Species of the Month - February 2018
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
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.
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.
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.
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