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Nature Notes


Lots to enjoy in the Great Outdoors The wonderful world of lichens


S


pring is bursting into life and colour at the moment but look a bit harder and under-


neath you’ll see the natural world is teeming with lichen life.. South Devon is an ideal place to study the amazing and colourful world of lichens. The area has a great diversity of habitats and is an area of high conserva- tion interest; this makes it one of the richest counties in England for lichens, with over 900 species recorded.


What is a lichen? Lichens are made up of 2 or more organisms


What’s the difference


In short mosses are plants lichens aren’t. A moss is a simple, low-growing plant; a lichen is a kind of fungi-algae sandwich.


between a lichen and moss?


working together – normally fungi and algae. Like all fungi, lichen require carbon as a food source and they thrive in areas with light and wa- ter. They are found in trees, on rocks, on ground, walls and fences. They offer food and shelter to invertebrates and are used as nesting material for birds. Some lichens are edible and some are used in Asian traditional medicines and some are harvested as fabric dyes.


Where to find lichens?


Look out for lichens on granite tors on Dartmoor, in woodlands and mari- time schists around Start Point.


Common Greeshield Lichen – look out on your


garden furniture Old man’s beard in Dartmoor Often found in ancient woods – Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor Wood near Meldon Reservoir, Dartmoor – mark’s photo


This photo was taken at Black-a-Tor Copse which is one of the best examples of high altitude oak woodland in Britain. The lichens and mosses that drape the trees are nationally important - and grow here in this unique clean air woodland.


Look out for... Common Dolphins. There have been many recent sightings off Prawl Point and even in the River Dart.


Did you know?


● Lichens are ancient organisms; some colonies are over 8,000 years old.


● There are around 1,700 species in the British Isles.


● There are four main types of lichen: crusty, scaly, leafy and beardy


● They are sensi- tive to pollution and are indicators of air quality and the ‘health’ of our environment so where the air is good expect a wide variety of lichens.


● Lichens grow at different rates with some growing as little as 0.5mm per year – think before treading on an ancient tree branch in Dartmoor.


● A simple and easy way to look at lichen is the wrong


way through binoculars!


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