A Lichen Compass

After the rather disgusting photograph a few days ago I thought it was time to right the balance with something more pleasing on the eye.

The snow has finally begun to thaw in this freezing microclimatic corner of West Sussex, but I did manage a fair amount of stomping around in the snow over the past week. This is a picture I took in my local beech woodland a couple of days ago.

Lichens are very sensitive to their environment – moisture levels and air quality in particular – but also the surface they grow on. This means that they can be used to understand direction, but a little local knowledge and familarity with the stones and barks of your area helps greatly.

There is a rust-coloured lichen that is clearly not keen on surfaces that dry regularly and can be found on the moist sides of many trees in southern England, not least beech trees.

It is a reasonably dependable indicator of north on trees that are open to at least some drying from sunlight.

(If there are any lichenologists out there that might be able to point me to the right page of the ‘Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland Field Guide’ for this particular friend I’d be very grateful.)

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