In search of the Lowther Lobarion (and more)

Francis Rose visited Lowther Park in the early 1970s as part of his Cumbrian research. He describes “the park as a whole” being “quite one of the most interesting lichenologically in northern England, probably the richest so far discovered. This is due probably to its great age and the consequent presence of old trees which may well be directly derived from relics of former ancient woodland…”. In particular, he found Lobaria pulmonaria and Lobaria (now Ricasolia) amplissima on several trees.

In 1980, one of those trees had to be felled for safety reasons, and Oliver Gilbert translocated a number of thalli of R. amplissima. He described this, and subsequent follow ups, in a series of articles in the Lichenologist: several of the translocations were doing well until at least 2000. Recent attempts to find them, however, have proved unsuccessful.

The Lowther Estate is currently moving towards less-intensive agriculture; it is part of a number of conservation/ rewilding initiatives. Together with Caz Walker and the estate ecologist Elizabeth Ogilvie I recently spent a day visiting the grid references for the Lobarion and other lichens of interest described by Francis Rose and Oliver Gilbert. What would we find? To be honest, my expectations were low. Previous visits had led me to expect a lichen flora heavily influenced by nitrogen pollution.

The first thing to say is that there are a lot of very nice trees at Lowther; many old oaks and others; some very old. And the second thing to say is that those trees often have a lot of lichens on them: the light, climate, longevity of habitat (and presumably air quality) has led to strong epiphytic lichen growth in the park. Many species are prolifically fertile/ sorediate/ isidiate.

However, we failed to find any evidence of Oliver Gilbert’s translocations surviving. Of the three trees on which translocations remained in 2000, one has been felled, one is now overgrown with ivy and the other, originally described as a mossy oak has become a very mossy oak, to the exclusion of almost all lichens. We also failed to find any non- translocated Lobaria pulmonaria or R. amplissima. We couldn’t find the six trees (at four sites) in the park: stumps suggested they had been felled. The trees in the wooded gorge area seemed suitably old for Lobaria pulmonaria (which in the 1970s was described as being “in plenty”). They have, however, become overgrown with ivy and further shaded by encroaching beech and conifer regeneration. Rhododendron is rampant; there has been little control until recently.

It wasn’t all bad news though. Some of the lichens mentioned by Francis Rose remain: a tree with Pertusaria flavida is highly visible from afar. Whilst we could not locate the tree he found Xanthoria ulophyllodes on, we located it on another oak a short distance away. Pertusaria coccodes, Parmelina tiliacea and Ochrolechia subviridis, all relatively uncommon in Cumbria, were found nearby.

For those of us more used to wet Lake District woodlands, it was nice to see Chrysothrix candelaris, Opegrapha vermicellifera and even Clisotomum griffithii. Pyrrhospora quernea was frequently fertile. There has obviously been a strong nitrogen influence on the lichen flora over many decades: X. ulophyllodes and P. tiliacea thrive on it. But there was less Xanthoria parietina and Physcia sp than we might have expected; less algal gunge than we had feared.

It was interesting to finally find out the fate of the transplants and Lobarion: the lichen flora of Lowther Park is now a shadow of the interest it was half a century ago. Before the visit I would have put the most important influence in that decline as being nitrogen pollution; now I would put it as loss of trees, and then allowing those trees to become shaded/ overgrown. There are lessons here for the management of parkland and the conservation of rare lichens.

There is much more of the Lowther estate to be visited; much more to be explored. It may be that there are areas of lichen interest in the more private woodlands (though Francis Rose stated that the parkland contained the greatest interest). So a further visit is not out of the question…but might not be top of the priority list.

Text and photos: Pete Martin 11.3.24

Lichen Trip report

Whitbarrow trip lichen report 18 February 2024

The last few trips have been dogged by winter deluges. But, mirabile dictu, the forecast for Sunday kept on improving. The rain stopped, the mists cleared and hordes gathered at the Witherslack Hall kennels. Would there be enough parking room? Yes! How many people were there? 23 I think, though only 11 in the lichen party!

As ever, we didn’t get very far very fast. The hawthorns in the first field provided a convenient opportunity to talk form (leafy, crusty etc)  and reproductive features (apothecia, soredia etc). The sun came out; layers were shed. Physcia tenella looked very frilly, and we found a convenient limestone outcrop. Free-living Nostoc was there to be handled, adjacent to the jelly lichen Lathagrium cristatum var. marginale. The latter was in more exposed positions. There was Placynthium nigrum’s blue margin to be admired and the difference between Protoblastenia rupestris and Protoblastenia incrustans could be demonstrated.  A nearby ash had the non-lichenised fungus Hysterium angustatum on it. An hour and a half after starting and we had maybe made it 250 metres.

Bu things speeded up. A bit. The fence by the sports pitch had some Cladonias to admire. The adjacent trees boasted Usnea subfloridana, Hypogymnia tubulosa, and fertile Hypotrachyna revoluta sensu strictu. And then we were into the woods.

A mossy wall with Peltigera membranacea , P. praetextata and Scytinium lichenoides detained us a while. Hazels had Graphis scripta and plentiful Coenogonium cinnabarinum extending in a pink sheen several feet up the stems. Chris found Pachyphiale carneola and there was some Thelotrema lepadinum too. Eventually, in a surge of enthusiasm, we made it up onto the open ground for lunch with a view of Morecambe Bay and Heysham nuclear plant. Was the sea silver, gold, or green? Opinions were divided.

The shattered limestone was possibly less rewarding than hoped, though we managed to pick up some of the common limestone species: Gyalecta jenesis, Romjularia lurida, Collema fuscovirens, Cladonia pocillum, Placidium squamulosum. Sandstone erratics gave lovely mosaics of species we mostly couldn’t identify, though there was a lot of Porpidia tuberculosa. The sad ruins of ash and birch trees gave us a dramatic patch of Trapeliopsis pseudogranulosa.

The afternoon was drawing on and a decision was made to move more quickly. Almost immediately we were detained by hi-vis roundels of Caloplaca flavescens. Sheltered juniper seemed to have more lichens:  one patch had an impressive Parmelioid community. A fenced off area (presumably to stop cattle falling down a hole) had the best Cladonia rangiformis we had seen all afternoon. Deer bounded off across the ripped out pavements.

Soon we were heading down again: there was more Thelotrema lepadinum, and as the longer-lasting members of the party came through the woods, under the cawing ravens and mewling buzzards, we found primroses in bloom. And then, finally, there was an intriguing white sorediate crust on an ash. Chemicals were applied: C+ orangey yellow, K+ yellow, UV+ orange. Is that Lecanora alboflavida? Or Ochrolechia turneri?

“What a good day” someone wrote afterwards. “ It was really fun” someone else said. I enjoyed it immensely. It is good to know others did too.

Text: Pete Martin. Photos: Chris Cant, Pete Martin

Lichen Trip report

Hartside Lichen Report 25 July 2023

Peltigeratastic Hartside!

Hartside Pass stands at 580m (1904 feet) above sea level. There are cracking views over the Eden Valley to the Lake District Fells and across the Solway to Criffel beyond Dumfries. You can see the weather coming in. And that’s where we gathered, a week after we were meant to (blame the weather forecast) and 5 years after the café burnt down. It was July and most of us wore winter hats.

After a short journey down the road (and an admire of the Lady’s Bedstraw) we veered off on a track towards the old Barytes mine. A gate with fine growths of Parmelia sulcata and Ochrolechia androgyna detained us for a little while: there was noticeably less lichen growth around the impressive nail heads in the top rail. The first concrete buildings had good growths of Collema auriforme and Collema crispum, together with nesting swallows.

A further building provided even more distraction: there was Bilimbia sabuletorum and Agonimia tristicula on the mosses; Aspicilia contorta and bright growths of Caloplaca flavovirescens, Leptogium gelatinosum and Collema cristatum among others on the concrete roofs. The sun shone briefly, matching the only Xanthoria parietina we saw all day. And then we headed down into the mine valley proper, towards where Caz and Chris had done a recce earlier in the month.

There were boulders, grassy and mossy patches and shaly mine spoil terraces, interspersed with steep slopes and little outcrops. There was limestone and sometimes sandstone, together with some obviously mineralised boulders. We leapfrogged from substrate to substrate, ticking off Cetraria muricata, then C. aculeata; Cladonia furcata then C. gracilis and C. potentosa. Rabbit droppings provided some entertainment and interest: there were fungal fruiting bodies, but were they lichenised? Samples were taken- just in case. Wooden posts had Hypocenomyce scalaris, Hypogymina physodes and tubulosa, a variety of Cladonias. “Do you want to see my other rabbit dropping?” asked Chris.

And so to lunch. And the Peltigeras. There was P. hymenina and lots of P. membranacea. The reddish looking tomentose one was P. rufescens and the one that looked a bit like P. membranacea but had curly rhizines like the hair on a Belted Galloway must have been P. canina. There was P. neckeri, with black (or at least dark) apothecia. Underneath it is strikingly dark in the middle, and has dramatic white “net holes” between the veins. Peltigera didactyla was new to me, the younger lobes having a lovely pattern of soredia. P. venosa was new too, a lovely greeny colour and dramatically fertile. Caz pointed out the rounded cephalodia on the underside. It seemed confined to a particular level of small shaly waste. Searches elsewhere drew a blank.

“Have you seen any P. leucophlebia here?” Asked David. “Cos there’s lots lower down the beck.” Within a couple of minutes he had found some amongst the moss. And the more we looked, the more we found, bright green from the recent rains, and half buried among the mosses.

As the rains came in, we headed down a little, to where there were more acid-rock loving species like Parmelia omphalodes on the boulders. The shaly terrace didn’t reveal any more venosa. But there was a lovely underhang with lots of Diploschistes scruposus on rock, Dibaeis baeomyces and Trapeliopsis pseudogranulosa on the soil.

An old metal mine bogey provided some puzzles. Rhizocarpon oederi was identified, and whilst we wanted the sorediate Lecanora to be L. handelii it was probably L. soralifera. A lovely mine arch detained us for a few minutes; there was Peltigera praetextata (at last!) above it on some concrete; Gyalecta jenenis on a limestone boulder and Cladonia pocillum on moss. Chris found Lichenomphalia alpina, a bright yellow hi-vis mushroom shining out of the turf. And with that, and the weather looking to close in, we trudged up towards the cars.

Our list wasn’t that long, but it’s a very interesting site, with the variety of substrates giving a wide range of mainly terricolous and saxicolous lichens. Further explorations would no doubt reveal a lot more. And someone very knowledgeable could make a long list! The Peltigera venosa was a real find, and it would be worth making further explorations of other terraces to see if there is more. Unfortunately, the vegetation growth on the terraces and tree plantings around the site probably mean its days are numbered.

Text: Pete Martin. Photos: Chris Cant, David Clarke, Geoffrey Haigh, Pete Martin, Caz Walker


Messages from the 1970s…

I’ve recently been browsing a set of reports that Francis Rose wrote for the Nature Conservancy Council in the early 1970s. Mainly, but not exclusively, about lichens, they contain a wealth of information about the visits he (with others including Brian Coppins and our own Russell Gomm) made to Cumbria’s woodlands in search of epiphytes. They are fascinating reads, in oh-so-many ways.

Firstly, there’s the human stuff: there was a lot of searching and lichen bothering going on, in fair weather and foul. The main (1971) report covers 24 days during which he visited 75 sites plus additional trees, not to mention the areas that were looked at but didn’t make the cut. Many of the woods that he identified as being the best in Lakeland are still regarded as such: Seathwaite, Yew Crag, Scales Wood, Naddle. Some that are now recognised as being very important, like Rydal, didn’t get the attention they maybe deserved.

The reports give a marvellous sense of an understanding being developed. The factors influencing which woodlands are good for which lichens in Cumbria are being observed and weighed: the indices of ecological continuity are on their way to being sorted. Sites in drier, sheltered areas (with basic barked trees) tend to have a different (and possibly more species-rich) lichen flora than more upland, wetter woodlands where the nutrients have presumably been leached from the bark. These days, the differences are recognised in the Southern Oceanic Woodland Index and the Upland Rainforest Index.

Lobaria pulmonaria near Rydal
Lobaria pulmonaria near Rydal

But woodland history and management override other factors: young/ coppiced woodlands have more limited epiphyte populations. And then there’s air pollution: the effects of coal burning and sulphur dioxide production were much more obvious then. The northern and eastern Lakes, more sheltered from the effects of industrial pollution, had retained better lichen floras. There’s also the soil: not only do more basic soils allow ash and elm to grow, but oaks on more basic soils tend to have richer lichen floras. And as soon as one starts to climb through a wood, the effects of leaching are visible: the higher parts of wood have a more “upland, acid bark loving, flora”.

All of which hold true today, but when it comes to the species, the reports can read as though they are talking about somewhere completely different. Obviously, many of the species names have changed; many more lichens are now recognised and described. But Parmotrema perlatum was only found at one site in the Windermere/ Coniston/Ambleside area (these days it is prolific) and Normandina pulchella is noteworthy as an indicator of relict Lobarion: how some things have bounced back! Maybe, to look on the bright side, there are more lichens now in many places.

Parmotrema perlatum near Ambleside
Parmotrema perlatum near Ambleside

Another example of how things have changed is the description of Physcia aipolia as “interesting”. It is, these days, prolific on my soft fruit bushes. The Xanthorion is held to be an interesting community: the prolific growths of nitrophilous lichens that we see today are far from being an issue. Lowther Park is described as being “probably the richest so far discovered” in Northern England. My explorations there suggest a lot of nitrogen enrichment, and the loss of all the interesting lichens. One report gives details of individual trees: it will be worth revisiting these to see what exactly is there today.

Physcia aipolia near Ambleside
Physcia aipolia near Ambleside
Evernia prunastri at  Lowther Park
Evernia prunastri at Lowther Park

Overall, it is probably the losses that stand out more than the gains: Great Wood, Borrowdale, was described as having the three Lobaria species in an “abundance unparalleled in Northern England”. Whilst some (of all three) remains, the elms are gone and the decline in Lobarion well known. Across Lakeland, these excursions came across large old trees that retained lichens from pre-industrial times; wayside oaks with Sticta limbata, Lobaria virens and Nephroma. Fifty years on and they aren’t on the roadsides, though some of the old ash pollards have them just about hanging on.

Lobaria pulmonaria, L. amplissima and L. virens in Great Wood
Lobaria pulmonaria, L. amplissima and L. virens in Great Wood

On the other hand, some things remain the same: the “abundance” of Bryoria fuscescens in Holme Wood, Loweswater, that struck Francis Rose is my main memory from our 2020 visit. And then there’s the things that were found that need searching for again: Usnea ceratina in Pull Garth Woods; Heterodermia obscurata at Lodore. If these reports do one thing, they urge us to get outside with a hand lens. Cue the suggestions for next winter’s programme!

Bryoria fuscescens at Holme Wood
Bryoria fuscescens at Holme Wood

And finally, it is interesting to note the report’s recommendations: that many of the sites in Borrowdale should be “given National Nature Reserve status within an envelope”, and other sites given protection too. Fifty-plus years on, it may be that the former is being considered. Was that the sound of a stable door I just heard?

Text and photos: Pete Martin

Lichen Trip report

Burnbanks trip report 18-5-2023

Ten of us gathered on a sunny May morning to look at lichens. We crossed the road, went through a gate and there was a slope. Small outcrops beckoned. The bracken wasn’t yet tall enough to be in the way. Yellowhammers wheezed about no cheese. This was Caz and Chris’s local patch, and they had an itinerary planned…

Outcrop one had some very impressive Massalongia carnosa: it was strange to see it dry. There were lichens to explain to first timers: Rhizocarpon geographicum; a conspiracy of Cladonias; Ochrolechia androgyna to demonstrate a C+ red reaction on; Pertusaria corallina for K+ yellow; Ephebe lanata to stroke.

Heading across the slope (and edging a little bit higher) we came to an outcrop where Chris and Caz had previously found Lecidea fuliginosa. It’s not in Dobson, so there had been some uncertainty. I’d not seen it before: it’s an interesting brown nobbly crust, with darker black-brown apothecia. My photos suggest the lichen equivalent of home-made chocolate chip cookies, but maybe I’m taking the food analogies too far. There was also a Small Copper butterfly, interesting little still-lifes of Cladonia furcata and very fertile Xanthoparmelia conspersa; a good example of Lecanora sulphurea taking over (i.e. parasitising the algae of) another lichen. Was it Tephromela atra or Lecanora gangaleoides? I must admit I didn’t check.

There was Ochroclechia tartarea and parella to compare; Diploschistes scruposus hiding yellow tinged behind an outcrop, and Lecidea grisella’s cracks to ponder. We found some shiny Cetraria aculeata too.

Lunch was taken in the shelter of a little quarry, which occupied us for a while afterwards. There was Opegrapha zonata and O.gyrocarpa (now renamed Enterographa zonata and Gyrographa gyrocarpa respectively) to discuss, and some evidence of metals in the rock: Tremolecia atrata looked rusty and there were Stereocaulons aplenty. I’d not tried the KC test on S. evolutum before: it gives a fleeting “violet”. Well, a different colour from the C and the K anyway.

A little further uphill and there was a dramatic boulder: Bryoria fuscescens cascaded for several feet down the lower side. There was Tuckermanopsis chlorophylla to compare with nearby Platismatia glauca, hi-vis Arthrorhaphis citrinella and an intriguing Lecanora with pearly pruinose apothecia: C-, K+ yellow, P+ orange. There was a suggestion that this was Lecanora subcarnea, but the chemistry didn’t agree with Dobson. Though it looked like the picture. The puzzlement was resolved back at base when it transpired that the chemistry listed in LGBI3 agreed with our “in the field” records: result! Another new one for me.

Over the top of the next knoll was a little area of heath. Hands and knees alternated with standing and staring at our toes. Apart from Cladonia we found a couple of pieces of Cetraria islandica: cue a debate about pronunciation. And a small population of Cetraria muricata: much more spiny, closer together, pseudocyphellae not in pits.

A short wander took us to the slope overlooking Haweswater and the green expanse of Naddle woods. The Willow Warbler chorus that had been with us all day continued. There was Protoparmelia badia on the final erratic, a last chance of the day to say “ornithocoprophilous” (whilst looking at probable Xanthoria ucrainica) and a great expanse of Parmelia omphalodes, split by a line of bilberry.

Thank you everyone for coming, Caz and Chris for the planning, and the weather gods for being kind. All in all it was a very good start to the rocky summer season (as opposed to the winter woods).  

Text: Pete Martin
Photos: Chris Cant, John Adams, Pete Martin

Lichen Trip report

Seathwaite trip report 22-4-2023

We were going to the rainforest so… it rained. Which put some folk off. But it didn’t rain that much: the four of us who gathered to look at lichen ended up being able to look at things without too much watery difficulty.

Predictably, we got rather distracted before the main event. The moment we left the road at Seathwaite Bridge we found a wall jam-packed with typical saxicolous species: Parmelia saxatilis; Xanthoparmelia conspersa; Lecanora soralifera; Hypotrachyna revoluta sensu lato; Ochrolechia androgyna. So it was a while before we were heading up the slope from tree to tree, noting the difference between the lichens on older oaks and those on hazels, though some species like Thelotrema lepadinum seemed happy on both.

It was, of course, the Lobarion lichens on the older ashes that stole the show. We were examining a Collema (subflaccidum I think) when we realised there was a profuse growth of Peltigera praetextata on the other side of the tree, which led us to notice the sorediate margins of Nephroma parile. The next tree had profuse Nephroma laevigatum for contrast, with apothecia the other way round from those on Peltigera. There was Sticta fuliginosa too, which had us sniffing our fingers for fish. At some point someone said “the more knackered the tree, the better the lichens” and I couldn’t disagree.

There’s several curiosities about these Seathwaite woods. The ashes aren’t that big, but are very decrepit and have amazing lichens in spite of it being a mine and industrial site just a couple of hundred years ago. The Borrowdale yews, where we had lunch, are pretty enigmatic too. And there’s no Lobaria pulmonaria there. Except there is now, because of the translocations undertaken in 2020. We looked at a few of these: some were growing really healthily.

The translocations of dual morph Sticta canariensis were doing OK too: the brown lobes have cyanobacteria (“blue-green algae”) as the photobiont, whilst the green lobes that protrude from them have algae doing the job. The fungi is the same in both parts. We quickly found a larger, “free-living” population of dual morph S. canariensis, and then some large thalli of vivid green Ricasolia (was Lobaria) virens, complete with little volcanoes on the lobes and beautiful apothecia.

We made out way back through the wood, hopping from oak to ash to hazel but finally finished at an ash with the largest growth of Sticta I’ve ever seen. There was more than I could shake my stick at; great overlapping brackets cascaded down the trunk. I think it is Sticta sylvatica, but I struggle with telling the difference between that and S. fuliginosa.

I say finished, but of course we didn’t. There was a little revision on the wall at the entrance to the wood, and then a quick look at the Candelaria concolor on the rowans in the car park. Very different in scale, habitat requirements and conservation evaluation. There seemed rather more than I remembered. A nice little thing, even if it’s not as dramatic as the Lobarion.

Text and photos: Pete Martin

Lichen Trip report

Hutton Roof lichen trip report 15-3-23

Ten folk braved the March snow to look at lichens near Hutton Roof this week. And there were half a dozen for the bryo option: this looking at small things is getting popular! Right on the wall by the meeting point in the village was Diploschistes muscorum, a crusty species that has the white-with-a-yellow-tinge crust of its commoner cousin Diploschistes scruposus, and the hollowed out apothecia too. But D. muscorum is parasitic on Cladonias (particularly on limestone in my experience). It seems to smother them, covering the podetia in a white blanket. And then eat them up before moving on to the mosses.

A short distance up the lane we found a limestone wall to occupy us for half an hour or so: Caloplaca flavescens,  Diploicia canescens, Acrocordia conoidea and other typical species. The odd silicious rock had Parmelia saxatilis, Rhizocarpon geographicum and Opegrapha gyrocarpa to make them stand out. And then it was on to the Ash trees: with a lot of Physcia adscendens and Lecidella elaeochroma to discuss. Adjacent Punctelia subrudecta and Parmelia sulcata thalli gave good illustrations of their different pseudocyphellae: points versus lines. Bubbling Curlews and screeching Jays provided an interesting soundtrack.

And then there was an outcrop: Dermatocarpon miniatum as big as (small) elephants’ ears; bubbling thalli of Collema (now Lathagrium) auriforme and an unfamiliar tiny jelly lichen whose proportionally long extended lobes were pruinose at the tips. We discovered later that it is Scytinium (was Collema) fragile, confirmed by Brian Coppins. A well camouflaged moth was disturbed- initial investigations suggest Ectropis crepescularia – The Engrailed. Nearby walls had frilly Peltigera praetextata; the ash tree above had Pertusaria leioplaca and a couple of specimens – intriguing white apothecia, and one that turned out to be Gyalecta truncigena.

We pushed on through the Hazel woods. A real-life Coenognium (was Dimerella) lutea was compared with the front of Dobson. Pseudoschismatomma (was Opegrapha) rufescens was seen on an ash. We lunched on the limestone pavement of the Rakes, with Blue Moor Grass (Sesleria caerulea) at our feet and a snowy Ingleborough in view. Typical limestone outcrop species were quickly found:  Squamarina cartilaginea; Petractis clausa; Collema cristatum etc. Protoblastenias were discussed. Was that a colour change with K or not? Could it be P. lilacina?

Higher up on the outcrops we found some beautiful rosettes of Caloplaca aurantia, the flat lobe ends contrasting nicely with the nearby convex ones of Caloplaca flavescens. We debated saxicolous Opegraphas, found Dermatocarpon luridum in a karren (non-geomorphologists might call it a runnel) and demonstrated the K/UV purple reaction of Porpidia tuberculosa on an erratic. We failed to find Solorina saccata. Maybe next time.

It began to rain, so headed down, though were delayed for a while by a wall with Lecidella scabra, Baeomyces rufus, Leptogium gelatinosum and a mysterious greeny C+ red crust with small white features. Is it young Trapelia coarctata? Somewhat eerily, we emerged onto the road just as the bryo party arrived from the other direction: perfect timing for a post-trip debrief. We found 90 or so species, all learnt at least something, and there’s samples to occupy us over the next few days. But we have barely scratched the surface of Hutton Roof…

Text: Pete Martin. Photos: Caz Walker, Chris Cant, Geoffrey Haigh, Pete Martin


Book reviews, January 2023

Christmas was wet, too wet for doing much outside other than getting damper, so I made a good start on the book pile. Environmental campaigner Guy Shrubsole’s “ The Lost Rainforests of Britain” had a lot of publicity in the autumn: so lots more folk must now be aware of Britain’s rainforests. Job done? Well that must be part of his purpose. The paperback version will tell yet more people about them. And that must be a good thing.

Basically the book is a series of visits to woods, each one an opportunity for Guy to display his growing awareness and to raise issues. I can’t fault his enthusiasm. Indeed, I share it. Once he has discovered rainforests he visits lots; they obviously have a great effect upon him; he becomes a passionate advocate. There are suggested proposals for increasing their area. I can’t really fault them.

I could be picky: what makes something a temperate rainforest?; the species he describes are all too often the same; some of his claims about species and woods and discoveries may be disputed by some; there’s insufficient (to my mind) discussion of the variety of different Atlantic woods. There’s a preponderance (unsurprisingly) of woods near where he lives in south-west England: there’s relatively little about Scottish, Welsh and Cumbrian sites. But, as I said, I’m being picky.

For Cumbrian sites he goes to Johnny’s Wood in Borrowdale and Young Wood near Mungrisdale. I’m not sure those are the best places to go. But that’s from my local lichen perspective and it’s hard to disparage a book where Sticta, Lobaria and others get regular mentions. And maybe we don’t want to encourage too many folk to go near the very special places…

Did it enthuse me? No, but I’m grabbed already. Did it make me want to go to new places? Yes, it’s 30 years since I went to a wood in south west England, so it must be time for a visit soon. Do I recommend it? Well it depends on who you are. If you know a lot about lichens/ bryophytes/ wet woods it may disappoint. And you may be picky. But if you want to broaden the interest, then it may be a good one to suggest for people.

And so to Eoghan Daltun’s “An Irish Atlantic rainforest”. There’s a story here: rebuilding an old house in Dublin; learning about sculpture in Italy; buying a fascinating property in County Cork; fencing it to stop overgrazing killing the woodland. There’s little detail about the wildlife, but great local landscape and social history. The power of a good rainforest to enthuse and interest is revealed. But there’s a series of (to me) blander, less interesting chapters on rewilding and the impoverished state of Ireland’s ecosystems. I knew about that anyway, and maybe I’m spoilt by Tim Robinson’s detailed stories. So I ended up a little disappointed. Not by what Eoghan is doing, which is great, or by what he wants to happen, but by the book. Ho hum.

And then it was Vincent Zonca’s “Lichens: Towards a minimal resistance”, recently translated from the French. It’s a wide ranging tour of art, thought, poetry, prose, biology, ecology, symbiosis, mutualism, philosophy and just about everything else that lichens touch on, or that touch on lichens. The index includes, among those I’ve heard of, John Cage, William Wordsworth, Peter Kropotkin, Salvador Dali, David Hawksworth, Barry Lopez and Rosa Parks. And then there’s all the others.

At times the book is almost unreadable, at times inspiring, at times revealing, at times just pointing at rabbit holes (have a look at:  Rather appropriately, there’s a lot going on, and it’s time consuming to deal with it, even superficially. Have I thought a bit more about things and linkages? Yes. Do I understand it all? No. Does it make me want to know more? Yes. Will I come back to it? Surely, on many occasions. If only to find suitable quotes and inspiration:  “Thinking like lichen allows us to know our ecosystem better, and the everyday environments of our wanderings”(p213). It’s time to go outside in the rain.

Pete Martin

Lichen Trip report

Baysbrown trip report 24-11-22

Autumns are always wet in the Lakes, and our trip to Baysbrown Wood was no exception to the seasonal rule. We postponed the first date because of the forecast and folk were asking about whether we’d go ahead with the second date…

We met at Elterwater, on a relatively dry morning, and walked up along moss and Peltigera lined walls. Both the bryophyte and lichen parties did very well at not getting distracted. Once in the wood proper though, the bryo party were off like a rocket: headed for a fixed monitoring point where there’s a rare-in-the-Lakes species called Plagiochila heterophylla. We ambled along in the same direction: it was an Atlantic woodland species they were excited about, so maybe there would be lichens worth looking at nearby.

And there were: we quickly found Thelotrema lepadinum on the first ash we looked at, together with copious Normandina pulchella and the pointy pycnidia of Anisomeridium polypori. Heading up towards the top of the wood we found lots of Hypogymnia physodes and Parmelia saxatilis on the larches. And even though the oaks weren’t that old, we quickly found some Micarea alabastrites too. It has white apothecia and is an indicator of acid bark in oceanic woodlands.  

We navigated our way through the tumbledown victims of Storm Arwen from almost exactly a year ago, to look at hazels below the encroaching quarry spoil tips. They felt very old and very mossy, and there was an almost timeless feeling about them. The charcoal pitsteads and slate waste heaps told a story of past industrial activity though, and beyond Graphis scripta, G. elegans and Pertusaria leioplaca there was relatively little in the way of interesting crusts. We did find fertile Normandina pulchella: perithecia immersed in elongated squamules. I can’t remember seeing that before.

A little lower down, and the bryo party showed us their target species: and a fine, blueish, toothed thing it was too. There were some little cliffs with interesting (basic-rock loving) mosses, but nothing in the way of more basic-rock loving lichens, though it was all so wet they could have been hidden by water. There were Peltigera praetextata, P. hymenina and P. membranacea on moss on the slate waste. We edged our way down, and started to descend into a zone of ashes and oaks and birches; the latter had our first Hypotrachyna species of the day.

But that’s when the heavens opened, and it wasn’t a day to be arguing with the weather. So we sidled away, via a couple of trees alongside the path that held Cetrelia olivetorum and Peltigera horizontalis. We’ll have to come again another time to see the Bryorias I’d noticed on a quick recce last month and find what else the site holds.

Text and photos: Pete Martin

Lichen Trip report

Bowscale Tarn trip report 21-9-22

Unforecast snatches of sun welcomed us at Mungrisdale. And, once again, we were barely distracted on a long walk in along a good track. Barely distracted I said. There was Trapeliopsis gelatinosa on a soil underhang, but that was it. Apart from several caterpillars and what must have been an oddly plumaged juvenile Kestrel.

But all changed once we rounded the corner of the moraine and were by the tarn. The wind got up. The temperature dropped by several degrees. The cloud thickened. There was no sign of the immortal trout legends say live in the waters. But there were lichens.

A big boulder at the water’s edge occupied us for quite a while, providing a good range of acid rock species: Lecanora intricata and L. soralifera; Parmelia omphalodes, Ochrolechia androgyna, Ionaspis lacustris and Scoliciosporum umbrinum to name a few. A sorediate and fertile crust proved to be Tephromela grumosa. Chris ventured out to an island and found Protoparmelia badia. The stepping stones and gusty wind didn’t make for a relaxed journey when others followed!

Lunch was taken in a hollow where the wind was a little less gusty. There were plentiful Cladonia species amongst the mosses, and Stereocaulons on the glacial boulders: both varieties of S. vesuvianum, S. evolutum and S. dactylophyllum. Presumably the boulders were metal rich. A small Cetraria remained unidentified to species: were the podetia rounded or flattened? Were there any psuedocyphellae and where were they? It seemed best to leave it where it was.

We headed up towards the north-facing back wall of the corrie, where damp little cliffs held the odd tree out of reach of the sheep. Rusty nodules suggested the rocks were metal rich. Caz found the small brown squamules of Massalongia carnosa growing among mosses on a damp face. Beneath a Rowan tree was a Peltigera, the only one we’d found all day. Much discussion ensued. It was glossy, with upturned edges. A slash in its upper surface revealed a white medulla. There was a bit of pruina to the end of one of the lobes at least. Underneath, the centre was dark and there were white patches between flat, spreading veins. The rhizines were pretty pathetic. It went C+ red. So we tentatively thought it was Peltigera neckeri. If it is, it’s the first record for the Lake District, although there are 36 records in the Cumbrian Pennines.

Just yards further on, we found the greeny cracked-mud thallus of  Myriospora smaragdula. On a nearby ledge, Chris pointed out a rusty patch. Was it a lichen? Nearby were some small, scattered squamules. Their rims were thicker and paler than the centres, and they looked for all the world like Stereocaulon vesuvianum phyllocladia that are sometimes described as “button-like”. But without the pseudopodetia. Dobson was consulted. K was applied: it went yellow. But so do all the Stereocaulons. UV produced a white reaction. We think we have Stereocaulon leucophaeopsis. Of which not a lot has been found in the Lakes.

After all that excitement, things were bound to slow down. We ambled along the cliffs a bit, but didn’t make it very far before deciding to call it a day, and descend. In fact, we’d barely started to make it along that corrie wall. There’s some interesting looking scree (which might be mine spoil), some interesting looking cliffs and who knows what those trees will have? So we’ll have to come back another time…

Pete Martin, with additional photos by Chris Cant