Saturday, 30 January 2016

Litter bins and lichens

A curious topic, but in this area the litter bins in parks and other open spaces are made of some sort of black composite material and on several occasions I have noted that this substrate supports a rich lichen flora.

An exciting litter bin! Stefen Leys Pocket Park, Daventry.
30 January, 2016

As with certain types of masonry, particularly in graveyards, the lettering has been picked out by lichens.

Hardly room to breathe! Stefen Leys Pocket Park.
30 January, 2016

Parmelia sulcata, a very pollution-tolerant lichen, is prominent in the middle of the picture. It is sometimes called the Netted Shield Lichen and is extremely common in suburban areas.

Athelia arachnoidea was common. Stefen Leys
Pocket Park. 30 January, 2016

A circular patch of a pinkish species is, I believe, not a lichen at all but is Athelia arachnoidea, a fungus that is an aggressive pathogen of lichens. It is widespread across the English midlands.

The centre of the expanding circle is virtually devoid of lichens, these having been destroyed by this fungus. Several other patches were noted elsewhere.

The pink heads of Illosporiopsis christiansenii were
about 2 mm across

Smaller pink blobs were interesting (to me!). I brought home a specimen for closer examination and the species is almost certainly another fungus, Illosporiopsis christiansenii. Here it is growing with Physcia aipolia, a very common lichen, whose dark brown, white edged ascocarps are rather distinctive.

With several bins hereabouts I could probably find dozens of lichens - plus a few mosses - but, alas, I do not claim to have the expertise (or the time) to identify them all. Otherwise I could enthrall my readers with blog after blog of fascinating facts! (Do I detect a slight sigh of relief?)

There is, in fact, a thriving British Lichen Society, whose field trips take members to mountain, moorland, rocky shorelines and damp, species-rich woodlands.

My copy of the late Oliver Gilbert's book, 'The Lichen Hunters' is, to me, a fascinating read, with stirring details of these outings to remote places. Well, it takes all sorts...

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