much more reverence and care; and although I didn’t do it with these couple pieces of lichen, from now on I will be asking permission from the botanical source before harvesting.