“Ubilicaria: the Belly-Button of the World” Summary

It takes many different organisms working together to create an ecosystem. A perfect example of this is the Ubilicaria lichen. “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Kimmer covers many things such as Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, connecting it back to human life and the lessons that can be learned. While the book explains the origins of many plants, “Ubilicaria: the Belly-Button of the World” is an essay that explains the origins of lichens. Lichens are a combination of fungus and algae and Ubilicaria Americana is one of many focused in the northeastern part of America.

Ubilicaria covers granite and quartz dropped from glaciers, anchored to the rock by a short stalk. The nickname “navel lichen” comes from its appearance. When dry, Ubilicaria is a taupe color with a black underbelly looking scaly and scabbed. When wet, Ubilicaria takes a brighter appearance. It will gain clay grey polka dots which will eventually transition into sage green, like a thermal mug that changes color when you add coffee. Around its connection to the rock, it will gain wrinkles, giving it an appearance similar to a belly button, hence the nickname.

The two have a mutually beneficial relationship. Algae is a single-cell organism and can reproduce via photosynthesis. It helps provide the Fungus with all the nutrients it needs to survive except for sugar. That is where the fungus comes in. The fungus can dissolve things to pull nutrients out, allowing it to supply both itself and algae with sugar. The two work together to survive and create a new lifeform in the process.

Ubilicaria Americana is an example of how different organisms will work together to form our ecosystem. It shows how it sometimes takes teamwork and relying on others to survive. Living life to the fullest may take finding people who succeed in the areas you fail and fail in the areas you succeed.