Lichen (Parmelia caperata)

Parmelia caperata is a very common lichen found on deciduous trees across southern England and hence can be found almost anywhere in Dorset. It can also be found on rocks and mosses and conifers too but it is not able to cope with air pollution, hence is more common in the south west than further east and north.

Now I have been a distant admirer of lichens for a long, long time, ever since I was privileged to meet an authority on the subject some 25 years ago whilst on holiday on the Isle of Skye. Noel was in his seventies then, had been a devotee of lichens for as long as he could remember and as we walked together in a small study group he would suddenly drop to his knees and enthuse over a tiny little lichen growing amongst the heather. He also pointed out rocks saying 'That's a bird perch" and sure enough, watch a little while and a Wheatear would land there. He showed us fence posts with lichen on one side and not the other, it being totally missing from the side where the wire was stapled because the wire had rusted and the polluting rust ran down the post in rain water!

My message is that for some people even the most inconspicuous, almost lifeless piece of nature can inspire and enthuse if you look closely and think about it.

Now lichens have a language all of their own having apotheca and rhizinae, soralia and thallus, and I have never mastered this language but every time I look closely at a lichen like this one I remember, with affection, Noel and the way he enriched our lives that week in Scotland. Thanks Noel.

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