Brantwood trip report 18-03-22


A beautiful spring day saw a record turnout for a visit to Brantwood, the home of John Ruskin from 1871 to 1900. The Brantwood Estate covers nearly 90 hectares with a range of different habitats present from lakeshore and garden to oak woodland, gills, mires and upland heath. The general objective of the day was to visit each of these habitats if possible, and generate a decent list of species.

After a general introduction in the orchard, nine bryologists and five enthusiastic estate staff headed into the gardens, leaving the lichenologists examining the apple trees. The short walk from the car park to the Moss Garden produced 38 species, mostly common garden bryophytes but with some good woodland species too such as Dicranum majus and Nowellia curvifolia, plus indicators of base-rich rock and soil, such as Ctenidium molluscum, Neckera complanata and Tortella tortuosa. In the Moss Garden a lush carpet of mostly Rhytidiadelphus loreus under wide spaced oaks produced a stunning visual effect, despite (or perhaps because of) the dominance of one species. Closer inspection revealed several other species here including Tetraphis pellucida on a dead tree stump.

The group then moved swiftly on to Beck Leven, the watercourse which marks the southern boundary of the estate. Oceanic species such as Jubula hutchinsae, Hyocomium armoricum, Plagiochila spinulosa, Platyhypnidium riparoides, and Saccogyna viticulosa were all readily found, together with other more widespread but distinctive mosses of wet places such as Hookeria lucens, Thamnobryum alopecurum and Dichodontium pellucidum. A nice patch of Jamesoniella autumnalis was found on a nearby oak. After lunch, we followed the beck up onto Crag Head, a large intake which includes the highest point on the estate (230m). Fantastic views across Coniston Water to the Old Man and Wetherlam were a temporary distraction until we found the first of a series of mires which produced several sphagna (Sphagnum subnitens, S. capillifolium and S. papillosum) together with Aulocomium palustre and Breutelia chrysocoma. A larger mire with bog pools proved to be more base-rich with Sphagnum contortum, Scorpidium revolvens and S cossonii, and Campylium stellatum. Thuidium delicatulum and Dicranum bonjeanii were also found here.

Descending back through the woods, a small overhanging rockface produced one of the best records for the day, a single patch of Bartramia halleriana with capsules. Our last habitat to visit was the lakeshore. Fontinalis antipyretica was found to be abundant just below the waterline, whilst Cinclidotus fontinalis was frequent on rocks. A small rocky headland gave a last minute boost to the species list with Frullania fragilifolia, Pterogonium gracile, and Trichostomum brachydontium.

At the end of the day, a small group of bryologists and lichenologists reconvened at Brantwood’s Terrace cafe for a much needed cup of tea. A total of 119 bryophytes were recorded on the estate. Many thanks to Brantwood for hosting the visit, and to their staff for their enthusiasm and for making us so welcome.

Kerry Milligan – photos from Kerry Milligan and Clare Shaw


A large group including nine lichenologists gathered at Brantwood, 19th century home of John Ruskin, on the east shore of Coniston on a fine spring day. We were joined for a while by estate staff who were keen to find out what lichens and bryophytes they have. There have been no lichen records for Brantwood since 1965 when 42 species were recorded. First stop was the apple orchard, with a dozen small fruit trees grey with bushy lichens and a simple wooden fence equally covered with thalli. Pete gave the group a brief introduction to lichens and found plenty of examples to illustrate the main growth forms. We then recorded as many species as we could, a total of 29 lichens on trees and fence.

What happened next was a new experience for the group – a visit to the cafe for coffee and cake – followed by the more familiar episode of getting absorbed by car park lichens on stone retaining walls including Scytinium teretiusculum. Eventually we tore ourselves away and headed uphill, through the gardens, to the oak woods on the slopes above. Pete was nursing an injured knee so stayed on level ground, talking to the staff and visiting the lake shore where he found Candelaria concolor on ash, along with other lichens.

The oaks above the house looked even-aged as if planted 100-200 years ago, with an understory of hazel, holly and an occasional ash and hawthorn. Most trees had acidic bark, based on the lichen flora we saw, but there was plenty to admire including Parmelia ernstiae, Micarea alabastrites, Arthonia spadicea, Anisomeridium ranunculosporum and a good range of acidic habitat species. The beginners in the group were keen to look at the tiny features on many of the lichens, such as the coarse and fine soredia on Hypotrachyna afrorevoluta and H revoluta.

The boundary wall between wood and field had a good range of crustose lichens including Trapelia coarctata and Opegrapha gyrocarpa, while that on the opposite side of the field had Coenogonium luteum on moss, Baeomyces rufus, Diploschistes scruposus and Psilolechia lucida, amongst others. A birch in the field gave us Graphis elegans and Fuscidea lightfootii and a hazel inside the next strip of woodland was heaving with Normandina pulchella and Thelotrema lepadinum. We looked at crustose aquatic lichens in the beck for a while and kept an eye open for Dermatocarpon luridum  having heard a rumour from the bryologists, who’d been there earlier, that itwas spotted but we didn’t see that.

Before heading back towards the car park we visited an oak obviously larger and older than the others – just as well as it had several small patches of Parmeliella triptophylla on the north side of the trunk illustrating the point that oaks can become less acid-barked with age.

Some of the group were lured back to the cafe for a second time before leaving which sets a worrying precedent for future trips…..

Footnote: Pete’s specimens from the lakeshore included one which later turned out to be Normandina acroglypta. So far the total of species seen in all locations stands at about 90 with a few more possible once specimens are examined.

Caz Walker with photos from Judith Allinson, Pete Martin and Chris Cant

Bryophyte Lichen

Bryophyte and Lichen Training, February 2022

Thanks to funding from Natural England and extra funding support from the British Lichen Society, we were able to run two-day training sessions in February 2022 for both bryologists and lichenologists. The funding also included the purchase of microscopes which will be held by Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre available for loans; we expect to have these available at our forthcoming indoor id sessions. The funding also includes the purchase of textbooks and equipment sundries, also available to group members.

Bryophyte training

On Wednesday 16th February, nine people interested in furthering their bryological identification skills via microscopy met at the Borrowdale Institute, Rosthwaite. Two aspects of the venue were ideal: firstly, its immediate proximity to some outstanding bryophyte assemblages in the local area (the “Atlantic temperate rainforest”, which thankfully is receiving more publicity in recent times via the work of Plantlife, Natural England and other bodies), and secondly, the splendidly refurbished Herdwick Suite itself, which was bright, well-appointed and spot on. It is important to thank David Freeman (of Natural England) for his work in organising the training, and also Natural England itself, for funding the activity.

            The training’s linchpin was Nick Hodgetts, who was our expert instructor. He, (I have to say), wore his extraordinary depth of knowledge and identification skills lightly, along with an affable and enthusiastic demeanour, throughout the two-day event: he helped in equal measure the least experienced of us, and the most, judging expertly how to support each person’s efforts. Here’s how the training unfolded……

            0900hrs, arrivals. David (and Clare Shaw, who deserves all our thanks for her admin and bryological support) had already prepped the room with suitable tables, chairs and electrical supply. We each brought our own ‘scopes (stereo and compound and associated kit). There was additional kit comprising good-quality (brand new!) ‘scopes, slides, pipettes, and other paraphernalia, via the generous support of Natural England and CBDC. Nick had brought in addition, a reference arsenal of bryology textbooks laid out to the front, which we all enjoyed perusing (and using for ID information).

            0930hrs, introductions and planning. We decided, as a group, to use the first few hours on a field visit to Johnny’s Wood, a 10-minute walk away, to collect samples for ID. Clare had prepped some of her own grid references for interesting species, so we made our way to an area with Hageniella micans, Herbertus aduncus, Bazzania tricrenata… all three of which (and many, many more species) were located and enjoyed. Nick pointed out species as they appeared, and took “requests” also. A recurring theme of the field visits was that if anyone mentioned they were keeping an eye out for a target species, Nick would then nonchalantly find it in minutes, explain the key ID features, and move off to help another group member. We knew heavy rain was on its way, and it duly arrived.

            1200hrs, squelched back to the Institute, de-kitted wet clothes, and got stuck into microscopy-aided ID of various specimens. Nick and Clare helpfully laid out some named examples at the front, plus some ID challenges for us. A few hours passed in the blink of an eye.

            1430hrs, Nick demonstrated and explained practical sectioning of leaves, then we all practised. More ID work enjoyably followed. Then, Nick led us in a guided talk-through of how to use a key based on leaf morphology (from Watson 2nd Ed) to accurately ID an unknown target sample – I think the whole group enjoyed and benefited from this action (which was repeated with other samples later). The rest of the afternoon’s session was individual ID work, supported by Nick and with a good measure of cooperative self-help between people also. Session closed around 1630hrs for some (needing to travel home) and nearer 1730hrs+ for those of us staying locally.

            0930hrs Thursday 17th February (day 2), a repeat of day 1. This time better weather. David selected a different part of the Johnny’s Wood site for us to visit, with the primary target species being Anastrepta orcadensis. A 20 minute walk-in saw us at the bottom of a gentle N-facing wooded slope…. which as we made our slow way up it, turned into a steeper, wooded boulder field, containing one of the most delightful and luxurious bryophyte-filled habitats I’ve ever seen. David found us the Anastrepta, and Nick continued to find us a rich variety of interesting species. And, to be fair, each of us worked on our own IDs, too. For example, Jim noted several species he then called the group’s attention to, as did Clare and Peter. For example, the group discussed (and saw) various Frullanias, including F fragilifolia (found) and F teneriffae (which we thought we may have found, but subsequent microscopical work proved that we hadn’t – a perfect example of why microscopy is invaluable in bryology ID.) We did see Scapania umbrosa, Lepidozia pearsonii, Thuidium spp, some Sphagna including subnitens, and others.

            1300hrs back to the Institute. The whole afternoon, more ‘scope work, more sectioning, and another interesting exemplar use of a key. Nick also agreed to support ID of various specimens some of us had brought along. The weather was, however, deteriorating and snow was forecast to come in. Hence, we all agreed that discretion would be the better option, and the training closed down around 1530hrs for some, and not much later for all. A spirited (and rapid) group effort saw the kit disassembled and packed up, tables wiped, stacked and the room made ready for departure.

            In summary, I feel all participants developed their skills and their confident enjoyment of microscopical work with bryophytes. The whole atmosphere was warm, purposeful and relaxed; a good place to finish is to once more thank Nick Hodgetts for all his work, thank Natural England for the grant, and to note that all of us will be looking forwards to the next CLBG bryo event.

Gary Lawrence

Photos from Clare Shaw

Lichen Training

To identify some lichens to species you need to look at the thallus, fruit and pycnidia under microscopes, typically doing sections using a razor blade at low magnification under a “dissecting microscope”, then using a “compound microscope” to look at the microscopic details at higher magnification – more info.

Two days of microscope training from John Douglass aimed to ensure everyone could do the basics, moving on to cover more advanced techniques that are helpful.

The course was held in Mungrisdale Village hall, where the facilities were excellent. The 10 attendees each had a table for themselves, giving plenty of space for microscopes and other equipment. These were well spaced out, which contributed to an atmosphere where concentration was needed to practise what was being taught.

The sessions covered:

  1. Squashes, sections and spores. Including identifying and measuring the different layers, dealing with pycnidia, applying K & C under cover slips & oil immersion
  2. Identifying ascus tips & staining, including use of ink/vinegar and Lugol’s Iodine to stain the medulla.
  3. Use of polarising filters to see crystals.
  4. Identifying photobionts – algae and cyanobacteria

In spite of having read about these aspects it was really helpful to see the techniques demonstrated and have dedicated time to try them out. There is no short cut to making thin sections other than practise and a sharp razor blade. John Douglass was on hand to show us various refinements to the techniques such as the amounts of chemicals to use, how to apply them and how to transfer sections of apothecia. It takes endless patience which he certainly has. John and others brought previously identified specimens for participants to practise on which helpfully gave known outcomes.

The meeting provided a much needed opportunity to obtain polarising filters, chemicals and dropper bottles. These events take a lot of organising, much of which is “unseen” and so thanks to John, Caz and Chris plus the funders who enabled this to happen.

These sessions gave people confidence to have a go at microscopy in a supportive atmosphere and to realise that it is do-able.

Some comments from attendees:

  • “I was so glad I managed to get to the microscope training. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years now.”
  • “A very big thank you to everyone who helped to arrange and deliver the microscope training this week.
    “What did I learn? First, that microscope work on lichens is doable. It’s fiddly, and it may go wrong, but you just have to get stuck in and try again. And second, everyone struggles at times; it isn’t just me.
    “But when it works, it opens up a whole new world, and I begin to see how it will make a big difference. I might even be able to follow Dobson’s main key now!”
  • “For the last couple of years I have been trying to pluck up courage to buy microscopes. As a complete technophobe could I even cope with setting them up?  Then this workshop appeared and it was the push I needed. 
    “The workshop was a fantastic help. A refresher on some things, some new ideas and great support from everyone. It was really helpful to see other people’s work and get a better grip on what we were looking at.  John’s PowerPoint presentations were very clear and he was incredibly helpful.
    “My find of the day turned out not to be a lichen at all!”
  • “Very informative and inspiring! Many thanks.”
  • “A week on from the event, I’m fired up to try out sectioning and staining lichens. I’m really looking forward to any follow ups.”
  • “I’d be keen to attend the saxicolous crust training when it happens- I’m keen to start learning these, so I will look out for emails.”


Storm Arwen Twigs

I’ve often wondered about canopy lichens: are the same species found at the top of trees as on branches lower down? Are the sticks I pick up from the ground representative of what’s going on above?

It’s an ill wind

Storm Arwen gave an opportunity to find out. Strong winds (from the north!) barrelled down the Rydal Beck valley and caused mayhem with the trees around Ambleside. Woodland trees crashed like dominoes, many isolated veterans fell. Those on the roches moutonnées fared worst, especially the conifers. Local tree surgeons said there’d been nothing like it since 1989. Thankfully, I don’t think any of the special trees in Rydal Park succumbed. But it wasn’t just trees. Some were left without power for days; many houses needed roof work. Tragically, there was a fatality in Rothay Park.

Conifers were perhaps the worst affected
Conifers were perhaps the worst affected
Things have changed at Loughrigg Brow
Things have changed at Loughrigg Brow
Rydal Park
Rydal Park

But Arwen also brought the canopy within view. So a couple of weeks after the event I spent two days looking at twigs. In each of seven areas within a kilometre or so of the village I picked five fallen trees/ large boughs (in one area I miscounted and looked at a sixth tree!). For each of those trees I picked three “twigs”: the first I came to, the last I’d pass as I walked by, and the one in the middle that seemed to protrude furthest.  For each “twig” I tried to identify (and count) the species of lichen that grew on the outermost 70cm (the length of my folded trekking pole). Each species was counted only once per twig. Those that were unidentifiable in the field were taken home for microscopy.

A lot of lichens came down with the trees
A lot of lichens came down with the trees

In total I obtained 540 records, from 108 twigs. I managed to give 45 names to lichen: some were only identifiable to genus/group, often because they were too young to have developed reproductive features. I made no attempt to identify beyond “ Lecanora chlarotera sensu latu”. A couple of “mystery” specimens remain unnamed. I’m sure I missed some, and a more experienced lichenologist would no doubt have found more.

The “top ten” species (by number of twigs) are in the table below:

Parmelia sulcata51( also 1 Parmelia unidentifiable to species)
Melanelixia subaurifera48 
Physcia tenella36(also 7 Physcia unidentifiable to species)
Physcia aipolia34 
Evernia prunastri32 
Lecanora “chlarotera” s.l.30 
Punctelia subrudecta27 
Hypotrachyna revoluta sensu strictu24(also 36 Hypotrachyna revoluta s.l)
Lecidella elaechroma24 
Hypotrachyna afrorevoluta21(also 36 Hypotrachyna revoluta s.l.)

Perhaps there are no really big surprises. But I wasn’t expecting Parmelia sulcata to be the “most common” species. I was surprised at how frequent Melanelixia subaurifera was, and also how much Physcia aioplia there was. Young lobes of H. revoluta/afrorevoluta that didn’t display soredia mean they feature lower down in the top ten. Parmelia saxatilis wasn’t anything like as common as I was expecting: I’d never noticed its relative scarcity on twigs compared to branches/trunks.

The next table shows the species that were “bubbling under”, with between 10 and 20 records.

Ramalina farinacea16 
Hypogymnia tubulosa15(also 12 to Hypogymnia genus)
Arthopyrenia punctiformis15 
Parmelia saxatilis15 
Caloplaca cerinella13 
Usnea subfloridana11 
Xanthoria parietina10 

It was pleasing to note that Xanthoria parietina was not that common, but Caloplaca cerinella (also thought to favour nutrient enrichment) seemed very widespread.

And it’s here that absences/“rarities” begin to show up. Hypogymnia physodes was only found once (though maybe some of the young Hypogymnias were that species). Platismatia glauca was only found once, though was common enough further down twigs and on branches: it obviously doesn’t develop on the younger, thinner stems. Physcia adscendens, which I see relatively rarely in my home square, wasn’t found at all (though some of the young Physcia without soredia might have been that species).

Many foliose species commonly seen on tree trunks/larger branches only appeared once or twice, for example: Flavopermelia caperata, Normandina pulchella, Parmotrema perlatum, Hypotrachyna laevigata and Melanelixia glabratula. Melanelixia exasperata, which I’d previously thought of as being rare, occurred 5 times. Maybe it’s more common that I had thought. I found Arthopyrenia cineropruinosa  for the first time and found one specimen of Eopyrenula grandicula, a species not recorded in Westmorland until last year but that I’m beginning to think is relatively common in South Lakeland.   

The mean number of species found per twig was 5. Eight twigs has no lichen visible on them, the most on any one twig was 12. Most of the trees looked at (26/36) were oaks. These proved to have a higher mean number of species per twig (oak mean: 5.53, non-oak mean: 3.6). No non-oak twig managed more than 9 species, though an impressive old cherry did manage 9, 8 and 8 species on its 3 twigs.

Whilst the mean species per twig was 5, it differed between twigs: that for both the first and third twig per tree was 4.7, for the middle twig it was 5.58. Perhaps the twig that sticks out the furthest gets more species of lichen on it than those lower down.

Examining trees in distinct areas enabled comparisons between the number of species found in each area. The two woodlands surveyed produced two of the three lowest mean number of species per twig, 2.5 and 4.66. Trees surveyed in woodlands were more likely to be “not oaks”, but discounting non-oaks still gave woods the lowest and third lowest means. So there would appear to be fewer species on woodland trees than those in parks/ farmland/ wood pasture.

Overall, there did not appear to be a relationship between the number of species and distance from the village. However, for particular species there may well be: Usnea subfloridana was not found in Rothay Park or on Stoney Lane, the areas nearest the village. As for nitrogen loving/tolerant species, plotting total of Physcia/Xanthoria species against distance from the village centre  suggested an inverse relationship, though it was not significant at 95% level.  It would appear that they are more common nearer the village and Rydal Farm, and less common further away and in woodlands. Whilst 7/10 Xanthoria records were near the village or farm, the widespread occurrence of Physcia species suggests nitrogen pollution is beginning to have an effect across a wider area: it may be worth exploring this further.

As ever, a simple study like this has thrown up more questions than it answered, as well as getting me looking at twigs more carefully. I’ve learnt something new about which lichens grow where on a tree; that some lichens I think are common are maybe less so and vice versa. It would be interesting to compare these results with trees from other areas, particularly further away from built up areas and in the Cumbrian lowlands. Roll on the next storm? No, I’m not asking for another one.

Pete Martin

Bryophyte Lichen Trip report

Thorneythwaite Trip report 20-01-22


The Bryophyte contingent was smaller than recently with only four attending on a super blue-sky day. Thornythwaite Wood is owned by the National Trust and is considered one of their top five woods in Borrowdale for bryophytes.  Ben Averis produced an excellent bryophyte report for NT in 2017 and included target notes, grid refs and photos of many of the rarer species. We therefore decided to break with tradition and head directly to find interesting species none of us had seen before.

Thornythwaite Wood has more of the look of a fellside with scattered trees than a closed canopy woodland. This enabled us to walk to the target location without stopping as the bracken-covered fell had limited interest. 

Our first stop was Combe Beck just above the waterfall. Here the beck was braided with numerous boulders. Clare and Gary quickly found a boulder on an island in the beck with Gymnomitrium crenulatum and Gymnomitrium obtusum growing in quantity next to each other. Clare then found Scapania compacta growing close by. We all had a good look and enjoyed this species, also found by Kerry at Glencoyne. As is typical of groups and rarer plants, whilst we all looked at the same boulder, some of the photos and specimens may well have been of other Scapanias. The compacta was later confirmed. (An additional species to Ben Averis’s very impressive list of 177 species.)

Other species seen around here included Hyocomium armoricum, Lophozia incisa and Scapania gracilis.

 We then headed down stream past the waterfall to a rock detailed in Ben’s report on the west side of the beck facing east just below the waterfall. The photo helped to confirm the correct boulder.  On this boulder we all enjoyed seeing Colura calyptrifolia on the vertical face. This rare species is very small but also distinctive. On this same rock was Harpalejeunea molleri and a long list of other species including Lejeunea patens. Nearby we also saw Plagiochila spinulosa and Hygrohypnum eugyrium.

We then headed up the hillside to another Ben Averis location. Gary lead us directly to Ben’s location for Adelanthus decipiens which we all admired and photographed. Only one clump. Just below it were a scratty few strands of Sematophyllum micans, mentioned in Ben’s report. We were fairly doubtful but Gary confirmed one strand later.

We then walked south and climbed towards Glaramara and then headed west down into the valley above Seathwaite Bridge. We then followed a small gill down the steep fellside towards further Ben Averis locations. On the way we saw Mylia taylorii, Frullania tamarisci growing unusually in a wet flush, and Sphagnum inundatum (but not conclusively identified!).

Using Ben’s photos we located Bartramia halleriana which unfortunately lacked capsules making recognition more of a challenge. Nearby was Plagiochila punctata. We looked carefully for Herbertus hutchinsiae but despite having a photo and grid ref we couldn’t locate. This distinctive drought intolerant species was possibly much reduced by last years dry spring and summer.

We then headed further down the same slope and located another Ben Averis site, a stone by the stream under an ash tree. This had some good colonies of Plagiochila exigua which would appear to have increased in quantity from 2017. This was also a new species for us all which we were very pleased to see. A rare but distinctive species. The stone also supported Lejeunea patens and Lejeunea cavifolia. In this general area we also saw Hygrohypnum subeugyrium and Fontinalis antipyretica.

As the sun was about to set we headed down the slope and walked along the footpath back to the car park. Thornythwaite Wood is a very good bryophyte location and we all felt it would be worth a further visit. 

Peter Bullard

Photos by Gary Lawrence and Clare Shaw


On a cold and frosty morning, seven lichen hunters gathered in the car park at Thorneythwaite. And quickly realized we were on the cold and shady side of Borrowdale, as golden sun lit up the fells and Seathwaite woods. Ho hum. The frost never melted for us all day.

Ivan Day had compiled a site list for the National Trust in 2017, so we were following in illustrious footsteps. And it was obvious that we weren’t going to be able to cover anything like the whole of the area. So where should we go? Well, we started off with the nearest area: the acid-barked oaks at the north end of the wood. There were some good examples of the Parmelion community, including coral-like Sphaerophorus globosus and leafy Cetrelia olivetorum, red-flecked Mycoblastus sanguinarius and the chunky jam tarts of Ochrolechia tartarea.  We found good quantities of the barnacle-like Thelotrema lepadinum. A new species for the site was Micarea alabastrites, with white apothecia and a C+red reaction. The trees proved ideal for showing less-experienced members of the group some important lichen features. They, in turn, noticed that we performed a dance around a tree in the sun. By-catch included an impressive moth that turned out to be a Spring Usher.

After a lunchtime sitting in the relative warmth of the sun , we headed off back into the shade in search of an ash tree where Caz had found Nephroma laevigatum some years ago. If you don’t know it, it’s a smooth and leafy member of the Lobarion community. And it wasn’t on Ivan’s list. We found ash trees and Peltigera horizontalis, and more Thelotrema lepadinum. Heading south there were more hazels, which gave us Pachyphiale carneola. Protopannaria pezizoides was found on a mossy log: it well deserves its name of “lentil bake lichen”. And we disturbed a barn owl (sorry, but how was I to know there was a hole in the back of the tree I was looking at?).

We had a grid ref for Caz’s Nephroma, but that covered 100m x 100m of slow-to-move-across boulders and trees. Chris found an old ash pollard with the antiseptic smelling Parmeliella triptophylla: maybe we were getting close. We headed up slope a little and then came the cry from Paul: had he found the Nephroma? Yes, there it was, with a little more Parmeliella and lots of Normandina pulchellaThelotrema lepadinum and Peltigera horizontalis on the same tree: a good example of the Lobarion community.

Time was getting on: but maybe there was enough light to try for the Sticta sylvatica Ivan had found in 2017? We contoured further south, passed the bryologists in the beck and came to the old elm under which the Sticta had lingered on an outcrop. But, sad to say, the elm had toppled over, and we couldn’t find any sign of the Sticta. There was lots of the frilly jelly lichen Leptogium lichenoides however, and the similar but smaller L. teretiusculum.

The journey back to the cars through lovely evening light gave us more Nephroma laevigatum on another ash pollard. A barn owl flew across; was it the same one as earlier? Thorneythwaite had proved to be a great site, with plenty of scope for other visits. But then we seem to say that every time we go anywhere!

Pete Martin

2017 video of Ivan Day on Thorneythwaite’s rare lichens:

Photos by Chris Cant, Pete Martin, Geoffrey Haigh and John Adams

Lichen Trip report

Great How trip report 18-12-2021

Great How is a small (c330m) but imposing hill at the north end of Thirlmere – map. It’s part of the Thirlmere Woods SSSI, designated for Atlantic bryophytes, with a mix of oak, hazel, birch and ash trees. It was last assessed by Natural England in 2009 when its status was “Unfavourable-Recovering”. Almost all the woodland around the reservoir is non-native conifer plantation but three fragments of old broadleaved trees remain to make up the SSSI. There are ongoing efforts to remove exotic conifers from these woods.

Our route left the minor road by the Thirlmere dam where a footpath skirts the western side of the hill. For once the weather was kind to us – when benign it allows everything to be seen much better in the field, not to mention the enjoyment/comfort factor. The day dawned very cold with frost encrusting the sheets of Peltigera praetextata we saw at the start on the north-facing wall by the road but the mist burned off (it really did) and by lunchtime, when we made it to a south-facing point looking down Thirlmere, it was positively balmy in the sun.

Recent stormy weather had brought many canopy lichens down to the ground for easy viewing so a good range of common acidic bark species were examined. This was great for showing the diversity of lichen morphology to the keen beginners who’d come along. The path skirted some intermittently damp rock faces with interesting crustose species, including the common Baeomyces rufus with pink-brown “mushroom” fruiting bodies, Lepraria membranacea in drier recesses (powdery, yet forming marginal lobe-like structures with upturned rims), red and purple-brown mosaics of Opegrapha gyrocarpa and Enterographa zonata, and a possible example of the rarer Schismatomma umbrinum with a pale brown scurfy crust breaking down into soredia. Close examination of oak trunks nearby revealed a tiny species growing over moss with minute isidia-like structures. Looking under the microscope later these turned out to be pycnidia and we were able to identify this as Micarea stipitata.

As we got further round the base of the hill the slope above became more gentle so we decided to leave the path and head directly up, examining trees as we went. This was a good move as Cetrelia olivetorum, Arthonia vinosa, Lopadium disciforme and Pachyphiale carneola, the latter on hazel, were found here. After rejoining the track below the summit we refound the copious Bryoria fuscescens seen on our earlier recce, though sadly the old oak had been brought down in the storms. Also near here were Mycoblastus sanguinarius, good quantities of Sphaerophorus globosus and beautiful clear grey-blue patches of Hypotrachyna laevigata, all indicating acidic bark.

There was a total for the day of 68 species. We didn’t visit the steeper areas on the north side of the hill where no doubt further lichens could be found. The east side is mainly a beech plantation and large parts of Great How have in the past been planted with exotic conifers, now slowly being removed with evidence of recent native tree planting. The remaining fragments of good quality old oaks on the western side are a sad reminder of what the wider Thirlmere woods might once have been like before the Sitka monoculture we see today. Hopefully they will survive to help regrow a future oak forest.

Caz Walker

Photos: Pete Martin, Judith Allinson, Clare Shaw and Chris Cant

Judith Allinson’s blogpost about the field trip.



Lichens in the Protoblastenia genus are all saxicolous crusts with orange apothecia; they are found on limestone with P. rupestris also widespread on mortar or concrete.  There are three common species:

The immersed small fruit of P. incrustans are distinctive. The size of the fruit for the two others overlap, so looking for an areolate thallus (P. rupestris) or shallow pits (P. calva) is the best guide. The spores of the three species are similar so this feature cannot easily be used to distinguish between them.

There are three other Protoblastenia species but these are rare:

Habitat and distribution

P. rupestris is found on limestone, mortar and concrete (which contain limestone) ie almost everywhere in GB&I.

P. incrustans and P. calva are found on hard limestone. The distribution maps correspond to the geological outcropping of this rock.

Our local patch is Knipe Scar which is a limestone pavement and outcrop on the eastern fringe of the Lake District in Cumbria.  Protoblastenia species occur on the vertical edge and on the clints of the limestone pavement.

Knipe Scar
Knipe Scar

 Knipe Scar  limestone pavement
Knipe Scar limestone pavement

Protoblastenia or Caloplaca?

Caloplaca is the main other saxicolous genus that has orange fruit.

  • Caloplaca fruit always have a margin; Protoblastenia does not have a margin.
  • Caloplaca fruit are always flat; Protoblastenia incrustans is flat; the other two are convex.
  • Caloplaca may have a yellow or orange thallus. Protoblastenia never has a yellow or orange thallus.
  • Caloplaca fruit has polarilocular spores; Protoblastenia spores are simple.
  • Both Caloplaca and Protoblastenia are K+ crimson.
Protoblastenia calva: K+ crimson
Protoblastenia calva: K+ crimson

Caloplaca gallery

Anything else it could be?

These genera do have orange fruit but also always have a distinctive margin:

  • Candelariella
  • Gyalecta
  • Petractis

Protoblastenia incrustans

  • Small apothecia, up to 0.5mm, with no margin, immersed in pits; some pits may be empty
  • Flat pale orange apothecia, fully immersed with the top level with the limestone surface
  • Thallus pale or grey or endolithic, ie within the limestone
  • K+ crimson
  • On hard limestone

Distinctive once you’ve got your eye in.

Protoblastenia rupestris

  • Medium-sized apothecia, up to 1mm,  with no margin, not immersed in pits
  • Flattened convex orange apothecia
  • Variable thallus: often green-brown and areolate
  • K+ crimson
  • On hard limestone, mortar or concrete

Can look similar to P. calva: don’t use apothecia size to differentiate.
If thallus is areolate then it’s P. rupestris. If smooth then it’s P. calva.
If substrate is mortar or concrete then almost certainly P. rupestris.
P. rupestris fruit can be a duller orange than P. calva.
If some shallow pits visible, then it’s P. calva.

 Protoblastenia rupestris on limestone
Protoblastenia rupestris on limestone
 Protoblastenia rupestris on concrete
Protoblastenia rupestris on concrete

Protoblastenia calva

  • Larger apothecia, up to 1.5mm,  with no margin, often immersed in shallow pits
  • More convex brighter orange apothecia
  • Thallus: white or cream or grey, smooth or endolithic
  • K+ crimson
  • On hard limestone

Can look similar to P. rupestris: don’t use apothecia size to differentiate.
If thallus is areolate then it’s P. rupestris. If smooth then it’s P. calva.
If substrate is mortar or concrete then almost certainly P. rupestris.
If some shallow pits visible, then it’s P. calva.

Protoblastenia calva showing shallow pits
Protoblastenia calva showing shallow pits

Bryophyte Lichen Trip report

Glencoyne trip report – 18-11-21


A group of four lichen and eight bryophyte people met beside Ullswater to walk up into the Glencoyne valley on a breezy, overcast but largely dry day. Kerry, the trip leader, had surveyed this spot before and noted several old ash trees supporting colonies of the important Atlantic woodland lichen Lobaria pulmonaria, warranting further investigation to check for other Lobarion community species.

The western shore of Ullswater has several areas where remnants of ecologically significant woodland can be found. The wood pasture and woodlands near Aira Force have been surveyed by lichenologists but above Glencoyne Farm, where the east-facing valley narrows, there is a wood of old ash trees, well spaced out on the slopes above the beck which had not been visited by specialists. The National Trust and the tenants of the farm were happy for us to take a look.

The plan was for the lichen and bryophyte groups to stay together for the morning and for once we managed this – usually the lichen lot get stuck in the car park looking at trees and walls whilst the bryo people have disappeared in the direction of the nearest beck or bog. We had also agreed to head directly to the target monad containing the main patch of woodland, though some of us couldn’t resist looking at and discussing some lovely Peltigera en route and had to hurry to catch up.

The first tree of interest, a well-lit hawthorn, had some good crustose species, like the tiny discs of Dimerella pineti, and a range of foliose lichens.

We slowly worked our way from ash to ash up the slope, aiming for a huge old tree that Kerry knew had a good sized patch of Lobaria pulmonaria. This was very impressive and we spent some time looking at the rest of the tree and others nearby, including several large hollow ash trees. Three other L pulmonaria trees were spotted and the precise grid references taken.

As it turned out we didn’t find the leafy species that might be associated with the Lobarion community in western Scotland or Borrowdale, such as Sticta, Nephroma and Parmeliella, but there were some lovely tiny crusts on some trees that required examining later under the microscope – Normandina acroglypta, Anisomeridium biforme, A polypori and A ranunculosporum, Agonimia allobata, A tristicula. and Thelenella muscorum. A couple of jelly lichens were on ash trees – Leptogium lichenoides and Collema flaccidum, both species of slightly more acidic substrates. The distinctive white-spotted grey leafy Cetrelia olivetorum was seen on three trees and five species of Peltigera on a variety of substrates. Several lichens which indicate ecological continuity (woodland cover continuously present for a long period) were missing, eg we did not see Thelotrema lepadinum, and there were relatively few lirellate species – Opegrapha varia and O niveoatra were on ash with a small amount of Graphis scripta and G elegans seen on hazel beside the beck. A fair few of the ash trees seemed to have acidic bark based on their lichen flora, supporting Cladonia and Parmelia species. There were also nice boulders and small outcrops with a range of acidic rock species.

In the end we recorded nearly 90 species but dusk and the onset of rain, not to mention mental exhaustion, meant we didn’t look at every tree. As usual we’ll have to go back another time.

Caz Walker

Photos: Pete Martin and Chris Cant


It was a reasonably fine day when we gathered in the NT car park at Glencoyne. Any day that isn’t pouring with rain is, after all, a lucky bonus! It was great to see such a great turnout – twelve in total, with two new visitors (Richard and Lizzie) all the way from the Northumberland border.
Our plan was to visit a little recorded area of wood pasture on slopes upstream of Glencoyne Farm, around NY376187. This area is usually off-limits, with no public footpaths, but we had permission from the farmer, who is very helpful and interested in conservation. Kerry had previously noticed species of interest during a Veteran Tree Survey a few years ago, including Lobaria pulmonaria and Antitrichia curtipendula, so it seemed worth exploring it more thoroughly.

We decided to head straight for the target monad and managed to avoid being distracted too much until we reached the edge of the square, heading towards a nice slope dotted with ash and other trees. The lichen group split off to look at the trees while the bryophyte lot explored some of the rocks, looking out in particular for the Antitrichia curtipendula. The steeper slopes had scattered boulders with a good range of bryophytes.

Exploring trees and rocks on sloping wood pasture.

There was much discussion about the identity of small Polytrichum mosses (Polytrichastrum formosum and Polytrichum piliferum), Camplylopus flexuosus, Scapania nemorea and Barbilophozia barbata, and some lovely patches of Ptilidium ciliare were admired. Among the Thuidium tamariscinum Peter pointed out patches of a paler green, more three-dimensional Thuidium which he suggested was likely to be Thuidium delicatulum. Examination under the microscope later proved him correct, the defining feature being the crown of papillae on the leaf at the tip of the shoot.

Distinctive leaf tips with a crown of papillae, rather than the single papilla on Thuidium tamariscum
Distinctive leaf tips on Thuidium tamariscum

Heading back down towards the trees, we homed in on a rotting log which revealed Riccia palmata as well as lots of Nowelia curvifolia. The base of a tree had a good patch of Isothecium alopecuroides, with its blunt, concave leaves, as well as the more usual Isothecium myosuroides, while another tree base with lovely Pterogonium gracile. Some fallen branches had tufts of Orthotrichum lyellii, with a distinctive scattering of dark gemmae looking rather like a fungal infection. Crevices in the ground sheltered large quantities of Homalia trichomanoides.

Pterogonium gracile

After a short lunch break, the bryologists headed down to the beck to see if we could find more interesting species there. The rocks were covered in Sciuro-hypnum plumosum and Sciuro-hypnum populeum, with lots of capsules, and there were a couple of nice patches of Plagiochila spinulosa; also Schistidium rivulare, Barbilophozia barbata and B. floerkei and Scapania compacta.

Brachythecium plumosum
Brachythecium plumosum
Plagiochila spinulosa
Plagiochila spinulosa

With the afternoon drawing on and daylight starting to fade, we thought it was time to call it a day and headed out of the gill and back towards the farm. We were all a little disappointed not to have found the Antitrichia curtipendula. Then, as we were gazing at something boring on a rock, there it was! First just a small patch, then more and more with a large, luxuriant golden cushion spreading round a tree base. A beautiful moss, it really made our day.

Antitrichia curtipendula
Antitrichia curtipendula
Antitrichia curtipendula - hooked teeth on leaf tips

Antitrichia curtipendula, above, a large, golden moss forming cushions on rocks and tree bases. A distinctive feature is the hooked teeth on the leaf tips, which can just about be seen with a x20 hand lens (and good eyes).

The last, boggy field before the edge of the monad still had more to offer though, with Sphagnum angustifolium – see below – (no previous records in the area, but probably underrecorded) and Scorpidium cossonii. A great day all round.

Clare Shaw

Photos: Clare Shaw

Lichen Trip report

Coniston Coppermines trip report – 17-10-21

The Coniston Coppermines area is part of the Coniston Mines and Quarries SSSI, designated for its volcanic geology which has produced veins rich in metals, especially copper. These have been mined over centuries, leaving a landscape of spoil heaps, walls and derelict buildings. Specialist metallophyte lichens grow here on a variety of substrates that might not otherwise be exposed. Parts of the area have been well-surveyed: the monad containing the main workings has 124 lichen species reported over a 40 year period, many refound in recent years and a few seriously rare. This, combined with the challenging weather, meant that we decided to treat the visit as a chance to see and try to identify these species, rather than record anything.

From the start it was very wet. The rain cleared somewhat later, but getting any books out wasn’t possible and lenses and glasses were steamed up. Rather than drive up the 1.5km track we decided to walk, which warmed us up. The owner gave us a talk about the history of the site and showed us where James and Purvis found rare lichens 40 odd years ago.

Despite it being dripping the four of us looking at lichens were able to work out several crustose species on a retaining wall. Minute differences in precisely where the soredia arise on the tiny areoles, as well as its colour, helped separate Lecanora epanora (yellow soredia on the surface) from Lecanora handelii (grey areoles with grey soredia arising at the margins). The common Lecanora soralifera (some similarities) was seen elsewhere. Several rust-coloured species turned out to be Acarospora sinopica (dark red chunky “lobes” with immersed fruit), Rhizocarpon oederi (more orange in colour with tiny but distinctive apothecia) and probably Lecidea silacea (orange very convex areoles). The commoner rusty Tremolecia atrata was seen nearby.

The combination of grazing and high metal content in the thin gravelly soil between workings has led to stunted vegetation, including heather, replicating the kind of heaths normally seen at higher altitudes. Cetraria aculeata, Dibaeis baeomyces and a range of Cladonia species were seen here.

Stereocaulon pileatum (tiny pseudopodetia tipped with soredia), Placopsis lambii, Ionaspis lacustris and Agonimia tristicula (very tiny lobes amongst moss with mortar influence) were on a ruined building.

We had an enjoyable diversion up the hill on the trail of the rare Lecidea inops which eluded us. Stereocaulon vesuvianum was abundant, as well as Stereocaulon dactyllophylum. The becks in spate were spectacular and the wet fairly mild conditions had produced a mollusc paradise with many slugs out and about feeding on lichens.

Caz Walker

Lichen Trip report

Fell End Clouds trip report – 15-09-21

The morning mists melted away as a select foursome met by the Fell End Clouds quarry. Previous visits by lichen recorders had concentrated on the area nearest the road, so we decided to aim high; to head for the old metal mines and eastward squares with few or no records.

Of course, things didn’t quite work as planned: limestone boulders immediately grabbed our attention. Caloplaca flavescens, Squamarina cartilaginea, Acarospora cervina, Placynthium nigrum and Dermatocarpon miniatum were expected but no less lovely for that. The lack of corticolous species in the previous lists suggested the sycamore standing above the pavement had not been previously investigated so that detained us for a while. Beneath it, Acrocordia conoidea glowed pink on the shady rock, and Bilimbia sabuletorum was there on the adjacent mosses.

A short distance uphill and we found ourselves by Harry Hope’s Land; enclosed fields with an old barn/house. The Helga Frankland guide suggested Harry lived here up to 1820, but the barn seemed to be dated 1832. We couldn’t resist a look at the pollard ash, and found sheets of Pertusaria albescens and some P. pertusa. Back on the limestone, we edged around the enclosure and made it up onto pavements where heavy pebbles and green-coloured splashes indicated mineralization and mining waste. A party of skylarks headed north,  four grey wagtails headed south. There was a record of Solorina saccata here, though we couldn’t find it: but there was plenty of Peltigera leucophlebia about.

We headed east: Chris found some squamulose species on a low cliff including Romjularia lurida adjacent to Acaraspora cervina. Finally, we reached the unrecorded square and set to busily. There were lovely fossils, Peltigeras and common limestone species including the inset jewels of Protoblastenia incrustans. Chris and Caz picked up Farnoldia jaurana: it handily lived up to its name of “the cover slip breaker”. Eagle-eyed Caz found an Agonimia, now confirmed as A. globulifera. The only previous Cumbria record for this is far away at Askam-in-Furness!  A short distance on and we were onto siliceous rocks, with Parmelias saxatilis and omphalodes; Pertusaria pseudocorallina; Cladonia portentosa and C. uncialis biuncialis among the bryophyte and sphagnum mounds.

Further on still we found a swallow hole/ limestone outcrop bearing signs of caver activity. Among the rocks we found Peltigera rufescens and Solorina saccata on the north facing slope. Opegrapha dolomitica was revealed in a little gully. The swallow hole area demanded more time, but the afternoon was slipping away. We headed back towards the road via another sycamore amidst bigger mining trenches, dating presumably from the Napoleonic Wars: Phaeophyscia orbicularis and Normandina pulchella were perhaps the highlights.

It was time to go, but on the way back down we found consolation Felwort (autumn gentian) and Carline thistle. It’s predictable, and we say it every time, but it felt as though we had merely scratched the surface of Fell End Clouds: another visit would be well worthwhile.

Bryophyte Lichen Trip report

Kirkstone Pass trip report 24/8/21


Kirkstone pass car park seemed busy when we arrived, with people unloading bikes and setting out on walks. It was a lovely sunny morning, but with some lingering mist above the pass. We were a small group, mainly lichen fans, so it seemed I’d be the only one looking at bryophytes. As we set off west from the car park the lichen group clustered around boulders, while I went to explore some small flushes and boggy areas. I was sure I’d seen Warnstorfia fluitans around here on a previous visit, but it didn’t want to show itself today. There was, however, a nice golden patch of Ptilidium ciliare, such an attractive liverwort that I attempted to distract the lichenologists from their boulders; they were moderately impressed by the lovely ciliate leaves ­ or just being polite!  Higher up the hillside we reached a large rock face, where Judith pointed out extensive sheets of Frullania. The shoots looked very narrow and dark, with the leaves curled under, and I wondered if it might be one of the less common species. Checking later under the microscope, it became clear that it was F. fragilifolia. The leaves were coming off on my hands and on the microscope slide, but there didn’t seem to be any really denuded stems. It was aromatic, but not as strongly as some liverworts. Other features however were much more distinctive: the underleaves were an irregular shape and often wedge shaped rather than round, the ocelli were scattered across the leaves rather than in a straight line, and the first underleaf on each branch was 3-lobed. This last feature was quite difficult to see, as it wasn’t always easy to get a clear view of the underleaf at the junction of stem and branch, but I found a few clear examples.

As we climbed higher into the corrie, the terrain became more interesting. The beck coming down the hillside was full of bryophytes, with thick black mats of Jungermannia exsertifolia, including some fertile shoots. Other species included Philonotis fontana, Dichodontium palustre and D. pellucidum, and a patch of Palustriella commutata. It was nice to see a small cushion of Anomobrym julaceum and a couple of nice bright green patches of Anoectangium aestivum as well as Amphidium mougeotii. We continued across and up to reach a large rock face, where there was more Frullania fragilifolia, and a small patch of Gymnomitrion obtusum (the rounded leaf lobes were clearly diagnostic when checked later under the microscope). Somewhere round here I found a small moss in a crevice in the ground, which had tongue-shaped leaves a bit like an Encalypta. On checking later, it turned out to be Leptodontium flexifolium, which was an exciting new find for me.  We had a lunch break here and I left early to check my finds at home. It felt like a productive morning, nice to be out in the fresh air and always good to catch up with people in person.

Clare Shaw


The weather is key to the enjoyment of montane lichens. We’d postponed this trip after the original date got itself a yellow weather warning. And then the actual day dawned misty in the valley. But as I reached the top of the Struggle I came out into the sun. Hurrah! The weather gods were being kind, and as we (6 lichen folk and a lone bryologist) gathered in the Kirkstone Pass car park an osprey wheeled above the mist to cheer us on. The crows didn’t like it though…

The great thing about that car park is that you are high up at the start of the day. A less good thing is that it’s a busy place (I counted 7 overnighting motorhomes and a strong toilet smell). It’s also a spot that spoils you for choice: so many rocks and so little time! We went west (towards the quarry and below the corrie) out of the crowds and above the clouds. There were acid rock species for everyone to enjoy. Allan Pentecost was very helpful when it came to identification of more difficult species, as well as confirming the things we’d learnt ourselves during lockdown and pointing out things we’d never thought of! There were plentiful thalli of  Ophioparma ventosa (and the lichenicolous fungus Muellerella ventosicola); lots of Pertusaria corallina. We started to get to grips with Lecideas (lactea and confluens) and Porpidias (macrocarpa and soredizodes).  Clare impressed us with the moss Ptilidium ciliatum. A damp rock face produced Miriquidica pycnocarpa f. sorediata and the hi-vis Arthrorhaphis citrinella. And just to the side of it, Chris found Cetraria muricata with its many spinules.

We moved a bit further west in search of more basic outcrops. The beck provided isidiate Collema glebulentum; a line of little cliffs had wood sage and roseroot and alpine ladies mantle. There was Ionaspis lacustris; Pertusaria corallina adjacent to P. pseudocorallina for comparison purposes;  the slightly jaundiced thallus of Diploschistes scruposus with those lovely hollowed (urceolate) apothecia;  and the somewhat scurfy Porpidia rugosa.

After lunch, Allan and Judith descended briefly and explored a gully. Massalongia carnosa and Pertusaria flavicans were the result. The others headed for a little outcrop with a hawthorn (Caz found what may be Phaeographis smithii: we await confirmation), Peltigera membranacea and Agonimia tristicula below. A damp cliff enabled Allan to show us the interesting black crust of Pyrenopsis subareolata. Dermatocarpon intestiniforme again hinted at slightly less acidic conditions. The discarded nappy was less pleasant. Higher up there was Peltigera praetextata and Collema flaccidum on beckside boulders; Allan found Fuscidea kochiana too.

But it was time to head back via an easy amble: despite not going very far we’d managed to find over 80 species. And there’s still so much to explore from that car park. Future trips could go up into the corrie; further round towards the quarry; up on the east side of Red Screes; beyond the Kirk stone itself and maybe then we could think about crossing the road…

Pete Martin

Allan Pentecost added, “For interest, the stream which we were looking at, which seems to be unnamed, had a pH of 7.4, a calcium content of 8 ppm and a specific conductivity of 113 uS/cm.”

Thanks to Judith, Pete and Chris for the photos: