Tag Archives: moss

The Trouble with Lichen…

I‘ve blogged about moss before, that carpet of jewelled green that enthrals me,
and lichen does the same. Lichen has the same delicate natural beauty
clinging to crumbling walls, to trees, and swathing the local woodlands.

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I don’t think there is any trouble with lichen, yep, I’m a John Wyndham fan, but we haven’t yet decided if lichen is the fountain of youth – it may be, but that’s another story!

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Five varieties of lichen © Lisa Shambrook

I love how lichen decorates trees and rocks, swathing walls, finding its way into nooks and crannies in an almost microscopic way. Moss and lichen create drapery and carpets for our woodlands and forests in the UK. You can also find them on rocks and cliffs at the beach, surviving in deserts and seemingly barren terrain, and in the Rainforests, and upon snowy mountain ridges. They can be found across the planet from Antarctica to the Equator and back to the Arctic.

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Foliose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

It is thought lichens were probably the first flora ever to adorn the earth… We have used it for antibiotic compounds, scents in perfumes, and much in science. Beatrix Potter also studied lichens and drew them for scientific works before Peter Rabbit grew in fame! Before synthetic dyes were produced, soft greens, brown, yellows, and even orange, red, and blue dyes could be made from lichens. It’s also been used to date rocks and glaciers. There are Arctic lichens that have lived for more than 4,000 years…

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Foliose, Squamulose, and Crustose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

The observance of lichen can show the health of an area. They left cities during the Industrial Revolution, due to sulphur dioxide in the air from burning coal, but as we move away from coal lichen are reappearing in many areas they were once lost to. Pollution obstructs them and lichen growth shows purity and clean air.

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Crustose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

I find calm in the beauty of nature and examining the curls of leafy Foliose lichen, the spread of flat Crustose, the scales or squidgy pebbles of Squamulose, and the fascinating stalks of shrubby Fruticose lichen take me to a world of tranquillity.

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Foliose, Squamulose, and Fruticose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

Lichen is not a single organism – it is a symbiotic relationship between fungus, and algae and/or cyanobacteria. Moss and lichen don’t have root systems, they anchor themselves with rhizoids. They don’t draw nourishment from the ground but through photosynthesis, air and water. They hold many times their own weight in water and aid the forest as sponging, cooling and humidifying systems. They are also able to go dormant when they’re under stress.

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Foliose and Squamulose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

Ever wonder why slugs and snails don’t feed on them? They have a bitter taste, unpalatable to slugs and snails. They are basic necessity within nature, as food, as nesting and den material, soil preparation, and they benefit the whole ecosystem.

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Foliose and Squamulose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

Lastly, some varieties have a high tolerance of radiation, and they are so hardy they have even been known to survive outer space – in 2005 an ESA (European Space Agency) experiment took them out of our atmosphere for two weeks, and upon re-entry they survived and thrived.

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Squamulose and Crustose Lichen and Moss Hedgehogs © Lisa Shambrook

Maybe we really will find life out there, maybe in the form of lichen…
or maybe, just maybe, they’ll be the toughest thing to survive this planet,
long after we have gone…

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Fruticose, Foliose, Squamulose, and Crustose Lichen © Lisa Shambrook

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The Fascinating World within Nature’s Carpet – Gathering Moss

Moss swathes the forest floor, old stone walls, and creeps leisurely onward.
It drapes the trees and cloaks the ground in a jewelled garment of green.
Moss creates its own miniature ecosystem – a forest within itself.

Gathering Moss - The Last Krystallos

Brechfa Forest - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Brechfa Forest © Lisa Shambrook

My favourite colour is very much lead by nature and lends itself to my romantic soul which finds delight in anything serene and beautiful. My favourite colour is the honey green of moss, the earthy colour of the forest floor softened by the peridot jewel tone.

When I need to unwind or just return to my roots, I wander in the forests and the earthy tones of green and soft breeze lull my soul.

One gram of moss contains... - Robin Wall Kimmerer | The Last Krystallos

Robin Wall Kimmerer © Lisa Shambrook

 

 

 

 

 

There are over 1,000 species of moss in Britain, with more yet to be discovered, though many people only notice two or three varieties. If you get right down on the woodland ground you’ll see the intricate detail and real ecosystem living right there in amongst the moss and lichen, especially if you have a magnifying glass. Moss is nature’s carpet.

Reindeer Moss - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Reindeer Moss © Lisa Shambrook

Moss and lichens don’t have root systems, they anchor themselves with rhizoids. They don’t draw nourishment from the ground but through photosynthesis, air and water. They hold many times their own weight in water and aid the forest as sponging, cooling and humidifying systems. They are also able to go dormant when they’re under stress.

Elan Valley - Haircap Moss | Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Elan Valley – Haircap Moss © Lisa Shambrook

They have great strength, especially as they grow dense and low to the ground, but they are still vulnerable. They are stripped for the florist industry and are constantly trod upon. As our society, towns and farms spreads into their territory they try to grow, as you’ll see on walls, paving slabs and rooves, but many new building materials are not moss friendly. Many people will also treat moss with weed-killer killing off their tiny ecosystems. My garage shares its roof with my neighbour’s garage and my side of the roof was blanketed with little hedgehogs of cushion moss, and my neighbour, who follows a regimented gardening style used a weed-killer to remove the moss and thereby prevent damp in the garage. This made me sad – I suppose I don’t mind a little damp…

Moss in its element - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Moss in its element © Lisa Shambrook

One of my most favourite places locally is the Brechfa Forest. It’s like a fairy-tale forest and I expect to bump into Galadriel. Moss covers the forest floor in a springy carpet and drapes like feathery curtains from the fir trees. It’s a magical walk, and the dog loves it too!

Brechfa Moss - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Moss in Brechfa © Lisa Shambrook

Ancient conversation moses and rocks - Robin Wall Kimmerer - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Robin Wall Kimmerer © Lisa Shambrook

What do you love about moss? Or do you have a different favourite woodland flora?
One of my most favourite photos is one I took on Exmoor of a tree swathed in moss…pure magic…

Exmoor mossy tree - The Last Krystallos

Exmoor moss swathed tree © Lisa Shambrook

Ten Winter Wonders of Nature

Jack Frost creates a winter wonderland as the temperature drops,
and nature still has a few gems up her sleeve as you don a scarf and hat…

Ten Winter Wonders of Nature | The Last Krystallos

This year hasn’t given us as much frost and lacy webs as I’d have liked;
it’s been a warm and rainy winter so far, but there’s still magic…

holly and ivy, the holly and the ivy, Ten Winter Wonders of Nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Holly and Ivy: two of the most iconic plants of winter and abundant at Christmas. Immortalised in song and gracing many, especially Victorian, Christmas cards.
Holly, with its red berries, is often pictured with robins, though an interesting fact shows it is rather the mistle thrush that is known for vigorously guarding the berries of holly in winter, to prevent other birds from eating them.  The tree was seen as a fertility symbol and a charm against witches, goblins and the devil. It was also thought to be unlucky to cut down a holly tree.
Ivy is a popular groundcover plant and found throughout woods and forests, climbing trees and weaving through the undergrowth.

daffodils, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Early daffodils and Narcissi (Narcissus): This year, with the warmth and rain, daffodils are flowering early. Generally small narcissi flower first, heralding spring and paving the way for the daffodils and their huge trumpets of colour, but this year in February they’re already throwing out their glorious golden trumpets to brighten the gloomy days.

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Frosted EvergreensNothing delights me more in winter than gazing at the garden decorated in icing sugar frost. Spider webs are encrusted with diamonds and sugar strands and glitter as the sun dances. Leaves and trees are dipped in ice and create a true winter wonderland. And last year’s Christmas tree grows a few more inches!

cyclamen, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Cyclamen: I’ve tried growing these as houseplants, but I’m not good at keeping plants alive indoors… I struggle a bit with cyclamen outside too, I don’t think they like my damp, clay soil! Still, I persevere every year because they’re so delicate and pretty with their bright red or pink, pastel pink, or white blooms and dark, heart-shaped leaves… One day I’d love a patch of naturalised cyclamen coum to cheer up winter.

hellebore, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

Hellebore: also known as the Christmas or Lenten Rose, are stunning additions in any winter garden. They grow into large clumps and can be divided or you can plant the little babies that grow from seed around the parent plant. I love their simplicity and beauty as they grace the garden with slightly drooping heads that, when lifted, often show a freckled face. I love the pinks, deep reds, and almost black flowers, but I particularly love the pure white with a lime green hint staining their petals.

Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn: This is a favourite of mine as it flowers in clumps of pink blossom on bare, dark stems as winter progresses into spring. Strangely the leaves have a pungent smell which I rather dislike when touched, but the flowers have the most divine heady fragrance which makes up for the leaves.

moss and lichen, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Moss and Lichen: on bare branches and stone. When the season becomes sparse, and flowers are hard to find, if you look closer you can delight in the intricacies of lichen and moss. Grab a magnifying glass and search out the smaller pleasures of nature. There are numerous varieties of both; in the UK there are over 1,700 species of lichen and over 18,000 species worldwide. I love the curl and sage colour of common lichen found on trees and enhanced in winter on bare branches. Moss delights me, I cannot resist brushing my hand across a carpet of peridot moss, and they offer me my favourite colour! Rainy Wales and our woodlands are the most amazing places for moss. (I love moss so much I may well do a separate post in the future for it!)

bronze fennel, frosted fennel, fennel seedhead, ten winter wonders of nature,the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Fennel: I grow bronze fennel in my garden for the haze of purple it gives me in the summer. It grows tall and feathery, and then gives long stems and stunning seedheads in winter. When Jack Frost visits he always decorates the seedheads, creating even more works of art in my winter garden.

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Red Berries Cotoneaster: Cotoneaster comes in many varieties, from trees to shrubs and ground-cover. Red berries are the epitome of winter and every garden should have some!

snowdrop, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Snowdrop (Galanthus): I’ve said it before, I adore the tiny British Snowdrop, I look forward to its little nodding head and vibrant green marks. It’s a sign that winter is beginning to draw to a close. It generally flowers before the vernal equinox marking the arrival of spring in the middle of March, but can flower from midwinter on. One of the most beautiful winter sights to me is a patch of snowdrops peeping through a fresh coating of snow…offering new growth and hope.

What are your favourite winter flowers?

What inspires you to wander winter’s woodlands and
what flora do you search out as Jack Frost bites?