Will Obama like his lichen?

April 17, 2009

A scientist at the University of California, Riverside has named a newly discovered lichen after President Obama, a gesture he clearly intends as an honor.

Kerry Knudsen, lichen curator at UCR’s Herbarium, says he discovered the hardy orange organism on Santa Rosa Island,  off the California coast, and “named it Caloplaca obamae to show my appreciation for the president’s support of science and science education.”

Lichen is a plant-like growth that looks like moss.

Knudsen,  an ardent supporter of Obama, says he made his final collections of the presidential lichen, which grows on soil and was almost driven to extinction by cattle ranching on the island during the final weeks of the presidential election.

“Indeed, the final draft (of his scientific paper) was completed on the very day of President Obama’s inauguration,” he said in a release issued by UCR.

Though President Lincoln has a rose in his honor, the university says the lichen the first species of any organism to be named after Obama — who after all has been in office for less than 3 months.

And Knudsen, who has written more than 70 peer-reviewed research papers on lichen, suggested to the Los Angeles Times that he never would have bestowed such an honor on Obama’s predecessor.

“I think there’s a dung beetle named after Bush,” he said. “Thats definately an insult.”

There was no immediate word from the White House press corps, which never lets moss grow under its feet.

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