Species of the Month - January 2018

 Elegant Script Lichen

Graphis elegans

Graphis elegans

Graphis elegans belongs to the group known as script lichens, as they look rather like writing.  The most well-known of these is Graphis scripta, which is common in our area on Hazel and other alkaline-barked trees.  It needs care in identification though.  Graphis elegans, which grows on acid-barked trees, principally Birch, is simple to identify owing to the way the black linear fruitbodies have multiple furrows along their length.

Graphis elegans

In this close-up by Jan Hamilton from our LNHG field trip to Allt Broighleachan native pinewood, you can see that each fruitbody is corrugated by several furrows.  Other Graphis species only have one furrow, along the middle, from which the spores are released.  Graphis elegans doesn't always have as many furrows as the fine specimen above, but it normally has at least 3, including the central one.

Graphis elegans

On a young fast-growing tree the lines will be mostly horizontal as the growing bark stretches them out.  They are also well spaced apart in this example

On the right are more closely-spaced lines going at all angles, on an older tree from Glen Creran woods.  This is when it looks like writing; there seem to be letters from several languages present!


Graphis elegans


Graphis elegans

Graphis elegans has an oceanic distribution and is common in the western half of Britain but scarce in the east.  It does not like dense shade, and grows well on trees at the edge of a wood.  This one is on a coastal birch at Ledaig.

Graphis elegans

Peeling bark from an old holly by a forestry track, covered in Graphis elegans.  Photo by Zena Henderson on our Glen Orchy field trip last August.

Graphis elegans

Another close-up of a well-developed specimen with many furrows, from one of our earliest field trips, on Seil in January 2010.

Please send in your Elegant Script Lichen 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 
Host tree species 
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 January species:

Jan 2017 - Yellow Brain Fungus
Jan 2015 - Flute Lichen
Jan 2014 - Velvet Shank
Jan 2013 - Willow Jelly Button & Birch Jelly Button
Jan 2012 - Brambling

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This project is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage

All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer except where stated.  The 1st two photos are Jan Hamilton and the 6th is Zena Henderson.  Mouse over photos to see credits.