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Tree Lungwort

Lobaria pulmonaria

Tree Lungwort spanning entire branch of ancient tree

Tree Lungwort is a beautiful, vibrantly green, leafy lichen. It is one of the largest lichens and is an indicator of ancient woodland.

Where to spot it

Tree lungwort is found mainly in Scotland, particularly the west coast, where the wetter climate provides the moisture it requires to thrive. Because of air pollution, it is much sparser in the rest of Britain, confined to a few sites in wilder areas, such as the Lake District and parts of Wales.

It can be found growing on trees and old wood in areas of low air pollution.

Tree Lungwort growing on tree trunk, protected by artificial green mesh

Best time to spot it

Tree Lungwort can be spotted all throughout the year.

Things you might not know

  • Its lobes look a bit like the billowing shape of human lungs, which is where its name comes from.
  • In medieval times, medics would use Tree Lungwort to treat lung disorders because of its resemblance to human lungs.
  • Though Tree Lungwort can be found at multiple sites across the UK, in some of these sites its reproduction is limited.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Reindeer Moss

Cladonia rangiferina

Small patch of jagged, white Reindeer Moss amongst bright green plants

Despite its name, reindeer moss is actually a lichen (in fact it is also known as ‘reindeer lichen’).

Composed of many light and dainty branches, it grows in cushion-like tufts. When dry it can be quite brittle but once wet it becomes somewhat sponge-like.

Where it grows

Reindeer moss is usually found on moors and heathland, often growing in pockets of soil attached to rocky outcrops.

Bright white Reindeer Moss surrounding green plants

Best time to see Reindeer Moss

Reindeer Moss can be spotted all throughout the year.

Something you might not know

The only naturalised reindeer in the UK are found in the Scottish Highlands where they live for much of the year on reindeer moss.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Groundsel

Senecio vulgaris

Large Groundsel growing amongst rocks and waste ground

Groundsel is a common annual weed of rough and cultivated ground. You can find its clusters of small yellow flowers appearing on road verges, in gardens and on waste ground all throughout the year.

How to spot it

The leaves of Groundsel are bright shiny green, long and raggedly lobed. The small yellow flower heads are in cluster at the ends of the stems appearing to emerge from little tubes.

Bright yellow Groundsel flowers growing on a roadside

Best time to see

You can find Groundsel in flower throughout the year.

Where it grows

Groundsel is an annual weed of cultivated or disturbed ground, cropping up along field edges, roadside verges and on waste grounds.

Are Groundsel threatened?

Groundsel continues to be widespread throughout the British Isles, although there appears to have been a decline in the Scottish Highlands, possibly due to abandoning of marginal cultivations.

Things you might not know

  • Both birds and rabbits enjoy the leaves and seeds of Groundsel, and it is widely used as food for caged birds.
  • Its name comes from an Old English word grundeswilige meaning ‘ground swallower’, reflecting its tendency to grow profusely wherever it gets a chance.
  • Groundsel is a good food source for caterpillars of butterflies and moths and is one of only two plant species that provide food for cinnabar moth caterpillars.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Shepherd’s Purse

Capsella bursa-pastoris

The seedpods of this common wildflower resemble little drawstring pouches worn by medieval peasants, spilling out tiny copper-coloured seeds when broken apart

A member of the Cabbage family, this annual plant produces flowers throughout the year, and is able to yield hundreds of seeds.

How to identify Shepherd’s Purse

With a leafy rosette at the base, it grows to about 40cm. The leaves are larger and pinnately lobed at the bottom, and then arrow-shaped with wavy edges along the stem. It has tiny white scentless flowers arranged in a loose raceme, which are replaced by its highly recognisable seedpods.

Where to find Shepherd’s Purse

It is widespread throughout Britain, particularly in waste grounds and cultivated fields.

Did you know?

  • Also known as ‘Mother’s Heart’, this refers to an ancient game played in both England and Germany in which one child asks another to pick one of the seedpods. Upon breaking it, the child is then told they have broken their mother’s heart.
  • Local names include Bad Man’s Oatmeal (Durham); Blindweed (Yorkshire), Lady’s Purses (East Anglia), Poor Man’s Purse (Somerset).
  • It has been used in homeopathy to treat gall bladder and kidney problems.
  • It is considered an antiscorbutic, meaning it prevents scurvy.
  • In China, the leaves are eaten, taste similar to cabbage but with a spicy, peppery flavour.
  • It can be used as a herbal tea and is known for its anti-bleeding properties.

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Oak Moss Lichen

Evernia prunastri

with little tiny branches almost like a a lot of green tiny deer antlers
  • Grows in short tufts (to 10 cm) of flattened branches with forked tips, often with a net-like pattern of ridges visible on the surface.
  • Pale grey-green to pale yellow-green on the upper side and whitish underneath. This can be harder to see if the lichen has spent some time on the ground or in older specimens. This colour difference is due to Evernia technically being a foliose lichen, as its internal structure means it just has a single layer of algal cells beneath the upper cortex.
  • Patches of grainy soredia may be present on the edges of branches and ridges, becoming more extensive over time. Apothecia (fruiting bodies) are very rare.

Habitat

It prefers well-lit conditions, so is often present in the canopy and on lower branches in well-lit situations.

Similar species

Could be confused with Ramalina farinacea (below) which has narrower, more straggly branches, and lacks the pale underside. E. prunastri  also lacks the oval soralia on the edges of the lobes, which is a distinctive feature of R. farinacea.

Other lichens with strap-like branches that are likely to be encountered in the rainforest, such as Ramalina calicaris, R. fastigiata, and R. fraxinea, commonly have rounded apothecia on their branches which are extremely rare in E. prunastri.

Distribution 

Widespread and common across the whole British Isles

Other Species

Oak Moss Lichen
with little tiny branches almost like a a lot of green tiny deer antlers

Oak Moss Lichen

Evernia prunastri

Fanfare of Trumpets Lichen

Fanfare of Trumpets Lichen

Ramalina fastigiata 

Shaggy Strap Lichen
Shaggy Strap Lichen

Shaggy Strap Lichen

Ramalina farinacea

Fanfare of Trumpets Lichen

Ramalina fastigiata 

A very common fruticose lichen on trees, which is easy for beginners to recognise.

  • Grey-green irregularly shaped and flattened branches, often wrinkled. 
  • Branches end with round and flattened fruits (apothecia). 

As its evocative English name suggests, this lichen is relatively easy to spot once you have seen its ‘trumpets’. These are the apothecia (fruiting bodies) that stand out at the tips of many of the branches. They vary in size, but collectively make a visual impact. 

Distribution

Widespread and common across the British Isles with concentrations in southern England and coastal areas. 

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum

Shaggy Strap Lichen

Ramalina farinacea

Shaggy Strap Lichen
  • Grows in pale grey-green to yellow-green tufts, with flattened, straggly and forked branches (up to 10cm).  
  • Soredia in discrete oval soralia along branch margins. This is clear with a hand lens, but possible to see without. Apothecia (fruiting bodies) are rare. 
  • Both sides of the branches have the same colouring (and it does not have a white underside). 

Habitat

One of the most common fruticose species on trees with acidic bark such as alder, birch and oak. It is fairly pollution tolerant.

Similar species

Could be confused with Evernia prunastri but that lacks the oval soralia on the edges of the branches and has distinctly paler undersides to the branches.  When first becoming familiar with lichens you may also confuse R. fastigiata for an Usnea species as first glance, but if you look carefully you will notice that R. farinacea has flattened branches rather than cylindrical branches.  

Similar to other Ramalina species such as R. calicaris, R. fastigiata, and R. fraxinea, but they have rounded apothecia (fruiting bodies) and they lack the oval soralia. 

Distribution

Widespread and common across the whole British Isles. 

Other Species

Field Pansy

Field Pansy

Viola arvensis

Bramble

Bramble

Rubus fruticosus

Bastard Balm

Bastard Balm

Melittis melissophyllum