Patterns in nature: Rusty colour lichens encrusting rock in the Brecon Mountains, South Wales (1)

Lichens are a strange kind of organism that is partly algae and partly fungi. They exhibit a great deal of variability in shape and colour and are found in all sorts of places – from the splash-zone rocks of the seashore, to high altitude boulders, to living and dead trees and wood, and man-made objects of almost every conveivable material – provided the environment is right. They are supposed to favour clean, fresh air. Each species has a defined habitat preference.

Lichens can be smooth and glossy coatings; dry and scabby encrustations; leaf-like; finely-branched; or lacey. They can grow as individuals that slowly increase in area and/or height. They can grow in groups of the same species that remain separate or that eventually coalesce to form a patchwork of similar colours – perhaps with matching or contrasting dots of colour provided by the fruiting bodies. They can grow intermingled with a variety of other lichen types with different, contrasting, or co-ordinating colours and morphology.

Though difficult to name, they are frequently interesting to observe. The abstract patterns that they make on variable substrates are often attractive and also a source of artistic inspiration.

Lichen patterns: Abstract pattern of lichens in various shades of green and white on the trunk of a beech tree, Charlton Down, Dorset (2)

Lichen pattern: Abstract pattern of orange, black, and white lichens on grey limestone rock at the beach, Port Eynon, Gower, South Wales (3) 

Lichen pattern: Abstract pattern of pale olive coloured lichen on rock, Windermere, Lake District, UK (4)

Lichen patterns: Abstract pattern of pale grey Reindeer Lichen surrounded by green moss, pink ling and heather flowers, and small red leaves, Rhossili Down, Gower, South Wales (5) 

Lichen patterns: Abstract pattern of yellow and pale blue-green lichens on currugated iron, Charlton Down, Dorset, UK (6) 

 Revision of a post first published November 2009


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6 Replies to “Six abstract patterns with Lichen”

  1. Jessica, the lichens in your photos are much brighter in colour than the ones I see here in Nova Scotia. They seem to cover almost every available type of surface in my yard but always remain a dull greenish grey.


  2. I am only speculating. I don’t really know the answer. One would think that the wide open spaces, abundant unpolluted substrates, and clean atmosphere in Nova Scotia would encourage a wide variety of lichen types.


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