Thursday 24 March 2022

Lichens at Embsay Churchyard, N Yorks

Workshops to be held on Wed 11 May 2022 - (See description of some of the lichens in the churchyard lower down):

"Introduction to Lichens of Churchyards for Beginners - Part 1 "-Afternoon session: 2pm- 5pm -  This session is now fully booked, though you can ask to be put on the waiting list.

"Introduction to Lichens of Churchyards for Beginners - Part 1 " (repeat) - Evening Session 6pm- 9pm This session still has spare places (as of the 21st April)

Cost: £20  (Concessions available - please ask). both led by Dr Judith Allinson. Includes tea and biscuits.  (Date for a part 2 Session will be planned shortly if there is demand.) To book please email 

On Tuesday 22 March a group at St Mary's Church Embsay invited me to look at the lichens of the churchyard with them. As a result we are planning these introductory sessions for the public. Do you have an interest in lichens on your churchyard? Would you like to find out more about these fascinating "organisms"? Then one of these sessions are for you.  

Where is Embsay?
Embsay church is situated 180m above sea level between two very well manured pastures just below the gritstone cliffs of Embsay Moor. Embsay Moor supplies Embsay Reservoir with water, which in turn supplies much of Craven with water. The  boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park boundary lies along the 
road/church wall, with the churchyard inside. It is 2 miles north of Skipton.

What are lichens?
Lichens are completely different to mosses. Mosses are green plants and have tiny leaves. Mosses can photosynthesise. 

Lichens are a fascinating group of organisms.  Each lichen is made up of a fungus and either an alga or in some cases a cyanobacteria (a blue-green alga). The fungal threads give the lichen structure and collect nutrients. The algae collect sunlight and store energy, and give the energy rich compounds (sugars etc) to the lichen. There are  2000 different species of lichen in the UK. Each lichen has its own species of fungus. There are far fewer species of algae involved, and the same alga can occur in different lichens.

Lichens can grow in stressful places and tolerate long periods of drought and high temperatures and intense sunshine / UV.  They can grow on rock surfaces and are/were important in soil formation as the glaciers left the north of England. They have evolved many colourful pigments which protect the lichens against the sun's radiation and against predators - hungry slugs and snails and caterpillars. 

We hope you will consider coming on the Introductory sessions when planned.  Email for info - We can lend you a handlens 

Meanwhile, if you visit the churchyard by yourself here are a few lichens you might notice.

1.  Xanthoria parietina

This glorious golden orange lichen has a host of names including

Bird Perch Lichen, Common Yellow Lichen, Maritime Sunburst Lichen. 

You can see this at the entrance to the churchyard on the wall at the left, and on some of the branches of the trees and hedge at the carpark

Xanthoria parietina - Bird Perch Lichen

This is different to a much neater orange lichen with a pleated edge to the thallus: which grows on lime rich rocks such as limestone and occasionally on mortar: This is on the wall in several places including next to the other churchyard gate further along the road

This is the

2.   Golden Beautiful-Plaque Lichen with pleated-edge which grows on Limestone

Caloplaca flavescens

It hasn't got an official English name. So I have just given it the name above.  Caloplaca means beautiful patch. Flavescens means "yellowish, turning yellow.". This and the above Xanthoria parietina two are the most common "big yellow patch" lichens by far that you will find in the Yorkshire Dales.

Learn the names of these two and enrichen every walk you go on in the Dales.

Caloplaca flavescens

See the pleated edge of Caloplaca flavescens on some limestone

3. Map Lichen (Rhizocarpon geographicum)

This lichen is common on the slate in the Lake District and North Wales.
On a table top tomb near the church porch entrance you may notice this bright flourescent green-yellow lichen.  It only grows on very acid rocks.

Map Lichen (Rhizocarpon geographicum)

4.  Lecanora campestris  A Jam-Tart lichen
I find quite a lot of  
"Brown-to-dark-brown-centred-jam-tart-lichen-on slightly-acid-to-slightly-basic-stone " in different parts of the churchyard
I can't find an English name for this.

Lecanora means beautiful small bowl from the shape of the fruiting bodies. The fruiting bodies have a rim usually the colour of the thallus and a different colour to the centre of the fruiting body so they look like jam tarts. 

I find it on slightly acid rocks, which may have more basic water running over them, or on slightly basic rocks. It can grow on rocks at ground level which get get soil smudged onto them.

Lecanora campestris

Lecanora campestris growing on the
flat gravestone in the foreground.

Lecanora campestris on the paving stones at the back.

5. Aspicilia calcarea 
"Big White Patches on top of Limestone Walls" lichen

I noticed some lime-loving lichens growing on a grave marked by a limestone rock. "This is someone from a family in Airton" they said .. Alison Perou - wife of caving film maker Sid Perou
Ah - and sister of a good friend of mine, M W - ... small world.! I can look at these Limestone  lichens another day.

6. Staney-rag   or   Crottle  (Parmelia saxatilis)
7. Shiny Brown Shield  (Melanelixia fuliginosa)

There are two Foliose Lichens (Leafy Lichens) on this tombstone:
1. A big grey one - with white lines/ridges on the thallus and some dark grey tiny (1mm) protrusions at the centre of the thallus
2.  Shiny Brown Shield Lichen A quite big brown one with shiny green brown lobes and tiny warts/protrusions at the centre of the thallus

Parmelia saxatilis and Melanelixia fuliginosa

Parmelia saxatilis

Melanelixia fuliginosa

8. Crab's-eye Lichen  (Ochrolechia parella)
At the small back gate further along the wall by the road, I stop and found a variety of lichens -  The capstones are of millstone grit and I found some Crab's-eye lichen

There is mortar in the wall which supports Black Jelly lichen (Collema and Leptogium species) There are some limestone stones in this wall.  I need to come and look at these another day. Some of them support more Lecanora campestris.

Crab's-Eye Lichen on gritstone capstone - Ochrolechia parella

Crab's-Eye Lichen on gritstone capstone - Ochrolechia parella

I notice some Elm coming into flower - Good that an Elm has survived.

I return to the car park opposite the church. There is lots of this yellow lichen growing on the twigs of the hawthorn hedge round the car park. (It is greyer of greener in the shade) Can you remember its name? 

Yes - Xanthoria parietina

The sun is setting. Time for home.


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