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 A lichen is a composite organism consisting of a fungus and algae living in symbiosis

The algae photosynthesizes and provides sugars and nutrients to the fungus.  The fungus provides a structure to protect the algae from the elements.

Lichen is a part of some traditional diets, and can also be used to create dyes (often red and purple in color), including litmus, the pH indicator.  Lichen can also be an indicator of air pollution or metal contamination, as some species are very sensitive to changes in the environment.