Lichen, Bryophytes & Fungi. Marline Valley Nature Reserve, Hastings. 31.01.22
Marline Valley is a wonderful mix of semi-natural ancient woodland, unimproved meadows and a classic Sussex ghyll stream situated on the edge of Hastings. Marline Valley | Sussex Wildlife Trust
I reached Marline Valley Nature Reserve by public transport from Brighton. I caught the train to Hastings, and then the 20 bus from Hastings Station. Get off the bus at Hollington, Carpenter Road stop. Walk up Barn Road and at the roundabout turn onto Gresley Road. When Gresley Road meets Castleham Road, turn left onto Castelham Road; this becomes Napier Road. Follow Napier Road until it joins Queensway. Turn right onto Queensway, and a little past The Sussex Exchange Restaurant there is a road crossing with an island. Cross Queensway here and the entrance into Marline Valley is signed "Crowhurst" (a Footpath sign). This walk takes about 20 minutes. This is the only route from the bus stop that has pavements all the way. You'll be walking past dull-looking industrial estates; but keep heart, a beautiful landscape is close by! This routes is shown in red on the map below.
Map from Google Maps
Junction of Napier Road and Queensway with the Sussex Exchange (concrete build wth black sign)
The footpath sigh to the reserve entrance
The sign at the entrance to the reserve.
The photographs are in chronological order; they were taken either with my Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra or my Olympus TG6. All sections of this post in italics are quotations; sources given at the end of the quotes. Lichens, bryophytes and fungi are not easy to identify; I believe the identifications I have made are correct. But I may have made mistakes!
Marline Valley is a good place to see bryophytes, lichens and fungi, It shaped by its high weald geology of sandstones and clays, it’s ghylls produce a damp environment that has many bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) and it’s trees provide homes for many lichens.
Bryophytes and lichens are part of the cryptogram group of organisms, i.e. plants or plant-like organisms which reproduce through spores and do not have flowers and seeds. This group includes ferns, algae, fungi and slime molds too. Bryophytes are plants and most make their own food via photosynthesis. However, they lack proper roots, structural strength and an advanced vascular system. Lichens are a stable symbiotic association between a fungus and algae and/or cyanobacteria. The algae or cyanobacteria photosynthesise energy for their fungal partner. Many bryophytes and lichens are epiphytes i.e. organisms that grow on plants, mostly trees.
To see lichens and bryophytes well and enjoy their colours and structures, it is useful to carry a hand lens. Hand lens cost between £10-£30; details can be found at The NHBS Guide to Hand Lenses. I use a Belomo. Triplet lens.
Lichens and bryophytes are not easy to identify; but knowing their species name is not required for enjoying their structures and colours, and soon you will recognize common lichens and mosses you see. All the lichens and bryophytes in this post are common species.
The key field guides for lichen and bryophyte identification are:
Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland; a field guide (2010) Atherton, I., Bosanquet, S., Lawley, M. (eds.).British Bryology Society
Lichens; An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species (2018) Dobson, F. S. British Lichen Society
When I passed the entrance I used (see reserve map above) these were the first mosses and lichen I saw.
Swan's-neck Thyme-moss, Mnium horum; a very common moss.
Lichens come in various forms: foliose (leaf-like); fruticose (pendant and hair-like, upright and shrubby or cup-like); Crustose (crusts).
A species of the Pertusaria genus of lichens, possibly Pertusia pertusa or Pertusia hymnea; Pertusai are "warty" crustose lichens
The damp patch below is where I applied a chemical test (potassium hydroxide)
The very common KIng Alfred's Cakes, Daldinia concentrica aka Coal Fungus
These fungi aren’t edible but the black ones you see are ideal for starting fires. Using a fire steel you can drop a spark on to the inside surface and if you are successful you will see a small orange glow begin to form and spread throughout the fungus, similar to a charcoal briquette. They can smoulder for a long time and it is said that our ancestors used to use this fungi to transport their fire when travelling around. They could keep it on them along with some dry tinder, and know they would always be able to create a fire, even in the most undesirable weather conditions with no dry wood available. Scottish Wildlife Trust What are King Alfred's Cakes? | Scottish Wildlife Trust
Possibly Slender Mouse-tail Moss, Isothecium myosuroides
Hairy Curtain Crust, Stereum hirsuitum (aka False Turkey Tail)
Hairy Curtain Crust is extremely common in Sussex woods, especially in winter; normally appearing on dead wood.
These are the crust fungi, sometimes known as patch fungi. Instead of the discrete mushroom-like reproductive bodies of our more familiar fungal finds, with their caps, stems and gills, these types manifest themselves on tree trunks, both dead and alive, or on fallen branches, as expanding leathery patches, gelatinous swellings or peeling skin-like layers of varying hues.
They are more technically referred to as resupinate fungi, from the botanical term meaning ‘upside-down’ or ‘upward facing’, because it is from these patches, the exposed “hymenial surface” or “hymenophore” that face upward and outward from the fungi’s woody host, that they release their spores.
The various types in this category aren’t necessarily lumped together due to any biological kinship, but because of more obviously visible features, namely their shapes and growth patterns - in much the same way as the species encompassed by the terms ‘bracket fungi’ or ‘puffballs’ are.
It is not surprising that resupinates so successfully evade much in the way of interest or attention. Like our conventional mushrooms and toadstools, they spend most of the year out of sight and out of mind, existing as a network of mycelium spreading within their chosen substrate. When they do appear, they can be seen everywhere within the woodland landscape Jasper Sharp Monthly Mushroom: Hairy Curtain Crust (Stereum hirsutum) (woodlands.co.uk)
Saprobic [survive by decomposing dead or decaying organic material and using it as food]. on the dead wood of hardwoods, especially oaks; growing densely gregariously, often from gaps in the bark, fusing together laterally; causing a white rot of the heartwood; often serving as a host to algae; sometimes parasitized by jelly fungi; Stereum hirsutum (MushroomExpert.Com)
Turkey Tail (the "real" Turkey Tail) Trametes versicolor. In the UK this was previously called the Many-Zoned Polypore. The US common name Turkey Tail is now ubiquitously used in the UK even though we do not have wild Turkeys to compare them with!
The turkeytail is a small, tough, bracket fungus that grows in tiered layers on dead wood - mainly hardwood, such as beech or oak. It is very common and can be found throughout the UK on rotting stumps and branches. Fungi belong to their own kingdom and get their nutrients and energy from organic matter, rather than photosynthesis like plants. It is often just the fruiting bodies, or 'mushrooms', that are visible to us, arising from an unseen network of tiny filaments called 'hyphae'. These fruiting bodies produce spores for reproduction, although fungi can also reproduce asexually by fragmentation. Turkeytail | The Wildlife Trusts
Underside of Turkey Tails
Turkey Tail causes white rot in the heart of dead wood; very useful for recycling carbon to from wood humus for other things to grow in/on
More Hairy Curtain Crust and another of King Alfred's Cakes
Probably Rough-stalked Feather-moss, Brachythecium rutabulum
Possibly a Mycena sp. fungus
Probably the lichen Calopaca citrina on a trunk of a tree
Highly magnified Calapolca citira, showing it soredia
Yellow to greenish-yellow or orange thallus comprised of minute, sometimes lobed, granules covered by orange soredia. Irish lichens - Caloplaca citrina
Soredia: powdery to granular propagules containing algal and fungal partners. A guide to lichens on twigs - The Natural History Museum (nhm.ac.uk) used for a sexual reproduction
Thallus foliose, rosette-shaped, to 10-15 cm diam., tightly appressed, made of narrow and short lobes, 5-7 mm wide, pleated, thick , with a cardboard texture towards the center, upper surface yellow-greenish, pale grey-yellowish with farinose [powdery] soralia in patches (and not pustulous), and minute farinose and elongated soredia, possibly forming small heaps. Lichens marins (lichensmaritimes.org)
The wet patches below were the effects of applying chemical spot tests, see Chemical Tests | The British Lichen Society
A Willow (Salix sp) covered in Common orange lichen, Xanthoria parietina, a very common lichen on trees, rocks and other surfaces, especially near the coast
A bright yellow to orange foliose lichen (often grey in the shade). Thallus of large slightly wrinkled overlapping lobes. Underside white. Fruiting bodies numerous especially towards the centre- orange apothecia with paler margin, Xanthoria parietina | The British Lichen Society It's apothecia (fruiting bodies) which contain fungal spores for sexual reproduction, can look like satellite dishes
Oakmoss Lichen, Evernia prunastri . The fructose Oakmoss, Evernia prunastri, is very common, and is used in the French perfume industry; it’s extracts form the “base notes” of many fragrances
Probably Lecidella elaeochroma
Identification: Thallus is yellow-grey to green-grey, smooth to slightly granular often limited by a black line when it meets other lichens. Frequently found in mosaics, especially with Lecanora species. Usually fertile with black apothecia about 1 mm in diameter which become convex with excluded margins. Lecidella eleaochroma (britishlichensociety.org.uk)
Probably Lecidella elaeochroma and probably Graphis scripta
Probably Graphis scripta, generally the commonest of a group of very similar species, including species of Graphina and Phaeographis that require microscopic examination for certain identification. Script Lichen | NatureSpot
Identification: Thallus crustose, white to grey, smooth or wrinkled. Apothecia very variable, elongate, curved or branched with raised, unfurrowed, lip-like black margins. The centres of these lirellae are often open and are then covered in white crystals. Graphis scripta (britishlichensociety.org.uk)
lirellae: an elongated apothecium in lichens that has a furrow along the middle Lirella Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster
Possibly Arthonia radiata, or possibly Pertusaria hymenea; the brown spots being possibly exposed bark where invertebrates have grazed the fruiting bodies.
The tree, a Willow, Salix, species (the substrate) on which the above three lichens live.
Possibly Silky Wall Feather-moss, Homalothecium sericeum on this tree
The same Willow
Forked Veilwort, Metzgeria furcata
This thallose species forms yellowish green patches on trunks and larger branches. The thalli that are just over 1 mm wide, and possess a thick, strongly contrasting midrib and a forked tip. The margins are flat or slightly down curved with a line of scattered hairs. Inflorescences can be found on the underside of most patches, but sporophytes are only occasional. Narrow, almost linear gemmae are sometimes found on the thallus margins. Forked Veilwort | NatureSpot
thalli - the "leaves" of bryophytes "a plantlike vegetative body (as of algae, fungi, or mosses) that lacks differentiation into distinct parts (such as stem, leaves, and roots)" Thallus Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster
inflorescences - Like mosses, liverworts reproduce sexually through the production of male and female sexual organs often associated with specialized leaves (bracts) in what is termed an inflorescence on the green parts of the shoot or thallus (gametophyte). The male inflorescence is known as a perigonium; the female is the perichaetium. The antheridium (male organ) produces sperm cells which fertilize the archegonium (female organ), prompting development of the sporophyte (the capsule, seta and associated structures). FB108_Beginners-Corner-Liverwort-reproductive-structures.pdf (britishbryologicalsociety.org.uk)
gammae - Most liverworts can reproduce asexually by means of gemmae, which are disks of tissues produced by the gametophytic generation. The gemmae are held in special organs known as gemma cups and are dispersed by rainfall. Fragmentation of the thallus can also result in new plants. Liverwort | plant | Britannica
Forked Veilworts are mostly epiphytic i.e. they live on tress, although they can be found on rocks and walls
A sample taken photographed at home with a macro camera
Possibly more Pertusaria pertusa
A spot (2mm diameter) of potassium hydroxide turning yellow; one of the chemical tests for this lichen
Pertusaria pertusa, probably, with rule - graduated in half millimetre intervals
Cypress-leaved Plait-moss, Hypnum cupressiforme
Swan’s-neck Thyme-moss, Hypnum cupressiforme (light and larger) and Common Feather-moss, Kindbergia praelonga
Possibly Clustered Feather-moss, Rhynchostegium confertum; photographed sample at home
Terrible photo of Overleaf Pellia, Pellia epiphylla. P. epiphylla is most frequent by streams, rivers and ditches, where it may form a dense band just above the normal water level on shaded banks. It is also frequent on ground in other moist habitats such as wet woodland, marshes and flushes, and on wet rock outcrops. It grows on neutral or acidic substrates, but is absent from more base-rich sites. Pellia-epiphylla.pdf (britishbryologicalsociety.org.uk)
Common Smoothcap/Catherine’s Moss Atrichum undulatum
It's capsules are characteristic Capsules are frequent in the common var. undulatum. The inclined, cylindrical capsule is 3–4 mm long with a lid and beak of similar length to the capsule. It is borne on a 2–4 cm long reddish seta Atrichum-undulatum.pdf (britishbryologicalsociety.org.uk)
Probably Yellowing Curtain Crust, Stereum subtomentosum.
Stereum, the generic name, means tough, and crust fungi in this genus certainly can be difficult to tear when you want to take a small sample for investigation. If you scratch the surface of this fungus it will turn yellow - hence the common name Yellowing Curtain Crust. The specific epithet subtomentosum comes from sub- meaning less than (in the sense of only slightly) and -tomentosum, meaning hairy or downy. Yellowing Curtain Crust is indeed much less hairy than Stereum hirsutum, which is known as Hairy Curtain Crust. Stereum subtomentosum Yellowing Curtain Crust identification (first-nature.com)
The green is probably an alga growing on the fungus
Probably Stereum hirsutum, Hairy Curtain Crust
Probably Common Pocket-moss, Fissidens taxifolius by the main ghyll.
Rhynchostegium riparioides, Long-beaked Water Feather-moss
Like other pleurocarps of running water, this very common moss is very variable in form and size and often doesn’t look like it is supposed to, especially when it is in habitats where the flow is intermittent and/or variable.
It’s not fussy about the pH of the water it lives in, but avoids highly acid situations. With such catholic tastes, it is a really common aquatic moss in all kinds of watercourses and standing water. When abundant, it is a reliable indicator of eutrophication. Rhynchostegium riparioides - British Bryological Society
Pleurocarpous mosses are freely branching chaotically.
Pleurocarps spread out branches from the colony in a creeping manner.
The sporophytes of Pleurocarpous mosses emerge mid stem.
Most Pleurocarps grow faster than Acrocarps.
Pleurocarpous mosses quickly regenerate from broken fragments.
Pleurocarpous mosses’ quick attachment to stone and growth rate makes them better for colonizing hard substrates. Acrocarpous Moss vs. Pleurocarpous Moss | Differences Explained (mossandstonegardens.com)
eutrophication - The gradual increase in the concentration of phosphorus, nitrogen, and other plant nutrients in an aging aquatic ecosystem such as a lake. The productivity or fertility of such an ecosystem naturally increases as the amount of organic material that can be broken down into nutrients increases. This material enters the ecosystem primarily by runoff from land that carries debris and products of the reproduction and death of terrestrial organisms. Water blooms, or great concentrations of algae and microscopic organisms, often develop on the surface, preventing the light penetration and oxygen absorption necessary for underwater life. Eutrophic waters are often murky and may support fewer large animals, such as fish and birds, than non-eutrophic waters. Eutrophication | Definition, Types, Causes, & Effects | Britannica
Sample photographed at home
A dead oak with may wood-rotting fungi on it, and many mosses; with liverworts around it. I will make a return visit to identify the species on and around it!
Probably Comprinellus micaceus of a tree; on the return walk back to Queensway