Tree Lichens

With the trees now bear of leaves it seemed a good time to try and become familiar with some of the local tree lichens. Lichens are fungi that live with an algae or cyanobacteria. The later two can make their own food from sunlight, but the fungus feeds on organic dead matter. In biology, the relationship is called a symbiosis. Lichens can live a long time and some are particularly sensitive to air pollution and so are good indicators of a healthy environment.

Lichens

Lichens

I am not great on my lichen identification skills, but with my ‘Lichens of Ireland’ guide I hope to improve. This guide deals with just 250 out of the 1,165 lichen species found on the Island. It is estimated that lichens cover 8% of worlds surface, so I really should get to know them better.

Usnea subfloridana

Usnea subfloridana

Remember I’m learning but I think the one above is Usnea subfloridana. It was growing on some willow branches. I went out again today to get another photograph as this one wasn’t as sharp as I hoped and the weather was brighter, but when I looked at today’s photograph I realised I had taken a different one.

Evernia prunastri

Evernia prunastri

The one above I think is Evernia prunastri is not as feathery as the first one, and it was growing on a birch branch. Often the branches have two or three species growing on close proximity. A good website for Irish lichens is http://www.lichens.ie/

 

 

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11 thoughts on “Tree Lichens

  1. Jane

    Karina , they are quite lovely and how exciting to identify them. I note your comment about the connection between lichens and pollution and wonder if this links with moss on roof tiles. I’ve heard that ‘yellow’ moss is a sign that the air is quite good.
    Jane x

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  2. gaiainaction

    That’s really interesting, I see the Lichen very often on the trees, especially in Glengarriff State forest. I don’t know much about them. Here quite a few of the roofs have the yellow Lichen on and I have also heard that this means there is very little pollution, I wonder if that is true. (Well, I mean I know that there is very little pollution here). Your photos are lovely.

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      You are right to an extent. There are some lichens which cannot live in polluted environments but there are others which can. Back in the 1970s a couple of scientists came up with a scale whereby the extent of sulphur dioxide in the air could be determined by the presence or absence of certain lichens. Usnea subfloridana pictured above just happens to be one of those species that is an indicator of clean air. I am not sure about the yellow ones – will have to check it out but more info can be found at http://www.lichens.ie/lichens-as-biomonitors/

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  3. Miranda McCoy

    You and your lichens, tsk! What are you like? I tease of course but they really are beautiful to look at. I am impressed with the further comments xxx

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  4. Robbie

    Those are beautiful! Great photos:-)I was thinking of moss as I read + then I read your comments and found moss mentioned? To bad ( lichens) they are not edible:-) Do they harm what they grow on? I was looking at the top photo( really pretty growth) with the lichen growing on it + thought it was quite stunning wrapping around the branch!

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    1. Murtagh's Meadow Post author

      Thank you Robbie. Some lichens are eaten by reindeer and caribou (in winter can be a large part of the diet). The lichens eaten by both are sometimes called reindeer moss – hence the confusion, but it is a lichen. They don’t harm what they grow on and in fact in my opinion add to the beauty. Different species have been used in medicines and as dyes, particularly for wool:)

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