Friday, 31 January 2014

The secret world of Lichens at Ingleton Churchyard - 24 May 2014

Would you like to learn a little about the fascinating plants that encrust tree bark, rocks and places that are too dry for other plants?

Come on a Lichens Workshop for COMPLETE BEGINNERS. 
10am-12pm Sat 24 May - in the beautiful Dales village of Ingleton
as part of the 2014 Ingleton Overground Underground Festival (23-26 May)

Your eyes will be opened to a new magical world. You'll find you start noticing shapes, colours and textures on objects in the landscape that you never noticed before. You'll go back home knowing a few common lichens (knowledge that you can share with your friends)  and you'll be enthusiastic to learn more.

You can pronounce is "litchen" or "liken" - whichever sound you like best.  I now say "liken"

So what lichens might we see?

To give you an introduction to some of the lichens at Ingleton, to help you look more closely at the walls, and to provide a souvenir of some of what you will have seen, I invite you to come with me now on a virtual tour of the churchyard.  Don't worry if you don't remember all the names just now - simply enjoy looking at the colours. (Pictures taken on two visits: 30 Jan and 3 March )

Here is the memorial cross outside the Churchyard. I'll talk about the white spots on the Celtic weaving at the end.

First here are the five sites we are going to visit, (marked with while and red numbers on the picture below).

1. The lichens on the cross but just lower than this picture
2. The lichens on the wall in the foreground to the left of this picture
3. The lichens on this acid slate vertical grave
4. The lichens on the flat slab of this table tomb
5 The white lichens round the door to the church
6 The lichens on the branches of the tree

Site 1. 
The lichens near the base of cross but just lower than the picture above - but seen in the picture below

Let's get our hand lens out.

Can you see the two blobs touching each other vertically near the base of the cross? They are on the left of the picture below. Well look on the rock/cement to the right of them: that is covered by lichen too:

Seen close up..the cross is in fact covered with lichen -
Candelariella vitellina
The yellow is Candelariella vitelina

Lichens are an association of a fungus and an algae. The fungal threads give the lichen structure and they collect water and nutrients. The algae are scattered amongst the fungus as single cells, and they can photosynthesise and capture the sun's energy, so can make sugars.
The body of a lichen is called a THALLUS.

The white, and the yellow lichens are CRUSTOSE lichens. They make crusts on the surface of the rock.

From where you are standing in front of the cross, turn 90 degrees to the left and look at the outside of the church wall. The wall (except the capstones) is made of limestone. There is a black lichen. This is Placynthium nigrum. The thallus is delimited by a wide dark blue felted prothallus, and the inner part of the thallus has a scaly texture

 The moss is Wall Screw-moss - Tortula muralis

Nearby on the limestone is a yellow powdery looking lichen
Caloplacca citrina

If you look closely there are some jam tart shaped tiny cups with white rims and golden yellow centres. These are the reproductive bodies called apothecia. This is Caloplaca citrina which grows on hard limestone. If a drop of alkali is added (KOH) it should go crimson.

Now go to site 2, by walking  down 4 m to the churchyard wall on the left, so that you are looking at the wall but with the cross nearby
The capstones are made of sandstone/gritstone

On top of the gritstone capstone there are  patches of a very white crustose lichen. 

Possibly: Lecanora intricata

If it has been raining recently you will see on the side of the wall  black Jelly lichen in some of the cracks of the wall. I shall call this one Ear Black Jelly Lichen: Collema auriforme
If it is dry, the black lichen is pressed against the wall, almost as thin as paper. It grows in cracks in the limestone wall and on the mortar. When wet it is greenish black, as below.

 Here it is closer up. The tiny spherical blobs are called idisia.  They can break off and get carried away and then grow and form new plants.

Near by is another species of Collema - probably Collema cristatum. Its lobes are rather thin, concave, with deeply incised margins so it looks frilly

Seen closer up.

Near by - Is this another black jelly lichen? It certainly feels like jelly.. or more like goo.
Or is it just a blue-green alga?


A 2cm diameter yellow dry patch nearby, when examined closely, has more structure

This is a species of Caloplaca. (decipiens?  ) The edge of the thallus is pleated. This type of margin is given the name placodioid

On the hard limestone rock you can see white lichens and there are tiny holes, some empty, some filled with black material - At first I though it was  Verrucaria   baldensis  (if the perithecia (blak dots) are  .25mm diameter).

But very close inspection show the black fruiting bodies have greyish rims -so they are apothecia 
 rather than perithecia - bun shaped, with a star shaped hole on top.
So it must be Clauzadea immersa

See the pale grey rims round the black apothecia of Clauzadea immersa

Next -on acid rock - on the gritstone capstone - is Acarospora fuscata 

What a fascinating pattern when you get up close.

 Acarospora fuscata 

Leave the outside wall and go up the steps, through the gate into the church yard. On the left  is a cherry tree. On its trunk is a bright, pastle, green powdery lichen: Lepraria incana

This is site 3a

Even when seen close up Lepraia incana just has a simple powdery structure.

Lichens that have a powdery structure like this are said to be leprose.

So.. We have only just entered the churchyard ... and now it is my bedtime.

Let's carry on with the rest another day.


Useful Links:
The British Lichen Society has a map of all the churchyards surveyed in England and Wales and the number of lichens recorded. The map show that Ingleton was surveyed in 1995 by Don Smith who found 32 species.  He found 29 at St Leonard's churchyard. (There are just over 1800 species of lichen in Britain, and just over 1000 species described in the 6th Edition (2011) of Frank Dobson's book
Lichens: An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species (only 860 in the 5th edition). the high scorers in the area are Dent (89 by Oliver Gilbert, Ivan Pedley and Tom Chester in 1999)

Site 3c: is this gravestone.

Site 3c gravestone.
Site 3b is the slate stone behind on the right, near the tree at 3a

It is the one with some Bank Haircap moss (Polytrichastrum formosum) at the foot. - I'll deal with the lichens another day.. on this one

Back to gravestone 3c

Site 3b  The old wooden notice board has a green filamentous alga on it ..Klebsormidium 
(This is yet another example of Klebsormidium on this website - evidence that there might be blanket pollution of nitrogen compounds from fertilizer and car fumes over this part of Britain)

site 3d
Doubling back so you are next to the wall again  is site 

Site 4.
Here is the table tombstone near the church door.

There is more of this lichen with areoles. It is on acid rock, it is Acarospora fuscata (or A impressula (atrata)) 

A nearby lichen

Seen close

More lichen on the tombstone.

Site 5: 
There is some conspicuous distinctive white lichen on the sandstone round the church door

Seen closer here:

On the sandstone to the left of the arch are two patches of a lichen with orange fruiting bodies

Site 6: Tree branches
There is very little lichen on the trees.
Perhaps that is because they are in a very exposed position.
Some of the smaller branches have a little Xanthoria parietina (yellow) and a little Physcia adscendens - I need better pictures.. but these were taken after 4pm a grey day and frrrreeeeezing cold. On the right of the picture you may be able to make out the viaduct in the background.

Xanthoria usually looks a lot yellower.

Both these species are an indication of Nitrogen oxide/amminia/nitrate pollution. - possibly from bird droppings. Possibly from the blanket pollution that exists over much of Britain - even though we are quite far west.

Round the back of the church is a big colony on the church wall

 Could this be Porpidia tuberculosa? seems a very big patch. - below same species close up.- the grey marks don't seem round enough.

There are several treees.


I tried to find a lichen on the seat but it seemed too rotted: Here is an alga:

Then back round to the front again to Site 1.

 The blotch on the cement paving stone front left is Aspicillia calcaria

I hope you have enjoyed the trip. Do join us for the real Ingleton Overground Underground workshop on 24 May - £5-00 Adults,  (concessions available). Includes cup of tea and handouts. It will be warmer in May. email 

Visit other lichen posts on this website