Lichen Trip report

Duddon Valley lichen trip report 15 October 2023 

A large group met at High Wallowbarrow Farm in the Duddon Valley on a sunny autumn day. There are few lichen records here, monad SD2296 having 34 mainly from 1970 (Brian Coppins and Francis Rose). We started by looking in the next square to the west which was unrecorded. This is a formerly coppiced wooded slope where alder, birch, hazel and oak grow amongst huge mossy boulders and outcrops.

It was slow going as every tree and rock needed examination, with lots of lichen chat. Many participants were complete beginners while others had come on trips earlier in the year and remembered enough to have a go at identification – and could help those who knew less. Normandina pulchella on several hazel trees proved popular, as well as discussions around various Cladonia species. A large boulder had a granular yellow-green and orange patch of Trapeliopsis pseudogranulosa as well as some crustose Pertusaria species to which chemicals were applied in order to confirm the identification with a colour change.

John Douglass, a lichenologist based in Scotland, was with us and helped point things out to everyone, including Micarea alabastrites with flat, white apothecia on a mossy alder and crustose species, such as Rhizocarpon infernulum f. sylvaticum, Porina lectissima on a mossy boulder high in the wood and both Trapelia glebulosa and T involuta growing side by side on a massive boulder beside the path near the farm. The latter is a distinct species but has been confused with T glebulosa in the past. Also here were Arthrorhaphis citrinella, easily identifiable with a bright yellow-green granular thallus and, in this case, fertile with black apothecia, as well as Placopsis lambii, a crustose lichen which has the appearance of lobes around the edge as well as flat patches of grey soredia, making it very recognisable. Nearby a birch had tiny neat pale yellowish rosettes of Parmeliopsis ambigua, with soredia arranged in globose soralia on the narrow lobes. Furrowed lirellae of Graphis elegans were on the same tree.

After lunch John headed to the river to search for aquatic lichens (his specialism) on damp rocks beside the river, finding Porina rivalis, new to VC70, as well as commoner species like Massalongia carnosa, Ephebe lanata and Ionaspis lacustris.  The rest of us moved slowly along a dry stone wall, finding lots of lichen interest. Geoffrey enjoyed exploring the species there with Carole and Paul, taking the time to look closely at some tiny features. These walls can be very good for lichens and this was no exception – many little habitat niches supported plenty of common species as well as Stereocaulon pileatum and some good Cladonia species, such as the red-fruited C diversa and C bellidiflora. Mature oak and ash in the pasture had a range of foliose lichens and a hazel at the woodland entrance had the typical smooth bark species Pertusaria leioplaca and Arthonia radiata.

A final mossy boulder had good Cladonia which deserved close inspection, Cladonia caespiticia being the most obvious as it was fertile with tiny pink mushroom-like structures and minute dark pycnidia on the squamules. Also here was Cladonia squamosa showing pink brown apothecia – it’s not often seen fertile.

Overall there was something for everyone here but the feeling was that quite a lot was missing – there wasn’t the range of lichens or bryophytes we might expect at a good site. Kerry pointed out that the area had been intensively exploited in the past – heavily grazed, coppiced, trees felled for firewood etc – not to mention over 100 years of pollution from the industrial SW Cumbrian coast, all of which explains what we see, or don’t see, today. The recovery of the biodiversity may take many years.

Text: Caz Walker: Photos: Caz Walker, Chris Cant, Geoffrey Haigh, John Douglass


The Lichen Hunters book review

I recently had the opportunity of reading and enjoying Oliver Gilbert’s book ‘The Lichen Hunters’. Published in 2004 it is no longer in print, so unfortunately now only available second-hand. There have of course been many reviews of the book over the past twenty years by organisations such as the BLS, the New Scientist and others. (I even found a note in ‘Australian lichenology’). Here are some of my own views which I will attempt to share with you.

The book chronicles the history of lichenology in Britain , concentrating on early enthusiasts and field-work which really got going in the mid nineteen fifties.

After first flicking through the pages I set out to read about the early pioneers as they sought to develop the subject through meetings, excursions and friendly academic cooperation. Memories came back reminding me of areas that I had visited, and people that I had met, during some forty years of working in nature conservation and a lifetime of family holidays. My own very limited experience was soon put into perspective!

In addition to the quite detailed descriptive lichenology, I was impressed by the boundless enthusiasm of those taking forward, what was a relatively specialist subject, towards wider appreciation and enjoyment of lichens by the general amateur naturalist.

I have on my bookshelf quite a few lichen books. Like many before me, I began my interest years ago with ‘The Observers Book of Lichens’ (1963) and ‘The Oxford Book of Flowerless Plants’ (1966), before moving on to Ursula Duncan’s ‘Introduction to British Lichens’, and others. Stimulating and useful as I found these, they are textbooks, aimed at helping with species identification, and providing guidance on habitat preference and distribution. ‘The Lichen Hunters’ is different, it is a readable story, which once started I was reluctant to put down as I moved from one adventure to the next, learning as I went along just what can be discovered by those with energy, persistence and adequate expertise.

That is not to say that I didn’t find some bits difficult . Understandably there is a plethora of scientific names throughout the text (it wouldn’t be half as interesting or as useful if these weren’t there), not surprisingly there are many species new to the U.K. or particular area of search. I found this frustrating at times. Out of a total of some 520 species referred to in the text (yes ! I counted them!) many are not included in Dobson’s Illustrated Guide, which I had by my side looking for illustrations as I went along.

The amount of ground covered is vast, the Lizard to North Rona, County Kerry to the Norfolk coast, St Kilda to the Flannan Isles. Abandoned airfields in Yorkshire and Devon, Churchyards and ancient monuments, crags, boulders, lakes, streams, foreshores and reefs, at times it is exhausting, but, always the feeling of being there. Aching legs, wind in your face, numb fingers and the taste of salt on your lips.

But lichens and where they are found is only part of the story. The book’s title ‘The Lichen Hunters’ indicates that the book is also about people, the folk that went out looking for and recording lichens. Over the years Oliver tells of working with many enthusiasts, professional and amateur, young and old, expert and beginner. A glance at the index at the back of the book reveals just how many names now familiar to us have played a part in driving the subject on (over a hundred). I will not attempt to list them. Many are still with us and active, others have sadly passed on. Who will forget Peter James or Francis Rose? And who will not be excited at the thought of meeting Brian Coppins or Allan Pentecost in the field?

To sum up I can do no better than to present a couple of quotes from the book which I think give an idea of its style, its scope and opportunities for entering a very special world.

The first quote refers to an early BLS meeting on the Lizard Peninsula in 1980 :

`After lunch, taken sitting in the sun, for relaxation we went to the Iron Age Hillfort (at Kynance) to see the stones covered in Teloschistes, Physcia tribacioides and Parmelia tinctina  We gradually botanised our way back to the cars, saturated with new experiences, feeling bemused but exhausted, dimly aware that we had experienced one of the great days of British lichenology.`

The second refers to a more recent visit to Borrowdale:

`A visit to the Lake District in May is to be savoured. In the upper valleys the fields are full of Herdwick lambs, the Hawthorns are laden with blossom, there is usually a Cuckoo calling and the sun carries real warmth.  The exciting thing about this Lobarion (on pollarded Ash) is its richness, it is the finest in England outside Cornwall, and there is nothing approaching it in Southern Scotland. To me the Lobarion stands for a lost England of Edwardian summers, village cricket, real ale and honey for tea.`

If you get the chance to read it I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Russell Gomm

Oliver Gilbert The Book Guild 2004 208 pp, colour illustrated ISBN 1 85776 930 9

Oliver Gilbert 1936 – 2005

Lichen Trip report

Mallerstang Lichen Report 14 September 2023

Lindrigg Scars, Mallerstang

A day of fine weather following overnight rain gave perfect conditions as the lichens were well hydrated and colourful but not too sodden. We parked opposite 12th century Pendragon Castle and had a quick look at the walls and adjacent ash trees, sadly badly affected by die-back, then plodded up hill towards the gritstone cliffs at about 600m on the eastern skyline. Once above the fell wall, isolated rocks started to appear in the grassy slopes with proper boulder fields higher up. Some of these rocks had swards of lichens amongst moss, ranging from larger leafy species like Parmelia saxatilis, Hypogymnia physodes and Platismatia glauca to smaller crustose species including plentiful Rhizocarpon, Porpidia, Pertusaria and Fuscidea, as well as colourful Ophioparma ventosa. One patch of Parmelia saxatilis was being consumed by the lichenicolous fungus Marchandiomyces corallinus resulting in pale necrotic areas scattered with pink bulbils. Nearby brown P omphalodes had a different LF with black fruiting bodies bursting through the cortex – there’s a specimen to examine. There wasn’t a wide range of Cladonia species, probably because there was little exposed peat with generally dense grasses covering the ground. A niche for these can be found, however, along the turf-rock boundary where there is less competition and especially on rock surfaces where there is a “biological crust” of dead bryophytes, lichens and algae. Here we found red-fruited Cladonia diversa and C polydactyla, the brown pointed podetia of Cladonia furcata, the elegant Cladonia gracilis and glossy dark chestnut Cetraria aculeata with tiny white oval pseudocyphellae immersed in the branches. This is a fruticose (bushy) lichen, as is Bryoria fuscescens, found amongst moss and other lichens on the north side of a large boulder. One Cladonia new to us was C luteoalba, the undersides of the squamules densely tomentose/fluffy. This species is supposed to start life on other Cladonia species, presumably pinching their algae.

Some of the party expanded their horizons to include fungus as this is the start of the waxcap season. Judith found the large pink Ballerina waxcap, Porpolomopsis calyptriformis, and a few others were seen later.

There were fewer species on the vertical gritstone of Lindrigg Scars but, associated with thin beds of siltstone, were a couple of small aspen trees giving us the only records of corticolous species – Lecidella elaeochroma and Arthonia radiata. The aspen may have got there as a seed (though it’s not often fertile in the UK and there were no other nearby trees) and has survived out of reach of browsers – unless it’s a surviving sucker from an original tree now gone. On the rock face here were patches of brown Parmelia discordans, similar to the commoner P omphalodes but without obvious pseudocyphellae and with a K- medulla (P omphalodes is K+ orange). Nearby, we found Lichenomphalia alpina where peat was hanging over an outcrop. There was some doubt as the mushroom fruiting bodies were a paler yellow than we’d seen before, but the caps were smaller in diameter than the commoner L umbellifera, which has a browner cap with a wavy margin and more striate. Both share the same thallus of shiny dark green globules of clustered algae. Lichenomphalia velutina was also mentioned as a possibility but that also has a brownish cap. A short distance further on there was another patch of L alpina, this time with tiny developing buttons which were a deeper yellow.

After exploring southward along the edge we headed down, finding a small area of lovely heath on the steep slope below with low-growing bilberry, heather and moss. Here Chris found one small clump of Cetraria islandica as well as the only Umbilicaria species we’d seen, the common U polyphylla. The sward contained plentiful “reindeer” lichens – Cladonia arbuscula, C ciliata and C uncialis.

The monad NY7902, covering the main part of Lindrigg Scars, has 95 existing records. Most of the lichens we saw are covered by this list but with a few new ones so taking the total count for the square over 100. We went into the next monad to the south which seemed to have no records and were able to add over 50 lichens to that square. Overall none of our records had rarity value – the tricky crustose species Porpidia melinodes and P flavocruenta (if confirmed when we have time to look at the specimen) were the only ones less common – but, as Brian Coppins says, it’s important to record the common background species to get a full picture of the habitat. We’re certainly good at that!

Text: Caz Walker. Photos: Chris Cant and Caz Walker

Lichen Trip report

Solway trip report 19th August 2023

The weather forecast did not bode well for our trip to the Solway coast with a storm bringing heavy rain overnight prior to our visit. The weather at the coast usually clears quickly and this proved to be the case with no rain all day though it was blustery and occasionally sunny enough for some butterflies.

In the morning we visited the CWT Bowness-on-Solway reserve, a small area of old gravel pits, given to Cumbria Wildlife Trust in 1977, which has turned into luscious ponds with lots of new woodland and open glades with interesting invertebrates, botany and many tasty ripe blackberries. Mossy willows dominate in the wetter areas with hawthorn, birch and the occasional oak and elder on drier ground. Despite its small size this felt like very good habitat, one that, had it been on the west coast of Scotland, might have been home to Lobarion lichens. Little Xanthoria parietina was seen which is a good sign. However we saw a limited range of species (though they were looking lush) probably because it was dark under the willow canopy and many trees had fairly acidic bark, as well as not being very old. Succession to full-blown woodland is stopped by regular scrub removal so as to preserve the freshwater habitat, the main feature of this site, as well as glades for flowering plants and butterflies.

The trees had foliose species including prolific Parmotrema perlatum, pearly grey with sorediate crinkly edges, Punctelia subrudecta with punctiform dots of soredia on the lobe surface and around the margins, and Flavoparmelia caperata, all looking very green after the rain. Mossy willow trunks had Peltigera membranacea and P. hymenina. Examining trees more closely we found a good amount of Normandina pulchella amongst bryophytes and on drier bark clear of moss Phaeographis smithii, confirmed later when Chris looked at the exciple and spores. Other lirellate species (Opegrapha and Arthonia in old money) were on smooth birch bark. The orange discs of Coenogonium (Dimerella) luteum showed up well amongst moss; on drier trunks in cracks the smaller pale grey-pink discs of Coenogonium pineti were seen. There was lots of common Ramalina fastigiata and R. farinacea as well as a small example of Ramalina fraxinea on a well-lit hawthorn near the edge of the reserve; this latter species was impacted by sulphur dioxide pollution but is now hopefully recovering – a species for which we have International Responsibility. Alongside this was what we thought might be poorly formed R. fraxinea but on closer inspection has proved to be Ramalina canariensis which has distinctive soralia around the edge of short broad lobes. This is coastal in the north, liking well-lit situations on basic bark (this was on elder). Nearby was Physcia stellaris on alder, with a K- medulla, which distinguishes it from P. aipolia which has a K+ yellow medulla.

At the reserve entrance there was a nice sandstone gate stoop with the only saxicolous species we saw at this site: Ochrolechia parella, Lecidella stigmatea and Lepra (Pertusaria) amara (soredia with bitter taste) which is usually on bark but can be on humid sheltered rock. On the lignum of gates, fence posts and dead tree trunks we found Cladonia species, Candelariella reflexa, Fuscidea lightfootii and Violella fucata (Pd+ orangy red) amongst others.

Moving on to RSPB Campfield we made our way past the main bird hides and through some damp woods where Arthonia spadicea was on birch, as well as typical acid bark species. A boardwalk then led onto Bowness Common, described in the SSSI citation as the largest raised mire remaining in England. Initially it looked bleak for lichens – a sea of heather, bog myrtle and sphagnum, mostly pretty damp with not much exposed peat – but off the boardwalk it was wet but firm underfoot with lots of lovely Cladonia hiding in open patches of peat between the heather. Mounds of C. portentosa were the most visible.  A lovely dark brown “heathtail” with a ring of spines at the hollow tip forming a star-like effect is possibly Cladonia crispata var cetrariiformis to be confirmed. There were a further dozen or so Cladonia species including C. verticillata with tiers of podetia and Cladonia subulata, some red-fruited ones and others awaiting identification. Lots of bog myrtle provided a bark habitat for corticolous crusts, including Mycoglaena myricae, a non-lichenised fungus with dark perithecia and a pale ring of thallus around each one, found wherever the host grows, and various Lecanora species. Where there was lignum (a finger post and fence rails) the lichen was dripping off. Here we found Xanthoria ucrainica, Usnea subfloridana, Pyrrhospora quernea and Placynthiella icmalea.

Chris tested a reindeer lichen and concluded it was Cladonia ciliata var ciliata (the grey-brown version lacking usnic acid) – browner towards the down-pointing tips than other similar Cladonia and predominantly dichotomous at the apices. It had an orangey/red Pd reaction and was KC-, distinguishing it from C. portentosa (KC+y, Pd-) and C. arbuscula (KC+y, Pd+rust-red).  This test might have helped: “The bright UV fluorescence at the base of C. portentosa is especially useful for rapid separation from C. arbuscula.”

Further on Peter Bisset confirmed Flavoparmelia soredians on the hand rail of a bridge with K+ yellow going red.

The two different habitats very close to each other made for an interesting day’s licheneering. Thanks to Russell Gomm for suggesting the visit and the Cumbria Wildlife Trust and RSPB for permission to visit their reserves and take specimens. And thanks to Roger for sharing his botany knowledge.

Text: Chris Cant and Caz Walker. Photos: Chris Cant, Peter Bisset, Caz Walker

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

Brown Cove Lichen Report 11 June 2023

Participants: Geoffrey Haigh, Raymond and Sue Griffiths, Pete Martin, Caz Walker, Chris Cant, Jack Tomlinson, Clare Shaw and reporter Peter Bisset

After a long spell of hot dry weather, things looked more promising for the eight lichenologists than the solitary bryologist. Clare Shaw searching along the beck and tarn has already reported on her findings and pointed out some to us. The blazing sun and steady climb dictated even more slowly moving exploration than normal. What a contrast to the Naddle meet, how lucky we are to live in a country with such distinct seasons. I followed Clare up the beck admiring the colourful mounds of bryophytes with little clue as to what I was looking at and came across some Peltigera, I called it out to Caz who accepted my membranacea determination without climbing down to me. Looking at the photographs later it was clear that this was mixed with P. praetextata, a new record for the monad.

Keppel Cove dam
Keppel Cove dam

Brown Cove has an interesting base rich chemistry, but being shallow with plenty of green algae – not appealing for a wild swim. Known as the only UK site for Dermatocarpon deminuens and intensively surveyed by Alan Orange the monad is well recorded. However, it was good checking what could still be found. The intermittently inundated shore line with the water level now very low made it easier to spot the Dermatocarpon, jelly lichens and Ionapsis lacustris. D. luridum and D. intestiniforme could be distinguished by the former going green on wetting, but any others need lab work to be sure. Pete pointed out Lathagrium (Collema) dichotomum on the rocks, a species normally found under water.

An extended lunch break is always good for looking at the lichens on the rocks under your legs, a dropped sandwich often extends the species list, Lecanora soralifera was one of these.

Being a somewhat superficial lichenologist I like the showy or unusual, Umbilicaria cylindrica and Ophioparma ventosa provided the former. Agonimia tristicula one of the latter. However, the high point of my day was when the track crossed the corner of a new monad on the way back down. Peering into a sandy/peaty hole to contribute to the quick assessment, an unusual looking light green lobate species in amongst the Micarea lignaria had me opening page 44 of Dobson (7th edition), generic keys – ‘foliose’ but I wasn’t getting anywhere. Caz immediately identified it as Baeomyces placophyllus, new to me and saving me a frustrating time in the keys where the genus is ‘crustose’.

Baeomyces placophyllus
Baeomyces placophyllus

It was a hot day for a hike so thanks for arranging parking at Greenside. A fitness event in Glenridding would in any case have made parking impossible at any price!

Text and photos: Peter Bisset

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