The Lichen Identification Workshop dawned frosty and sunny. A group of 17 CAN members wrapped up well and met at St. Winifred’s Church in Mobberley.  Mike Gosling was the leader for the day. Mike has previously led lichen workshops for CAN and it was decided that for this event, he would concentrate on lichens of churchyards.

The external wall of the churchyard was inspected first. This supported lichens such as Porpidia tuberculosa and a Lepraria sp. As the sun thawed the frost, the gravestones were inspected next where Lecanora polytropa, Melanelixia fuliginosa and Parmelia saxatilis could be found. A bright green powdery lichen existed within the carvings of the gravestones was a bright green lichen The walls of the church itself proved interesting. Barium sulphate crystals were visible in the stones used to build the church. These stones were likely to have been quarried from Alderley Edge, where barium mines once existed. Caloplaca citrina was found growing on the mortar of the church walls.

Mike shows the group the importance of churchyards for Lichens

Following lunch, where some of the group warmed up in front of the fire in The Church Inn, the group drove onto St. Mary’s Church in Nether Alderley.  One of the first lichens to be seen was was Xanthoria candelaria, a species typical of acidic substrates.  This was noted on the black iron gates of the church. The churchyard and the walls of the churchyard were searched and species such as Rhizocarpon geographicum, Pertusaria corallina/pseudocorallina, Candelariella vitellina and Parmotrema perlatum were located.  A number of trees within the churchyard supported lichens. Xanthoria parietina was found on twigs.  Mike warned that care needs to be taken when inspecting gravestones beneath trees as spores from lichens associated with wood can fall onto stonework and establish, thereby, causing confusion!

Mike leading the group on identifying lichens on walls

As the day neared the end, a couple of squamulose lichens were looked at on the churchyard wall; Cladonia chlorophaea and Cladonia pyxidata. A local rarity was also seen.  This was Polysporina simplex, a species associated with sandstone.  This is potentially a new lichen for Cheshire. Further record searches would confirm this.

Approximately 20 lichen species were seen on the day.  As Mike explained in his introductory talk, a good churchyard within the UK could support as many as 190 taxa. In Cheshire, many churches are species-poor with less than 10 lichens recorded, although some are known to support 40-50+ taxa.  Mike provided useful hand-outs so that members could continue to survey churchyards in their own time. Thanks to Mike for a thoroughly instructive and entertaining day, even if he did suffer a cut finger whilst surveying!