A visit to the churchyards around Cardigan looking at Lichens

Tracey Lovering

Tracey Lovering

Lower Plants and Fungi Officer (Wales) & Plant Link Cymru Officer

23rd October 2017

One of our lichen apprentices, Barbara Brown, went on a recent field trip to a churchyard in Ceredigion with the British Lichen Society. Here's what she found:

"Thanks to Plantlife’s Cennad Lichen Apprenticeship Scheme and the British Lichen Society I was able to attend the BLS Churchyards Sub-Commmittee annual ‘works outing’ meeting to survey churchyard lichens, this year around Cardigan. After work on Friday the 22nd I set off to Cardigan in Ceredigion with all my lichen equipment and books in the car. I reached the Highbury guest house with a bit of trepidation only to find a bat under the bell – however things looked up form there and my room was lovely! Meeting everyone in the Priory café was also reassuring, as not everyone seemed an expert on lichens – although I have already learned that few people will own to knowing very much about them!

This is one of the reasons why lichenology is fascinating. There is so much more to understand about the stable association of fungi and algae or cyanobacteria than make up lichens. Why do some species thrive in one area and not another? What drives their changes in distribution? Possible answer could include climate change, pollution or even changes in areas grass mowing frequency?

On Saturday morning, we set off to survey the lichens, collecting information that could help answer some of these questions and would probably give rise to very many others.

Our first stop was the charming seaside village of Llangrannog. Quickly the showers blew away inland leaving me with enough identification puzzles to keep me looking at one grave almost all morning!

However, everyone was very patient and gave pointers to my fellow Cennad apprentice Margaret Howell and I. Now and again I took time to read the grave inscriptions, once finding the memorial of a sailor who had died on ship off the coast of Peru.

As the sun came out, and choughs and ravens called, I reminded myself of common lichen species like Toninia aromatica and Tephomela atra (below).

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Tephomela atra

Our second site at Penmorfa Chapel was a brief visit, but we stayed longer at St Michael’s church Penbryn enjoying the hill top views across the sea as far as the Llŷn penisula. We also celebrated Ken Sandell’s birthday with a lichen decorated cake.

I found living mosaics of Ochrolechia parella and Caloplaca crenularia and we came across gravestones that were completely covered with Ramalina siliquosa. I also spent time trying to identify the strange penny-bun like fruiting bodies of Lecanora rupicola:

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Lecanora rupicola

Sunday morning saw us heading out again after a reinforcing breakfast. I met most of the congregation of Saint Cynwyl’s church of Aberporth whilst looking at the lichens near the entrance. One lady was amazed to realise all the coloured patches were alive and readily took to using a hand lens. Here Tracey showed me Trapelia placodiodes on the church wall and also Acrospora impressula.

Our last churchyard at Llangoedmor reminded me that lichens I would usually associate with trees can also be found on gravestones. Here there were large patches of Flavoparmelia caperata and Parmotrema perlatum. Paula Shipway also showed me a really distinctive Pd test result with UV light on Fuscidea praeruptorum which I managed to capture on my phone:

UV on Fuscidea praeruptorum

I left ready to plot my way through more identification puzzles in the near future!

I would like to thank everyone in the group for their patience with a learner, Tracey Lovering for making my attendance possible and Steve Chambers for organizing all the logistics of the field work so well.

Find out more:

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CENNAD: Lichen Apprenticeship Scheme

A specialist programme of supported learning activities, where beginners are brought to a level where they can usefully contribute to monitoring lichens.

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