Bright orange lichen encrusting a beach pebble in a sheltered zone

On the eastern flank of the great pebble bank of Chesil Beach in Dorset, on that part adjacent to the Fleet Lagoon where fishermen’s huts are strewn along the water’s edge, the pebbles were sufficiently undisturbed in the spring of 2011 for vegetation to get a grip. A few scattered plants had established themselves amongst the rounded stones; and many pebbles in the same area were coated with slow-growing black or bright orange lichens.

This type of colonisation of beach shingle is a fairly uncommon phenomenon because, in general, the constant movement and abrasion of the pebbles does not allow plants to establish a root system or lichens to encrust the surface of the pebbles themselves. However, in this particular location on the leeward sheltered side of the pebble bank, there had been a period of years of relative stability that enabled vegetation to start growing.

During the winter of 2013 to 2014 the Chesil Bank sustained enormous damage from the storms. The wave action resulted in massive movements of the pebbles. I haven’t revisited the site since the storms but I strongly suspect that the plants and lichens will have suffered and may no longer exist. I must go and check it out. Whatever the outcome of last winter’s weather and subsequent maintenance work on the pebble bank, the slow colonisation process will surely begin again but will take time to restore the habitat to its former situation.

Pebbles with patches of black lichen on the Chesil Bank in Dorset

Pebbles with patches of black lichen on the Chesil Bank in Dorset

Pebbles with patches of black lichen on the Chesil Bank in Dorset

Plant growing on pebbles at Chesil Beach

Plants and bright orange lichen growing on beach pebbles

Pebbles with patches of black lichen on the Chesil Bank in Dorset

Makeshift boardwalk up the Chesil Bank in Dorset

4 Replies to “Pebbles with Lichen at Chesil”

  1. How beautiful! I have picked up lichen-covered rocks in the past and brought them home (without thinking) and then been upset when the lichen died! So now I leave them where they are!

  2. They do seem very special don’t they? Depending on the type of lichen, it may stay looking the just the same even when it has dried out and is really no longer growing. I have found that to be the case on twigs and things that I have brought home, and the occasional stone.

  3. Yes, they seem to grow in most places and on most objects but the species have substrate preferences: wood, acid rocks, basic rocks, buildings, urban environments, rural, coast or beach. That should help with their identification but I am still mystified.

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