Categories
Lichen

Roudsea trip report 27/6/21

Lichens

It was a small and select group of three who gathered on a lovely June day to look at lichens at Roudsea: this time the bryophyte group was rather larger!

For once, we made it out of the car park quite quickly: maybe the midges helped. But not before we had considered the question of whether to record something present on a temporary woodpile that obviously hadn’t originated there. What’s the form? We ambled slowly up the central valley boardwalk: contorted old yews growing out of the limestone cliffs gave shady sites for Acrocrodia conoidea; the hazels had Arthonia elegans: the variety of sedges gave lots of distraction opportunities.

Further on, just off the boardwalk, we lingered by a remarkable patch of Peltigera leucophlebia. Dull grey in the dry conditions, a quick dousing with water turned it bright green. I normally see P. leucophlebia in small scrappy patches on the open fellside or above limestone outcrops, but here it grows prolifically over mossy boulders and up a tree, covering maybe 2m by 2m, despite being shaded. The buckthorn above provided a good selection of nitrophilous species.

Further along the valley we examined more open limestone outcrops: Gyalecta jenensis, Opegrapha calcarea, Verrucaria baldensis, Caloplaca chrysodeta, and some lovely wild Aquilegias were found. Nearby ashes had Thelotrema lepadinum. But it was lunchtime so, in search of a sunnier sandwich spot, we headed out to the coast.

We ended up in a lovely suntrap with a view over tidal waters; a train crossed the viaduct and shelduck flew past. Nearby siliceous rocks provided a contrast to the morning’s limestone species: bright yellow Xanthoria parietina; the stretching lobes of Anaptychia runcinata; Rhizocarpon geographicum and R. richardii; Lecanora muralis, L. polytropa and L. gangaleoides.

Heading back through the oakwoods, we found Anisomeridium polypori and Parmotrema perlatum. But the woods weren’t rich in lichens: they have obviously been managed by clear felling in the past and will also have received pollution from Ulverston and Barrow over the recent centuries.

An “extra time” excursion onto the Moss boardwalk produced more species: acidophiles like Hypogymnia physodes and Parmeliopsis ambigua on pine trees; Mycoglaena myricae on bog myrtle and Normandina pulchella on hazel.

So, whilst we didn’t find any stunningly rare species at Roudsea, there was lots of interest. The variety of habitats make the place very special. Thank you to Natural England for the permission to visit- I’m sure I will want to return to find yet more things lurking there.

Pete Martin

Categories
Lichen

Little Dun Fell, June 2021

Continuing my theme of upland lichens, Caz Walker and I visited Little Dun Fell in the Pennines on 7/6/21 hoping to acquaint ourselves with the arctic-alpine species that have been found there, as well as to see how they are doing. We approached from a friends’ house in Eden valley fellside, so quite a trek with 11 miles total and 600m of ascent!  We saw a ring-tail hen harrier on the way up, along with a couple of curlews and golden plover, though perhaps there should have been more. There weren’t very many flowers but a red admiral butterfly perched on the rocks at the summit of Little Dun Fell (which is just inside the Moor House NNR). The boulders also hid several bits of flotsam including two fluorescent rucksack waterproof covers and that not so rare species Plastic pepsicola.

Little Dun Fell and Great Dun Fell
Little Dun Fell and Great Dun Fell

Little Dun Fell, Great Dun Fell and Cross Fell are on the Pennine Way in Cumbria with tops at over 840m: a layer of hard acidic gritstone, interbedded with other sedimentary rocks, showing as outcrops on the sides of Cross Fell and a boulder field just to the north of the summit of Little Dun Fell.  Great Dun Fell sports a “golf ball” radar station – a landmark visible from afar on the west, and looks like a modern art installation close up.

The altitude and geology of these windswept tops provides a suitable home for various arctic-alpine lichen species that are more usually found on the tops of Scottish hills. Most of the lichen records are from some time ago, though Allan Pentecost visited Cross Fell summit in 2016.  The last lichen records for Little Dun Fell in the British Lichen Society database are from 1979 at a BLS field trip which spent a week in the Penrith area (1). Some notable records have a 6 figure grid reference while others just have a hectad reference.  

Caz had seen a few of the target species on trips in Scotland with the BLS montane group. We should also recognise other montane specialists that we’ve seen in the Lake District fells.  We made a good list of species, re-finding some of the rarities and adding one more.  However, Umbilicaria proboscidea was missing, having been described as locally frequent at Little Dun Fell in 1979. We also didn’t see Arctoparmelia incurva which had been present then, but we could have missed it this time.

We re-found nationally scarce Allantoparmelia alpicola on quite a few boulders – tiny contorted and convex lobes.  In addition we found two small appressed species that look a bit like Cetrarias.  Cetrariella commixta was there previously, but Melanelia hepatizon is new for this top, though found west of Cross Fell in 1990 by Simon Davey.  The M. hepatizon had pseudocyphellae on the lobe margins and the surface of the thallus; not present on the upper cortex of the C. commixta. More definitively, in M. hepatizon the white medulla is K+ yellow while in C. commixta it is K-. Note that the algal layer will turn greeny yellow during the test.

We also found Parmeliopsis ambigua on a boulder. This is mainly on acid barked trees, but it was found here in 1979 and there are a few other saxicolous records for Cumbria, with some of these on headstones in graveyards. It is yellow grey with globose soralia testing yellow with K.  We wanted this to be Arctoparmelia incurva but that is KC+ pink and has different shaped lobes.

Schaereria cinereorufa was also present, with the uniseriate globose spores confirming it later.

In the turf, slightly surprisingly, was good old Bilimbia sabuletorum which we wouldn’t expect in an acid environment. However there is basic rock in the area.

Bilimbia sabulatorum

Fifty metres closer to the actual summit there are two fenced exclosures, erected in 1954.  The 1979 BLS trip report says that these had taller vegetation inside, with Cetraria islandica and Cladonia arbuscula having increased their cover to form large cushions. The exclosures are still there with intact fences, but we saw neither of those species in a quick look, though we did see Cladonia ciliata.  The inside vegetation is indeed slightly taller, but not a lot, so the extremes of weather do stop dominant species even with no grazing or trampling. I don’t think the two lost species were present outside of the exclosures in 1979, presumably due to grazing or historic burning. But any chance of recolonisation now seems to have gone.

There’s a similar old exclosure at Cow Green Reservoir (also in Moor House NNR) that we visited on 29/7/20. The growth there was similarly slightly higher inside, and had bushy C. islandica along with Common twayblade and Cloudberry.  So, it feels like the Little Dun Fell exclosures aren’t doing very well, even with grazers excluded.  A long term study of the Moor House vegetation plots, 2015 (3), says that “during the period that Moor House has been protected as a nature reserve the vegetation quality has declined in spite of reductions in grazing pressure.”  The study reports Little Dun Fell as having the highest numbers of sheep (at 5.8 per hectare average between 1954 -1998) but says that “overall, removal of sheep grazing had few positive effects and many negative ones”. It doesn’t reach any definitive conclusion as to what’s going on but speculates that “it is possible that this reflects a continuing late-twentieth century impact of  atmospheric pollution”. Increased temperatures from climate change won’t help. 

That report also says, “What is of particular concern are the reductions in the probability of occurrence of liverworts and lichens.”  “Biotic homogenisation has now been detected in Great Britain at the countrywide-scale (Smart et al. 2006) and within alpine communities (Britton et al. 2009 (4)), and it is possible that this reflects a continuing late-twentieth century impact of atmospheric pollution”. A paper from Mitchell in 2017 (6) echoes these findings: less specialist species are invading the highest refuges for alpine species of various taxa. The combination of warming and nutrient loads in most uplands is therefore reducing biodiversity.

It would be good to check out more of these Pennine tops to get a better overview of the situation, so, as usual, a repeat visit is required, ideally with less of a walk-in.  In particular it would be lovely to check the only English record of Umbilicaria hyperborea on Cross Fell, in the database for 1979 following its finding by Rod Corner in 1977 (2).

Re-finding existing records is great to build up your knowledge – and check the state of play on the ground. The distribution lichen maps for Cumbria are online here, and I can provide full records –  and the BLS records officer is happy to provide database snapshots for other parts of the country. It’s also good to visit new areas – and thinking about the geology and vegetation can suggest where to look.

Chris Cant

  1. Coppins & Gilbert (1981). Field Meeting near Penrith. Lichenologist 13(2): p193
  2. Corner (1978). Umbilicaria hyperborea discovered in England. Lichenologist 10: p134
  3. Milligan, Rose & Marrs (2015). Winners and losers in a long-term study of vegetation change at Moor House NNR: Effects of sheep grazing and its removal on British upland vegetation.
    https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/82709587.pdf
  4. Britton et al (2009) Biological Conservation 142/8 p1728-1739
    Biodiversity gains and losses: Evidence for homogenisation of Scottish alpine vegetation
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320709001451
  5. Britton et al (2016)
    Climate, pollution and grazing drive long-term change in moorland habitats
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/avsc.12260
  6. Mitchell et al (2017). Biological Conservation 212 p327-336
    Forty years of change in Scottish grassland vegetation: Increased richness, decreased diversity and increased dominance
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320716310722

Categories
Bryophyte Lichen

Smardale Trip report 25/5/21

Well, it was great to meet up again for real, rather than over a screen!

Even though the weather forecast deteriorated over the preceding days, sixteen of us met in the new car park at Smardale. We wished each other “Happy New Year’s” in the flesh.

Eventually approximately 100 lichen species and 62 bryophyte species were recorded – good effort!

Lichens

Those interested in lichens remained in the car park- for quite a while. Some willows and ashes provided a variety of corticolous species, many of them lovers of nutrient enrichment: there was some well-developed Parmelina pastillifera with bun shaped isidia. The car park wall provided a variety of jelly lichens including Leptogium pulvinatum, Leptogium gelatinosum and Collema auriforme as well as limestone-loving crusts such as the pinky Acrocordia conoidea.

Eventually the group set off along the old railway line, Melanohalea laciniatula was quickly found on a trackside tree, and further along there was the pepperpot lichen, Pertusaria pertusa. Lecidella elaeochroma provided an opportunity to test whether everyone’s C, bleach, was still working. Non-lichen interest included water avens and St George’s mushroom.

The first railway viaduct provided an opportunity to look at a lot more limestone lichens, including Hymenilia prevosti ( it scratches green) and Caloplaca flavocitrina. Cladonia coniocraea was found growing at the foot of a wall. Some of us were more interested in the Peltigera species growing profusely on mossy log piles: P praetextata and membranacea were identified, but could that be P. rufescens? They are such variable things…and then a steam train came over the Settle-Carlisle line to distract us again.

Further progress along the track saw Thelotrema lepadinum being found, and a fine example of multi-tiered Cladonia chlorophaea: the cups bore cups which themselves bore cups. Traveling down into the valley through the woods was a tempting idea, but in the end we continued along the railway line.

Lunch was taken by a small viaduct over a beck: the sandstone construction gave us new lichens for the day: probable Lecidea lithophila, Porpidia tuberculosa (the K+UVpurple reaction was demonstrated) , Lecanora soralifera and Rhizocarpon reductum. Parmelia saxatilis was prolific on the railings.

A short distance further on and we were at the main viaduct. Swifts angled around us as Ochrolechia parella, Caloplaca crenularia, Pertusaria lactescens, Rhizocarpon geographicum, Melanelixia fuliginosa and Lecidea grisella and L. fuscoatra were found on the sandstone. Could that isidiate jelly lichen be  Scytinium magnussonii? No, John Douglass’s later research revealed it was a young Collema fuscovirens

The limestone cliffs just further on provided examples of squamulose lichens Romjularia luridum, Acarospora cervina, Toninia aromatica and T. sedifolia. We hoped that the limekilns might provide shelter from the rain and more interesting species, but were a bit of a disappointment. Time was moving on. The bryologists had called it a day, and as some of the party turned for home, we decided to as well. The woods would have to wait for another day.

So back to the car park it was.  An extra-time short journey down the railway line towards Waitby provided some lovely thalli of Parmotrema perlatum, more Pertusaria pertusa and Anisomeridium polypori on the large trackside ash trees.

As so often, there’s lots of scope for a return visit in the future. Thanks to everyone for a grand day out, and Cumbria Wildlife Trust for permission to visit.

Pete Martin

Bryophytes

The bryo group spent some time in the car park, admiring the limestone wall which had a few interesting species, including Porella platyphylla and a nice example of Ditrichum gracile (which we now have to call Flexitrichum gracile), showing typical lax growth with stems a few centimetres long. We were all feeling a little rusty after several months without meetings, so it was good to have a look at some common species. Heading into the woodland, there was a patch of Anomodon viticulosus, frequent on limestone, while the trees had Zygodon rupestris, Ulota phyllantha, Orthotrichum stramineum and patches of a gemmiferous Metzgeria species. Peter Bullard checked it with his ultra-violet LED light and thought that the reaction, or lack of it, ruled out M. violacea, so this seems likely to be Metzgeria consanguinea.

We managed to continue at a reasonably brisk pace to reach the first viaduct which crossed the track. Walls under the viaduct had a good coverage of bryophytes, mainly limestone-loving species: Ctenidium molluscum, Neckera complanata, Schistidium crassipilum, Tortella tortuosa, Homalothecium sericeum. Taking the path down the slope after the viaduct, we headed into denser woodland on a very slippy muddy path. The ground was damp and shaded, with patches of Plagiochila porelloides and P. asplenioides. Peter Bullard was pleased to find Loeskeobryum brevirostre, an Atlantic woodland species, and Belinda Lloyd spotted some Radula complanata. We reached the beck at the bottom of the slope, and although there was only access to a limited stretch of the water we found a few interesting species, thanks to Kerry Milligan and Stuart Colgate who had come in wellies and waded into the stream to fetch samples of Fontinalis antipyretica, Cinclidotus fontinaloides and Platyhypnidium riparioides. There was also a good stretch of limestone wall with additional species Thamnobryum alopecurum, Didymodon insulanus, Scapania aspera, and Plagomnium rostratum creeping over stones at the base.  

Most of us then returned to the main track, while Kerry and Stuart crossed the beck to check the opposite bank and slope, where they found Nowellia curvifolia, Riccardia palmata and Trichostomum brachydontium. A few of us continued across the viaduct and after a lunch break, headed to the quarry. This section of the track has more exposed limestone rock faces where there was Homalothecium lutescens. In the quarry itself we found a nice patch of Trichostomum crispulum and quite a bit of Syntrichia montana (previously S. intermedia). A few people had left by then and it was getting well into the afternoon when a heavy downpour sent the rest of us scurrying back to the car park. It was great to meet up with people ‘for real’ and get our brains back into bryophyte mode, as well as having the opportunity to exchange ideas and discuss IDs. We were particularly pleased to have such a good turnout and meet some new faces – thanks to everyone for coming!

Clare Shaw

Categories
Bryophyte Lichen

A Cryptogam Flora of the Coniston Limestone

For the last decade, Allan Pentecost been surveying the cryptogam flora (lichens, bryophytes, ferns) of the Coniston Limestone (now Dent Group) in the English Lake District. This is a narrow belt of limestone that divides the volcanic rocks of the high Lakeland fells from the softer Silurian rocks to the south.

Allan’s paper has just appeared in the Carlisle Natural History Society publication “Lakeland Naturalist”. It shows that the Coniston Limestone has an exceptionally rich cryptogam flora, owing to its varied lithology and complex surfaces, resulting from differential weathering.

Available to download here with permission from Allan Pentecost and Carlisle Natural History Society.
Pentecost, A. (2021). A cryptogam flora of the Coniston Limestone (now Dent Group) in the English Lake District. Lakeland Naturalist 9(1): 16-29.

Categories
Lichen

On the Blood spot trail…

Many of the lichens you see up on the fells are hard to tell apart. But one that is easy to identify is Ophoparma ventosa, the blood spot lichen. Once you’ve seen it, you’ll remember it. And you might not even need a hand lens!

Ophioparma ventosa showing red spots middle-bottom

It’s a crusty, cracked and rough (sometimes warty) splodge on the rocks with big (up to about 3mm!), flat, red fruiting bodies (apothecia to give them their proper name) that stand out from quite a distance. They look like blood spots: sometimes dried blood, sometimes a bit fresher.  Young fruits can have a paler margin.

Funnily enough, there are two different types of Ophioparma ventosa, which can be found next to each other if you’re lucky. One has a grey coloured thallus (main body of the lichen) with a bit of a pinky tinge, the other is a yellowy-grey. The difference is that the yellow one contains Usnic acid (which gives it the colour). 

If you’re in any doubt about whether it’s Ophioparma, you can put some K (caustic soda) on it: the thallus goes a yellow-orange colour, the apothecia a purplish-blue.

You’ll find it on rough-grained acid rocks (boulders, outcrops, cliffs and walls) across Cumbria: British Lichen Society records show it from the Duddon Valley; near Beetham; towards Tan Hill and in Bowness on Solway as well as on the Lake District Fells, where it’s most common. But, at the time of looking, there were only 68 records across the county.

The distribution seems really patchy. Sometimes you see loads of it: on a recent day up one side of Red Screes it seemed to be on almost every rock. But then a few days later, on the other side of Red Screes, I didn’t find any at all. The difference is probably to do with rock type.

If you look at Ophioparma ventosa very carefully through a hand lens, you’ll maybe see some black blobs on the surface as well. Now sometimes these are the lichen’s pycnidia, from where asexual spores are released. But they might also be a lichenicolous fungus called Muellerella ventosicola. This has recently been seen for the first time in England (Devon) and was then found almost immediately in Cumbria. I haven’t yet found it myself, but I’ve started looking at the black dots just a bit more closely!

We’d like to know more about where Ophioparma ventosa is in Cumbria. Next time you see some, take a photo on your phone, grab a grid reference for it (https://gridreferencefinder.com/) …and then let us know! Together we can track the blood spots!

Close up of Ophioparma ventosa
Categories
Lichen

Upland lichens

There are many lichen habitats in Cumbria, some literally on your doorstep. However, if you want a walk then there’s potentially lots to see while out on the fells and scars of the Lake District and the Pennines. The species I’m showing here don’t need a hand lens to see. With your eye in, you can spot them en route. If you have time and a sunny day or flask, then do take a breather and stop to have a closer look. If you are more adventurous, do visit ghylls, crags and the spoil heaps outside old mine-workings – but do take care.

Most lichen species have a preference for either acid or basic geology with some only found high up on montane heaths. Just as we look at geological maps to see what lichens are around, geologists have been known to look at the lichens to determine the rock type!

Limestone scars and pavements

Limestone is a basic (alkaline) rock which forms outcrops called scars – and flat pavements of clints (stones) and grykes (the gaps between). Limestone pavements can be great for specialised plants. In the past stone may have been robbed out but many areas are now protected.

Many of the limestone specialist lichens are crusts which can be hard to identify. On our local patch, Knipe Scar, there’s lots of Squamarina cartilaginea with green squamules .  If you look carefully you might see Solorina saccata on the vertical sides of the clints. It’s easy to see why this species has a common name of Chocolate chip lichen. On our local patch, Knipe Scar, I’ve taken photos six months apart; you can see the brown fruit less developed in one area in the inset photo.

On the short turf beside the pavement, you might find Peltigera leucophlebia or ‘fleb’ as we’ve come to call it, usually with green lobes with small black warts on. There is a similar green lichen P. britannica but this is rarer and not on basic rock; we have re-found this species at a couple of sites in the Lakes.

Fell lichens

The geology of Cumbria can be pretty complicated, but most of the fells are acidic /siliceous / volcanic rock. There are still plenty of places with basic flushes, so you might find Peltigera leucophlebia for example amongst the crags. And vice-versa, you can find erratic siliceous boulders on limestone.

If you look on the rocks around you, you will often see Stereocaulon vesuvianum, looking a bit like a mini-eruption from Mount Vesuvius, or map lichen Rhizocarpon geographicum usually looking yellow/green with black borders between the ‘countries’. Another common species is Parmelia saxatilis. Some species found on trees are also on montane rocks as well as heather, eg Platismatia glauca and Hypogymnia physodes.

On some rocks you might find Lasallia pustulata which is one of the species called ‘rock tripe’ which I’m told is edible – I’ve never tried it but it does look a bit like a poppadom! This is whitish-grey when dry but is green when wet, which got me very perplexed once.

Ophioparma ventosa, blood-spot lichen, is fairly common on acid rock, with the main thallus either yellow-ish or pale pink. The red fruit are lecanorine, which means the pale thallus forms the exciple margin of the apothecium, providing a jam-tart-in-pastry look.

Another genus you might find is Sphaerophorus with species S. fragilis and S. globosus found in Cumbria, both with a coral like appearance, occasionally found with black eyed stalk fruit, but often grazed by slugs!

As you get a bit higher, on rocks you might see various Umbilicaria species such as Umbilicaria cylindrica. If fertile these have amazing gyrose fruit ie with spiral patterns. U. cylindrica is usually gray with prongs on the margins. The rarer U. polyrrhiza is a lovely pale chocolate brown with a mass of black rhizines underneath. In Langdale there is the main site in the UK of nationally rare Umbilicaria crustulosa.

Also higher up, but usually quite small, is the lovely Cornicularia normoerica.

Montane heath lichens

The tops of the Lake District fells and some parts of the Pennines have harsh conditions that resemble the arctic. Here, the heather and grass don’t grow very tall as they are lashed by the wind and rain. Where you see the nets of Cladonia portentosa and tubes of Cladonia uncialis you are in the right sort of area. Sometimes these species can be found lower down, alongside Cetraria aculeata.

This ‘wind-clipped heath’ on the fell tops is a precious habitat so if you find it, don’t trample around too much.  Species that do well in more northerly latitudes can be found here, such as Thamnolia vermicularis, Cetraria islandica and Ochrolechia frigida. Our map for Thamnolia shows the sort of places you can look, but new sites are still being found in the Northern fells. Recently I found a loose fragment of C. islandica on the top of High Street in the eastern fells, possibly pulled up by a corvid. This would be a new site – but exploring at the time and on a subsequent visit, we couldn’t find where it came from.

Text and photos by Chris Cant

Categories
Bryophyte Lichen

Short-listed for the NBN Groups Award 2020

The Cumbria Lichen and Bryophyte Group has been short-listed for a group award in the NBN Awards for Wildlife Recording 2020! These annual Awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding contributions adults and young people are making to wildlife recording and data sharing, which is helping to improve our understanding of the UK’s biodiversity.

It’s free to attend the virtual awards ceremony on Wednesday 18th November 2020 from 4pm to 4:40pm – book here.

We’re one of five groups short-listed for the award and we are very pleased to reach this stage so soon after setting up. Thanks very much to April Windle for entering us – and for her outstanding help while in Cumbria as the Plantlife LOST project officer. She enthusiastically commented, “so flipping deserved – you are AMAZING!”. Our group outings have currently stopped due to Covid-19 but members and others are keeping in touch using the Cumbria Lichens and Cumbria Bryophytes Facebook groups.

We record sightings on group trips and submit records individually. Bryologist members are the regional recorders for VC69 and VC70. Lichen group member Chris Cant has produced very useful interactive lichen distribution maps for VC69 and VC70. Over the winter of 2018-19, Pete Martin visited 20 woodlands in southern Lake District doing Rapid Woodland Assessments while also counting the number of indicator lichen species he could find – more info. Species found during the LOST project brought the national British Lichen Society to visit the wood pasture at Rydal, Ambleside, in 2019. Clare Shaw found Pale scalewort moss Radula voluta at Frith Wood in December 2018 which has led to moves to protect the woodland. Member Russell Gomm first reported lichen records while working here in 1974; his interest has been re-awakened and he is now finding new records on his local patch near the Solway. Increased awareness of lichens and bryophytes with conservation managers has led to efforts to translocate internationally important lichen Lobaria pulmonaria on fallen trees brought down in storms of February 2020. The group has raised concerns about a planning application which may affect bryophytes, lichens and ferns at Stanley Ghyll.

Caz Walker says, “A good species distribution map is worth its weight in gold: it allows us to track down things we haven’t yet seen (part of the long learning process) as well as refinding old sightings to confirm continuity; it allows at a glance an assessment of the habitat type and quality once one knows what to look for; it shows many blanks on the map of areas not yet well recorded which is an incentive to visit.  Putting good quality records in the public domain is so important and helps others to understand and protect the natural environment.”

You can see what has been found for an area on NBN. Lichen species are listed in the Fungi group. Bryophytes are within the Plants category.

And the winners are…

The well-deserved winner and runner-up of the Group Award in the 2020 NBN Awards for Wildlife Recording are:
* Winner: The Mammal Society
* Runner up: Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group


Categories
Bryophyte Lichen

Eycott Hill trip report 19/10/19

Lichens

A full team (yes, there were eleven) gathered at Eycott Hill on a cool October morning. Cloud played with the fells, a harbinger of the rain to come later in the day. And after a short introduction, the group parted: five of us to look at the lichen and six to look at the mosses and such.

Of course, we headed in the same direction and were interested in the same wall initially. But it didn’t detain the bryologists long: they headed to the bog on a sphagnum hunt.  The lichen folk lingered: as befits somewhere with a variety of rocks (Carboniferous limestone and Eycott Hill lavas), the wall had some interesting species. We examined Lecanora Campestris; L. sulphurea; Ochroclechia parella; Collema auriforme and some Caloplacas that we couldn’t sort out. We found Parmelia saxatilis too. No surprises there, but it wasn’t on the NBN atlas list so we could regard it as new for Eycott!

Eventually, we tore ourselves away and wandered in search of rocky outcrops and peaty exposures. Highlights included fruiting Diabeis baeomyces and the prolific and fertile Massalongia carnosa. We found both the Cetrarias previously reported from the site: C. aculeata and C. muricata and very fine and jolly coloured they looked too. The pseudocyphellae on the former were examined and found to be near the axils as the book said they would be. There were good examples of bird-perch-favouring species such as Xanthoria candelaria, Lecanora muralis, Lasallia pustulata and Candelaria vitellinaStereocaulon dactylophyllum was found near the summit and we even felt confident enough to key out some Cladonias as a group. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t always result in a satisfactory identification.

As the afternoon progressed and the rain set in further, we noticed that the bryologists had left the bog and drifted back to the car park. Which gave us an excuse to head back ourselves via a couple of hawthorns that took the lichen species list for the day to a round 50. Or was it 51? Anyway, it seems that eleven of them were previously unrecorded at Eycott. And as for the bryologists? Well they seemed happy with their sphagnum tally…

Pete Martin

And the bryologists …

We had a good turnout on the bryophyte front, with 6 of us, including one keen new member (hurrah!). We recorded 40 species, including 10 Spagnum species (possibly others, but we haven’t been able to confirm these with any confidence) and other bog specialists such as Scorpidium scorpioides, revolvens and cossonii, Straminergon stramineum, Campylium stellatum and Aulacomnium palustre. On the rocky outcrops there were Andreaea rothii, Hedwigia stellata, Barbilophozia floerkei, large quantities of Ptilidium ciliare and Racomitrium heterostichum and lanuginosum.

It’s an interesting site, with some limestone and many ridges of volcanic rock formed by eroded ancient lava flows. Between the ridges, water collects to form very wet, boggy areas, with a good range of Sphagnum species. Wellies are definitely needed. There’s an interesting mix of base-rich flushes and more acidic bog. I’m sure we missed lots of exciting stuff (we didn’t find any Sphagnum fuscum, which is supposed to be here), and we didn’t get as far as the woodland, which might be worth a look on another occasion.

Clare Shaw

Photos by Pete Martin and Clare Shaw:

Categories
Bryophyte Lichen

Tom Gill Trip Report 15/3/20

Lichens

This month, there were no severe weather warnings, so the group trip to Tom Gill near Tarn Hows could go ahead. On the other hand, the forecast wasn’t great and the spreading Coronavirus pandemic was a concern… but in the end the nine of us who made the trip, including a couple of new participants, were treated to a pretty dry day, with a couple of glimpses of the sun.

For once, we were quick out of the car park: but only for about 50 metres to an old roadside ash pollard with impressive Peltigera horizontalis. After a while looking at that, and pondering the associated crusts, we gradually climbed through the Atlantic oakwoods. There was a lot of Ochrolechia androgyna, and impressive sheets of Hypotrachyna taylorensis. Some blue dots on a Parmelia species intrigued: are they Endococcus parmeliarum? We found the Thelotrema lepadinum and Arthonia cinnabarina listed in the SSSI citation, but couldn’t find the Lobaria pulmonaria that in 1970 had been “abundant on old Quercus”. Maybe the tree isn’t there any more.

On the other hand, on an oak in a damp hollow by a stream junction, there was prolific Mycobilimbia pilularis and Pannaria conoplea, as well as high up rosettes of Peltigera horizontalis. Something of the Lobarion community still lingers. The bryophyte section of the party managed to impress us with handsome woollywort (Tricholea tomentella) before finding Dermatocarpon luridum for us in the beck.

After lunch we carried on up through the wood, finding Bryoria fuscescens on larch, before heading out into the pasture area to the south. Trees there provided Cetrelia olivetorum, Collema flaccidum and some interesting species on ash. Wilson’s filmy fern (Hymenophyllum wilsonii) was found growing on a rock outcrop. The day’s count was over 60 species, with something for everyone: a further visit would almost certainly produce more.

Pete Martin

Bryophytes

The lower part of the wood was carpeted with typical atlantic oakwood species such as Rhytidiadelphus loreus, Thuidium tamariscinum, Isothecium myosuroides and Polytrichastrum formosum. Mature oaks had luxuriant wefts of Frullania tamarisci on their trunks. Closer inspection revealed other smaller liverworts such as Lepidozia reptans and Lejeunea cavifolia. Some of the oaks also had extensive patches of Scapania gracilis.

The beck and its tributaries offered a different assemblage of species. Thamnobryum alopecurum and Platyhypnidium riparoides were abundant on the rocks in the main beck with attractive patches of Hyocomium armoricum in the splash zone. At the top of one of the tributary flushes, the beautiful liverwort Trichocolea tomentella (Handsome Woollywort) was discovered, with Palustriella commutata nearby.

Damp shaded banks above the beck produced Hookeria lucens, Plagiochila asplenioides, Fissidens adianthoides and abundant Pellia epiphylla. A single patch of Porella arboris-vitae (Bitter Scalewort) was found growing at the base of an old ash tree next to the beck, and Plagiochila spinulosa was also recorded nearby.

The boundary wall was covered in common bryophytes amongst which the liverwort Barbilophozia barbata was found to be fairly frequent.

After lunch we moved on to the upper part of the wood. This is a steep west facing bank with an area of block scree mostly covered by mosses. Leucobryum glaucum was abundant here, together with Dicranum majus and Bazzania trilobata. Nowellia curvifolia, which had been surprisingly sparse in the lower part, was frequent here on dead wood.

A diversion into the adjacent field to look for Lobaria and other lichens produced a few additional species, including Campylopus atrovirens, Andraea rothii and Polytrichum piliferum on rock outcrops. Of more interest was the Hymenophyllum wilsonii (Wilson’s Filmy Fern) mentioned above, and the large patch of Pterogonium gracile at the base of a veteran ash tree. Altogether 73 species were recorded on the day.

Kerry Milligan

Photos by Chris Cant and Kerry Milligan:

Categories
Lichen

Tips for finding lichens in Cumbria

  • 56,980 lichen records from 1805 to January 2020
  • Some are rare and internationally important
  • Join the Cumbria Lichen and Bryophyte Group
  • Lichens are long-lived and important indicators of biological continuity.
  • Lichens grow on live bark, dead wood, soil and rock. Habitats include woods, dunes, parkland, becks, gates, dry-stone walls, fences, gravestones, mine spoil and pavements.
  • Lichens need water and light to photosynthesise – eg look on sunny, south-facing aspects for Lobaria pulmonaria.
  • Cumbria has a varied geology with ecological niches to accommodate almost all lichens, eg some lichens prefer base-rich rocks such as limestone and can be found in basic flushes on hills.
  • The Lake District has important remnant Atlantic woodlands, also known as temperate rainforests, which are found in western Britain due to the oceanic climate eg in Borrowdale and Ullswater valleys.
  • Tree bark pH indicates likely species: ash and elm are more basic; oak, birch and pine are more acidic.
  • The fells are an important montane habitat in the Lake District and Pennines, with many inaccessible ghylls and crags, an under-recorded habitat.
  • Lichens are sensitive to changes in their surrounding environment. In Cumbria, over time, composition and diversity has been impacted by air pollution (acidification/nutrient enrichment), habitat loss, invasive species (native/non-native) and unfavourable woodland management.

Data from British Lichen Society, Natural England, British Geological Society, Ordnance Survey and others – thanks. Maps made using QGIS.