Thursday, 10 March 2016

Post 395 - Looking for Lovely Little Lichens

Hey everyone, post 395 today and I was reminded of an old post I did quite early in my original 'Year of Nature' by this tweet the other day.
My post was way back on Day 14 - World in a Wall - and was all about the things I found in a wall at Rievalux Abbey on a misty Autumn day. It was mainly lichen and since then I have found lots more lichen and some of them look like mini forests. Well these are such amazing organisms that I thought it was worth revisiting them and sharing some of my newer photos with you.

This is the most amazing mini forest I found
- this is a Caldonia Lichen 
So Lichens, they are truly amazing. Why? Well here's why:

  • Lichens are technically an inanimate symbiosis, basically two living organisms coming together to make a type of composite organism.
  • Another way to describe them is just to say that they are an extremely successful partnership between a fungus and an alga.
  • There have been several colonies that have been found to be over 9,000 years old! That's in the times of the Ancient Egyptians...
Lovely lichen with fruiting bodies
- Xanthoria polycarpa 
  • ...Well why did I bring the Egyptians up? Well, back in Ancient Egyptian times, Lichens were used as packing for the mummies! 
  • Some Lichens are thought to be among the oldest living organisms on earth.
  • That means that we still could have living versions of what were used in 7000 BCE!
  • The largest lichens have been known to grow up to 1 metre long in their 'thallus' (the 'vegetative bits of the lichen) although most are usually just a few centimetres.
  • Lichens often grow in areas of exposure that frequently experience droughts and sometimes places that experience extreme hot or cold.
This is a beard or hair lichen - Usnea rubicunda I think
  • By what I've found from the last few facts you might expect to find them in an African desert. I expect there are some there but I have found lots in my trips around Yorkshire and Northumberland, some of which are in my pictures.
  • There are more than 1,700 different species of lichen in just Britain alone, I myself don't know exactly how many I have seen, but it must be over 100. They are hard to identify but I have tried with a few of my images.
A strap type lichen - Ramalina farinacea ?
  • Worldwide, though there are 18,000 described species of lichen.
  • They are very varied in their requirements too. Some species will live in a wide variety of places and conditions but others need very precise conditions. Some for instance like the salty conditions of the sea shore.
  • Lichens don't like pollution, especially sulphur dioxide which was present in a lot of cities in the 19th century as a lot more coal was burned. This chemical dissolved in rain causes acid rain and this was the cause of lichens disappearing from cities.
  • Apparently one lichen, the pollution lichen, Lecanora conizaeoides wasn't affected and thrived!
  • Most Lichens grow very slowly, only around 1mm per year.
There was so much of the orange/yellow lichen on the coast
near Craster, I think it is Xanthoria aureola
  • Some lichens take a long time to spread and can only be found in ancient woodlands because of this.

Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,



  1. I always find lichen interesting, the colours are all so different. Great photos, as always! - Tasha

  2. I never realised lichens were as old or as extensive. Thanks for a real piece of knowledge. Great work as usual.