Species of the Month - February 2018

 Elf's Ears

Normandina pulchella

Normandina pulchella

Elf's Ears is a small turquoise lichen that grows on top of other lichens or bryophytes which are themselves growing on trees.  The one in the photo above is growing on the liverwort Frullania tamarisci, on a Rowan tree.  Individual pieces of the lichen can be up to about 8 mm wide.  Around their edges they are divided into round lobes 1-3 mm wide, with a raised rim.  This lichen is completely unmistakable.  Squamules of Cladonia species can occur in the same habitat and may look similar at first glance, but do not have the raised rim.

Peltigera collina with Normandina pulchella   Peltigera collina with Normandina pulchella

Typically, many pieces of Elf's Ears are found together, scattered over the surface of the host.  Here they are on the dog lichen Peltigera collina, on willow.  Elf's Ears occurs mainly near the western and southern coasts of Britain, though in Ireland it is more evenly distributed. 

Pannaria rubiginosa (with Normandina pulchella)   Nephroma laevigatum (with Normandina pulchella)

It seems to prefer grey lichens (containing a cyanobacterium) rather than green ones (containing a green alga).  On the left the Elf's Ears are as numerous as the red fruits of its host Pannaria rubiginosa, on hazel.  On the right it's on Nephroma laevigatum on the same hazel.  In these photos the Elf's Ears are dry and look pale blue; they are a greener blue when wet.

Normandina pulchella

Here the liverwort Frullania tamarisci is growing over the lichen Degelia atlantica, and Elf's Ears are growing over both of them.  These Elf's Ears are producing powdery soralia, which are their main means of propagation.  The grains fall onto parts of the substrate which are still vacant, and a new Elf's Ear starts to grow there.  The grains will also occasionally get blown or otherwise transported onto new trees.

Please send in your Elf's Ears sightings using the form below, or email sightings@lnhg.org.uk with the details if you prefer.  If you are not sure of the identity of your lichen, please send a photo to sightings@lnhg.org.uk, or put one on the LNHG Facebook page.

Date of sighting 
Grid reference 
What it's growing on 
Name of finder 
Your name (if different) 
Email (not needed if I already know it!) 
Any other details    


By filling in this form you agree that the information contained in this form may be collated and disseminated manually or electronically for environmental decision-making, education, research and other public benefit uses in accordance with the LNHG data access policy.  Your email address will not form part of the record and will not be passed on to anyone.

Carl Farmer
LNHG Biological Records Manager

Note you can still send in records for past species of the month.  Here are the previous February species:

Feb 2017 - Black-eyed Susan (lichen)
Feb 2016 - Dotted Border
Feb 2015 - Tree Lungwort
Feb 2014 - Pale Brindled Beauty
Feb 2013 - Coral Lungwort
Feb 2012 - Barren Strawberry

Last month's page
Next month's page
Current month's page

Complete list of Species of the Month

This project is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage

All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer.  Mouse over photos to see credits.