Lichens at Drumbeg

March 8th 2016

Lichens at Drumbeg

The Assynt landscape is particularly attractive when lit by low sunshine in the winter, especially with snow on the hills. It is the lichens, however, that provide accents of a surprising range of colour and form, when you look a bit closer. Examples are these three species, photographed by Gwen Richards on 4th March along the Drumbeg peat track.

A south-facing gneiss outcrop, overlooking Loch Bad na Labhairt (NC119304), bore clusters of small purplish-brown thalli of one of several species of rock tripe found locally, Umbilicaria polyrrhiza. The generic name relates to the single central holdfast of each thallus, and the specific name to a felt of black root-like structures which cover the underside and stick out around the edges. The black fruiting bodies or apothecia shown in this photograph are very rare. This species is restricted to upland areas of the British Isles, on hard siliceous rocks with some degree of mineral enrichment.

Not far away, under a peaty overhang, was the light green crust of Icmadophila ericetorum, studded with flesh-pink apothecia. It is one of the first lichens to colonise damp peat and is found throughout Highland Scotland, but only rarely elsewhere in the British Isles.

A little nearer Drumbeg (NC122312) was an example of a group of small, shrubby lichens which look like tiny corals, Stereocaulon vesuvianum. In places beside the track, ice-smoothed outcrops of the gneiss are covered with this beautiful lichen. It is common only in the upland areas of the British Isles, on well-lit, mineral-rich, siliceous rocks.

These are just three examples of well over 500 species of lichens, extraordinarily varied in appearance, that occur across Assynt, from below high-tide level to the tops of the hills.

Ian M. Evans

Rock tripe Umbilicaria polyrrhiza. Photo G. Richards
Rock tripe Umbilicaria polyrrhiza. Photo G. Richards
Icmadophila ericetorum. Photo G.Richards
Icmadophila ericetorum. Photo G.Richards
Stereocaulon vesuvianum. Photo G. Richards
Stereocaulon vesuvianum. Photo G. Richards

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Recent Sightings

Black-throated Diver

Single bird, Clashnessie Bay (Peter Reynolds). May be the same bird as seen at Culkein Drumbeg on 21 January (23/01)

Guillemot

Two dead birds on beach, Bay of Balchladich (Peter Reynolds). This may be connected to the ongoing spate of similar incidents along the coast of Scotland & NE England. (23/01)

Rock Dove

30 birds on wires, Lochinver Main Street (Gwen Richards) (23/01)

Barn Owl

Single bird in flight, by Bone Caves car park, A837 (Carol Langford) (22/01)

Black-throated Diver

Single bird, Culkein Drumbeg (Peter Reynolds) (21/01)

Red-breasted Merganser

Two males and a single female, Culkein Drumbeg (Peter Reynolds) (20/01)

Kestrel

Single bird hovering, Culkein Drumbeg (DAH) (20/01)

Reed Bunting

Two males under bird feeders, Culkein Stoer (Kath Ainslie) (20/01)

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