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  • Sim Elliott

Golden Eye Lichen, Teloschistes chrysophthalmus. Malling Down. 29.11.22

I saw this beautiful lichen today in a Hawthorne tree at Malling Down Nature Reserve, Sussex Wildlife Trust Malling Down | Sussex Wildlife Trust. I wasn't planning to go to Malling Down today. I was planning a trip to Chailey Commons, to look for fungi, lichen, and bryophytes there. But the bus I was due to catch broke down and was cancelled, and there wasn't another for two hours, so I decided to walk over Malling Down instead.


I got to Lewes by bus on the very frequent 28 bus. 28 - Brighton-Tunbridge Wells | Brighton & Hove Buses


Although I had read the blog, I'm lichen it: Rare lichen discovered near Lewes. | Sussex Wildlife Trust, so knew that Teloschistes chrysophthalmus had been seen in the Lewes area, I was not consciously looking for it. As soon as I saw it, I thought it was a Golden Eye Lichen. But I checked with the Obsidentify App, and it identified as a Common

Orange Lichen or a Pin-cushion Sunburst Lichen. I posted it in the Lichen Identification Facebook Group, and immediately someone responded and said it was Teloschistes chrysophthalmus. I should have trusted my own judgement.


I have uploaded my sighting to iRecord, and informed the Sussex Botanical Recording Society and the British Lichen Society, BLS Databases | The British Lichen Society


All the sections of text in italics are quotations, sources cited.






It's a lichen called Golden eyes Teloschistes chrysophthalmus. Until very recently this lichen was extremely rare in Britain but over the past few years it has been turning up around southern England. Golden eyes was discovered on a branch near Woodingdean in December 2012 and at that time it was the first sighting of this lichen in Sussex since the 19th century. Since then it has been found at more sites across Sussex. Have a search on the south side of isolated hawthorn and blackthorn bushes and you may strike gold.

Considering that lichens cover 8% of the land’s surface it’s amazing that we hardly notice them but next time you’re out stop and look around. You’ll be overwhelmed – lichens are everywhere. They're the Banksys of the natural world and bring their anarchic wildlife graffiti into our unnatural urban landscape; disrupting the dull uniformity of brickwork and concrete with a dazzling diverse range of patterns, shapes, textures and colours. Luminous yellow and orange crusts radiate across roofs, walls, benches and fences. Bare branches and bark are festooned with green lichen lobes. Even the concrete and the clay beneath your feet is covered with the white splodges of lichens which resemble trampled chewing gum. Once you start looking an invisible world of lichens will materialise and you’ll feel like grabbing the nearest person by the lapels and, wild-eyed, yell “They’re everywhere– can’t you see? We’ve been invaded!”.


The secret behind their success is that each lichen is made of two different organisms – a fungus and an alga. The alga can photosynthesise and provides the food that fuels the fungus while the fungus gives the structure and protection which allows the alga to function. The fungus is the Lennon to the alga’s McCartney; working together they create something amazing and enduring.


Thank you to Stephen and Zoe for sending in the photos. We'd certainly be interested in hearing of any golden eyes seen elsewhere in Sussex. I'm lichen it: Rare lichen discovered near Lewes. | Sussex Wildlife Trust


See also: March: Golden-eye lichen | News and features | University of Bristol



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