Just one old fencepost, wood species unknown, but look at the number of lichen species it’s home to, as well as the lichen-loving Springtails. It’s a multifarious microcosm of the wider environment, a miniature landscape of vibrant colour and diverse shapes. Old fenceposts are usually worth a closer look.
Amidst all the greys and browns and dull greens of the wintertime natural world, there are still wonderful wee spots and splashes of colour to be found. These are some I found during today’s stomp around Cosmeston, a rather rapid stomp trying, unsuccessfully, to avoid the rain showers.
I’m not good at identifying lichens but I do love their fresh, bright yellow-greens, especially on the twigs and small branches that have recently blown down from the tree tops.
The tiny bursts of lollipop pink are Illosporiopsis christiansenii, a lichenicolous fungus (that’s a fungus which is parasitic on lichens, usually on Physcia tenella and sometimes on Xanthoria parietina).
And the pretty pops of orange, found on several fence posts, are Common Jellyspot fungus, Dacrymyces stillatus.
‘There is a low mist in the woods—It is a good day to study lichens. The view so confined—it compels your attention to near objects—& the white background reveals the disks of the lichens distinctly—They appear more loose-flowing—expanded—flattened out—the colors brighter—for the damp—The round yellowish green lichens on the white pines loom through the mist (or are seen dimly) like shields—whose devices you would fain read.’ ~ Henry David Thoreau, A Year in Thoreau’s Journal 1851, Penguin, New York, 1993
In this case, though, my rose is not a rose but a lichen that I thought looked a lot like the outline of a rose – my warped imagination perhaps, but pretty nonetheless. I spotted this on a gravestone during a wander around the graveyard that surrounds St Augustine’s Church here in Penarth. I presume it’s one of the Caloplaca species of lichen, possibly Caloplaca decipiens, but many of this species seem to look alike and I am not at all skilled in identifying lichens.
Americans call it the Hoary Rosette lichen but the Brits don’t appear to have a common name for this pretty little lichen, Physcia aipolia. I found it flourishing on wooden fence railings alongside the local coastal path so it obviously thrives in an exposed and salt-windswept location. Officially, it is usually found on the well-lit (I presume that’s sunlit rather than under lamp-posts) nutrient-rich wood of all manner of trees, their twigs and bark.
Its thallus (a plant body that doesn’t have stems, leaves, roots or veins) is foliose (has a lobed, leaf-like shape) and its apothecia (the cup-shaped fruiting bodies) have white rims, with dark brown or black centres. Physcia aipolia is widespread and common in Britain, though it does seem to prefer the slightly warmer and perhaps wetter climes of the south and west.