The value of gardens as habitats for lichens should not be under-estimated. It is not necessary to head for the hills, or the forests, to make exciting discoveries. The first county records of several lichen species have occurred in modest domestic gardens, and garden surveys have even turned up some lichens new to Britain. Sometimes a lichen species that is long-anticipated in your region but which eludes you is eventually found, almost literally, on your doorstep. There may even be undescribed species lurking in gardens, awaiting discovery.
A particular feature of gardens is the limited but interesting community of lichens which can grow on the surfaces of evergreen leaves. The study of these provides a fascinating project which will transform any visits to gardens or parks. It is likely that these foliicolous species are responding to changes in atmospheric pollution and to climate change, so any records will provide useful scientific information.
A garden survey is bound to be valuable whether you are a beginner or expert. Don’t get disillusioned if there are many crusts on stonework which you cannot name initially. These are not easy at the best of times and in gardens they are often severely browsed by slugs and snails, making them more difficult still. The more conspicuous twig species may be a good starting point.
If you are examining a garden that is your own, or one you can revisit repeatedly, think of this as an exciting on-going project. The list of lichens will grow along with your competence. Consider inviting a more experienced lichenologist to visit.
Once you have some reliable records these can be incorporated into the BLS database and will add to our knowledge of the distribution of lichens. If the garden is located in lowland England the records will help with monitoring the dramatic changes that are happening to lichen communities with changes in the atmosphere.
BLS Garden Survey
This project, to investigate Lichen Diversity in Gardens, was the Society’s contribution to the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity. Barbara Hilton and Ann Allen published the findings in the Summer 2011 Bulletin.
Altogether 310 species were recorded in 45 private gardens. Results from the survey indicate that:
the South-West provided the highest diversity of lichens reflecting the high rainfall and generally good air quality of that region.
the Midlands followed closely, its strength being saxicolous species.
Garden size is an important factor, larger gardens providing more scope for a variety of different features. Nevertheless some notable records came from smaller gardens.
Thatched roofs provide a refuge for heathland lichens while smaller features, including a canvas chair and Rhododendron leaves support interesting communities.
Paving, fruit trees and old brick walls were especially rich in species.
It is hoped that this project will be on-going. Please contact Mark Powell if you need any help or to report your results..