Lichen Trip report

Mollen Wood Lichen Report 14 March 2024

It was good to have a trip to the north of Cumbria. This time we really were north of the Wall (beyond the pale?) and Pete kindly arranged a detour on the drive in so we could see Birdoswald and Roman wall remnants right by the road. Our goal was an area of woodland now in three adjacent fragments, known as Mollen Woods. This is designated as a SSSI for its slope and wet valley alder woods, with ash and hazel throughout and birch on drier ground, and is described as unenclosed parkland. Lichens are mentioned in the citation which isn’t that common. Of these we saw one (Thelotrema lepadinum) but Usnea dasopoga and Peltigera horizontalis were not seen.

The weather was forecast to be horrible but after early rain it turned out almost dry. At the start the lichens were saturated, making recognition of species we can normally do more difficult – they become swollen and often change colour. This also makes them hard to photograph.

We parked at Askerton Castle, with permission, and the five of us in team lichen walked north for a mile on the road, taking in crustose lichens on a sandstone bridge – almost the only saxicolous habitat we saw. Reaching the edge of access land we struck out across very wet ground, heading for the main woodland but looked at a couple of old alder trees on the way. Alder has naturally acidic bark so it was no surprise to encounter species that like that pH – probably the most attractive of these are the pin lichens which have tiny apothecia on stalks, represented here by Chaenotheca ferruginea and C brunneola, growing on the drier north side of the trees. There were also sheets of slightly mauve-grey Lecanactis abietina, which we checked by seeing the C+red reaction of the pruina on the numerous peg-like pycnidia, and lots of leprose and sorediate crusts which are more challenging.

As usual a well-vegetated gate detained us before entering the wood proper where we began by looking at some understorey hazel trees. Immediately we saw what would, until recently, have been straightforward Graphis scripta but this is now recognised as a complex of species so, until we get our heads around that, we will be recording these as G scripta sensu lato = “in the broad sense”. There were other crusts too – copious Coniocarpon cinnabarinum in shades of pink-red, Thelotrema lepadinum in creamy sheets, buff sorediate Pyrrhospora quernea which was sometimes fertile and squamulose Normandina pulchella. On ash there was Peltigera praetextata on the mossy trunks where we also had a flurry of excitement thinking we’d found Bryobilimbia sanguineoatra but it turned out to be the commoner Bilimbia sabuletorum when we looked at the spores later. This can have variable apothecia, anywhere from pink to red-brown to black, and being very wet looked tantalisingly like something else. It prefers alkaline substrates and as this was the only instance on ash it suggests that most of these normally base-rich trees had been acidified. On fallen rotting trunks we had Lichenomphalia umbellifera, with a thallus of minute green globules containing algae, and fungal fruiting bodies in the form of small mushrooms, and Cladonia polydactyla, blue-grey with red apothecia. Micarea alabastrites was here too, delicate-looking white flat apothecia confirmed by a C+red reaction.

In the centre of the wood was a strange fenced area of large beech trees and an infestation of rhododendron. On the east side of this was more wet alder wood which we crossed. Here there were yet more sorediate crusts on acidic bark, including tiny punctiform yellowish soralia. Could this be a candidate for the elusive yet supposedly common Lecanora jamesii? There was also Trapeliopsis pseudogranulosa on bark, usually a terricolous species. After a while, having not found many new species, we decided to head back to the cars.

There was discussion about why we were seeing the species we were, eg copious Hypotrachyna revoluta, Platismatia glauca and Parmelia in some places but missing in others. whilst other species we might expect were missing altogether, eg no acidophile Mycoblastus sanguinarius or Sphaerophorus globosus and only one Ochrolechia androgyna. Despite the habitat looking OK for them there was a general lack of canopy species, eg Usnea (sensitive to air pollution), either on the ground or when scanning upper branches, and a limited number of crustose species, though plenty of them. Suggestions for an explanation ranged from lower rainfall than elsewhere further west to lack of light getting in, as well as historic pollution – Carlisle and Dumfries are not far to the west and Newcastle to the east. The latter seems most likely, combined with past over-grazing and possible coppicing of some trees, which might mean they are not yet old enough to support well-developed lichen communities. This was supported by the odd shape of some of the hazel trees – very large-girth individual stems but few of them. Hazel is naturally multi-stemmed so one individual has a range of bark texture, from smooth young shoots to rougher old branches, so good for a variety of lichens. When this characteristic shape is lacking it usually suggests past heavy grazing, the tasty young shoots being constantly browsed off.

Hopefully we’ll be able to explore other parts of north Cumbria on future trips.

Text: Caz Walker. Photos: Caz Walker, Chris Cant, Paul Hanson, Pete Martin


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

Swindale lichen trip report 10 December 2023

Swindale, east of Haweswater

All the lichens looked beautiful, showing their fully hydrated colours. Admittedly, some were actually under water.

Two of us turned up to look at lichens, which is no surprise as this is our local patch so easy to escape home. It’s understandable that for everyone else it wasn’t worth a long drive in order to stand in the rain for several hours.

We’d been here a fair few times and mainly examined the birch, ash and hazel trees beside the path which runs along the bottom of the NW-facing slope below Gouther Crag, so this time we wandered uphill to look at the many boulders which had come down long ago from the crags above. On the way, there was the inevitable lichen-rich drystone wall where, in a dry recess, we saw an intriguing species later identified as Psoronactis dilleniana, new to us. It took a while back at home to work out what this was but luckily it was distinctive (unlike many saxicolous crusts) and Chris nailed it by flicking through the usually poor pictures in Dobson’s guide. The P+ yellow reaction and spore size matched. Interestingly our specimen had a pale but definite K reaction, confirmed by a blue colour under UV, whereas the literature has it as K-.

There was lots of Lecidea lithophila on boulders nearby with apothecia looking very plump and showing their dark brown colour, more visible when wet. Also on the wall was Diploschistes scruposus, looking very yellow, plus other crustose species such as Varicellaria lactea and Lepra aspergilla, separated by easy chemical tests. Unfortunately, wet lichens cause a drop of bleach instantly to spread out which dilutes the reaction (it’s harder or impossible to see) and potentially kills more of the lichen. There are good reasons why licheneering in the rain is a bad idea.

Moving up the vegetated boulder slope, we found Lecanora subcarnea, in a dry-ish NE-facing niche on an outcrop. We’d seen this before nearby in the valley and it was also spotted on the group trip to Burnbanks in May on the sheltered side of a huge boulder. Baeomyces rufus was another eye-catching crust on boulders.

We sheltered for lunch under a dripping holly at the base of a crag, where we found Schismatomma umbrinum and a lovely mosaic of Gyrographa gyrocarpa and Enterographa zonata (both used to be Opegrapha). The party trick of shining a UV torch on a well-covered rock produced spectacular results, Psilolechia lucida glowing orange and chlorophyll in random algae a deep maroon. Also here was Cystocoleus ebeneus, very finely filamentous but looking like black furry patches from a distance.

In order to warm up we wandered on, moving along then down the slope taking in trees on the way. An ash had Mycoblastus sanguinarius, usually found on acidic substrates. A final yellow-orange patch in a sheltered recess on a birch turned out to be Chaenotheca ferruginea with lots of tiny dark pins seen when we examined it closely. The small ornamented spherical spores were nice to see.

This is a great site that needs further visits to do it justice.

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

Lichen Trip report

Blawith Common lichen trip report 14 November 2023

This trip came close to being cancelled when Storm Debi deposited more than 100mm of rain over the 2 preceding days together with gale force winds, but licheneers (and bryologists) are hardy breeds, and we went ahead, given a forecast offering nothing worse than heavy showers. The roads were passable with care, and we had good turnouts for both the lichen and bryophyte wings.

We started with a gentle stroll up the road from Brown Howe car park, admiring the extremely well hydrated state of everything, but particularly the lichens. The first stop was at a roadside rock, liberally crusted with lichens, including a nice patch of Baeomyces rufus.

Baeomyces rufus
Baeomyces rufus

And plenty of Cladonias of which portentosa is usually identifiable…

Cladonia portentosa
Cladonia portentosa

Unlike some others…

Mystery Cladonia
Mystery Cladonia

We didn’t have to go much further to see the star of the show, a veteran Ash with a good population of Pannaria conoplea, a scarce lichen in Cumbria and one of the Lobarion group of Atlantic rainforest species.

Pannaria conoplea ash tree
Pannaria conoplea ash tree
Pannaria conoplea
Pannaria conoplea

It was a pleasant surprise to find it on several nearby willow trees as well since the ash is unlikely to survive much longer even if it escapes the dreaded dieback.

Pannaria conoplea
Pannaria conoplea on a willow

All the common tree lichens were well represented including a nice Usnea cornuta.

Saxicolous lichens perhaps less so due to most of the rocks being well covered with other vegetation.

Usnea cornuta
Usnea cornuta

But this Cladonia was just showing off!

Pete tried to recruit Tip as a lichen sniffer dog but he wasn’t impressed 🙂

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

Chris adds:

In the afternoon, we continued slowly further into woods where there were some more exposed rocky outcrops. Lichens found included Stereocaulon vesuvianum, Psilolechia lucida, Phaeographis smithii, Candelaria concolor and Fuscidea lightfootii.

Phaeographis smithii
Phaeographis smithii
Phaeographis smithii section
Phaeographis smithii section showing broken black exciple underneath hymenium
Candelaria concolor
Candelaria concolor
Fuscidea lightfootii
Fuscidea lightfootii

As the light faded, Peter found an interesting lichen on rock with small black lecideine fruit. Back at base, we thought that it could be Porpidia flavocruenta. Although some characteristics were right, others were not, such as apothecia and hymenium too small and the exciple did not turn red in K. A tricky genus.

Possible Porpidea
Section showing I+ blue reaction spreading down

It was great to find the Pannaria conoplea and see that it was spreading from ash onto willows nearby. However there no other species from the Lobarion community present. That said, there was very little Xanthoria parietina, which was a good sign.

Next time, hopefully we can get further out onto the common.

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