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  • Writer's pictureSim Elliott

Scotland 6: Glen Nant. NNR; temperate rain forest. 13.05.23

Updated: May 30, 2023

I got to Glen Nant from Oban by public transport. On the way out, I took the train from Oban to Talynuit. There are only a few services a day so planning is required! It is a 23 minute journey from Oban to Taylnuit. See sr498_west_highlands_may_2023.pdf (scotrail.co.uk) From Talyniut, I walked to the reserve; it is about 3 miles to the entrance to the reserve down a minor road. But for most of the walk the road passes through temperate rain forest of the the glen; trees beside the road are covered in lichens, bryophytes and polypody ferns. There is a bus from Oban which stops (on request) at the entrance to Glen Nant, but it only runs twice a day: 415 - Oban to Dalavich | West Coast Motors. I had got to Oban by public transport from Brighton (four trains in one day).


OS map showing the route from Taynuult to the entrance to Glen Nant National Nature Reserve (called Caledonian Forest Reserve on map)

All sections of text in italics are quotations; sources cited.


Identification and Naming


I did not spend time with each lichen and bryophytes identifying them to species level systematically, through using keys and chemical testing (for lichens), as I was trying to get an impression of the temperate rain forest habitat, and see as many things as I could in a limited amount of time; therefore all the identifications in this posts are best guesses from my photographs, using observable visual features and field guides (Dobson, F. 2018, Lichens An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species and Atherton, I.; Bosanquet, S.; Lawley, M. 2010 Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland: A Field Guide) and online resources inc. Welcome to the British Lichen Society | The British Lichen Society; and Home - British Bryological Society)


In this blog post, and in future blog posts, I am going to use English common names for lichens, as well as their scientific names. Much controversy surrounds the subject of English language names for lichens. Many members of the British Lichen Society view them as positively undesirable whilst others concede that in the engagement of the general public they can have some value. English Language Names for Lichens | The British Lichen Society I strongly believe that if we wish to promote the conservation of the habitats that lichens require, we need to increase public engagement in lichens; many people simply walk past them, in part because they are small, but in part because they have no names for them. In most other areas of nature, English vernacular names are not avoided, as it understood that public engagement needs the ability to name things. I am using the list of English names given on English Language Names for Lichens | The British Lichen Society. Where there are more than one common name, I will use the one I think most helpful for remembering the lichen. Some lichens have no common names.


Glen Nant National Nature Reserve - Forestry and Land Scotland


Amongst the tranquil oakwoods, birchwoods and hazelwoods of Glen Nant National Nature Reserve you can find evidence of ancient settlements and industry, discover an array of lichens and mosses and spot impressive wood ant colonies and dancing butterflies. ..


Look closely at the lichens and mosses; many of them are beautiful, especially under a magnifying glass. And many of these species are really rare – Glen Nant is amongst a collection of Scottish sites that are the European headquarters for these species. As you walk higher up, you will see cleared areas where we have felled non-native trees and are in the process of restoring the rainforest. This will almost double the size of native woodland here and eventually colonise with the rare species from the adjacent ancient woodland. Glen Nant - Forestry and Land Scotland


The SSSI citation for Glen Nant:


DESCRIPTION Glen Nant Site of Special Scientific Interest extends from just south of Taynuilt along the River Nant to its source, Loch Nant. The majority of the site lies to the west of River Nant. There is, however, also a narrow strip to the east of this natural divide which runs the entire length of the site. The site encompasses a substantial area of native broad-leaved woodland. Upland oak woodland forms a considerable proportion of this woodland habitat mosaic.


The woodland provides ideal conditions to support rich communities of lower plants (lichen and bryophyte assemblages). The woodland’s bryophyte assemblage provides a suitable habitat for a nationally-rare species of cranefly (Tipula luridorostris). The site represents one of the largest extents of upland oak woodland in the Lorn area. However, the underlying geology results in a variation of soils which in turn support a patchwork of woodland ranging from ash-hazel woodland on calcareous volcanic rocks to oak and birch woodland on the more acid soils. Other woody species include wych elm, gean and holly, with alder and sallows on less steep areas.


This diversity of the woodland is reflected in the diverse ground vegetation ith fern-dominated communities and heath on the higher slopes of acid oak-birch woodland and an abundance of herbs on the calcareous soils. The diverse mix of woodland types provides a suitable environment to support outstanding and varied assemblages of internationally important Atlantic bryophytes and lichens.


The site has recently been estimated to support at least 240 species of bryophyte (155 mosses, 85 liverworts), more than 25% of the Scottish bryophyte flora. Of this total 11 are nationally-scarce species and 35 are oceanic species. It is this exceptional assemblage of oceanic species that is the main bryophyte interest on the site, particularly the excellent epiphytic flora found on hazel. The base-rich nature of some areas gives an added interest both in the extent of communities that are basedemanding and also in providing the basis for the large populations of both Plagiochila bifaria and Plagiochila exigua.


Glen Nant is amongst the most important lichen sites in the Lorn area. The site supports many nationally and internationally-significant lichen species, the majority of which are from three notable communities; Lobarion pulmonariae, Graphidion scriptae and Parmelietum laevigatae. Between 1976 and 2006 the sites rich oceanic lichen flora has been recorded to include no less than two vulnerable species, ten near-threatened species, nine nationally-rare species and 53 nationally-scarce species. https://apps.snh.gov.uk/sitelink-api/v1/sites/717/documents/1


From Taynuit to the entrance of the resreve


Taynuit Station


Where the bus leaves from for Glen Nant


Walking down the road through Glen Nant


Abundant Usnea lichens from a Sessile Oak, possibly Usena dasopoga, Fish Bone Beard Lichen


Polypody ferns growing from the Sessile Oaks, probably Polypodium vulgare


Mosses, lichens and Polypody fern covering most of the trees seen from the road


The road to the reserve


An old stone wall by the side of the road


Probably Peltigera membranancea, Membranous dog-lichen, with mosses


Lobaria pulmonaria, Tree Lungwort


Possibly Peltigera praetextata, Scaly Dog Lichen, and Racomitrium lanuginosum, Woolly Fringe Moss


Herb Robert, Geranium robertianum, with mosses


Probably Racomitirum acciculare, Yellow Fringe-Moss


Probably Rhytidiadelphus loreus, Little Shaggy Moss


Possibly Breutelia chrysocoma, Golden-head Moss


Possibly Peltigera praetextata, Scaley Dog Lichen, with mosses


Probably Thamnobryum alopcurum, Fox-tail Feather-Moss


Possibly Phlebia radiata, on granite boulder


Industrial archaeology from the charcoal burning and the iron industry. The Bonawe Iron Furnace at Taynuit (which used wood coppiced in Glen Nant for charcoal) can be visited; Bonawe was opened in 1753, by a Cumbrian ironmaster. He was drawn to Bonawe chiefly because of Argyll’s extensive woodland, which guaranteed an almost endless supply of charcoal. Plenty of water for powering the huge bellows was an added bonus. Iron ore was imported from Cumbria, limestone from North Ireland and charcoal from across Argyll. The ironworks proved successful. In its heyday, the furnace produced up to 700 tons of pig iron a year and employed more than 600 people. Bonawe Iron Furnace: History | Historic Environment Scotland


Common dog-violet, Viola riviniana


Small white, Pieris rapae


Glen Nant National Nature Reserve

Lobaria pulmonaria, Tree Lungwort and Frullania tamarisci, Tamarisk Scalewort high up in a Hazel. Two very abundant species (a lichen and a liverwort) in the reserve.


Possibly Tamarisk Scalewort, Frullania tamarisci


Ricasolia virens, Green Satin Lichen


Lobaria pulmonaria, Tree Lungwort


Most lichens do not have old common names, but the fact that Lobaria pulmonaria (tree lungwort) had a name and a use shows how common it must have once been.


he name 'lungwort' dates from long ago when it was thought to have medicinal properties for respiratory ailments.

Tree lungwort resembles the tissue inside lungs and was therefore thought to be a remedy for lung diseases.

In traditional medicine it is, or has been, used to treat a variety of conditions throughout its range. In India it is used in traditional medicine to treat haemorrhages and eczema. In British Columbia, Canada, the Hesquiaht use it as a remedy for coughing up blood. In the high Molise region in Italy it is used as an antiseptic for wounds.

Lungworts have also been used to produce an orange dye for wool and leather, and to make perfumes and beer Lungwort lichens – Lobaria species - Woodland Trust


Moss, possibly Isothecium myosuroides, Mouse-tailed moss


More Ricasolia virens


Tamarisk Scalewort, Frullania tamarisci and Tree Lungwort Lobaria pulmonaria


Common Haircap Moss, Polytrichum commune, with capsules


Tamarisk Scalewort, Frullania tamarisci


A burn


Bugle, Ajuga reptans


Possibly Cladonia squamosa, Dragon Funnel Lichen, with moss


Dog Violet, Viola riviniana


The sign posts for the Ant Trail


Wood Anemone, Anemonoides nemorosa


Ribwort Plantain, Plantago lanceolata



Sessile Oak, Quercus petraea


with Wood Sorrel, Oxalis acetosella, growing as an epiphyte


View of Ben Cruachan


Bright green: probably Rough-stalked feather-moss, Brachythecium rutabulum


Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria


Possibly Icmadophila ericetorum, Candy lichen


Possibly Hoof Fungus, Fomes fomentarius


Infertile Bunodophoron melanocarpum, Black-Eyed Susan (when fertile with black apothecia) typically a lichen of the North West of Scotland and temperate rain forests; but I have seen this lichen before at Eridge Rocks, Sussex Wildlife Trust, along with an assemblage of oceanic lichens and bryophytes seen in western oceanic habitats. I wonder: are the ghyll woods of the High Weald of Sussex and Kent an outlier oceanic microclimate, or a remnant of a former ancient South East temperate rain forest?


More Broom Fork Moss, Dicranum scoparium


Probably Usnea dasopoga, Fishbone Bear Lichen


A Bracket fungus


Coppicing and treescapes


Probably Molina caerulea, Purple Moor-grass


Black-eyed Susan, Bunodophoron melanocarpum


This is fertile Bunodophoron melanocarpum; it looks very different to its infertile state, see photo above. It's vernacular name relates to its fertile state


This is one of the many specialist lichens that thrive here in the west of Scotland but are rare elsewhere in Britain. Even here in its heartland it is not at all common. A good place to see it is Glen Nant National Nature Reserve where it is quite plentiful. It has many other sites in our area, typically in humid ancient woodland, where it will grow on tree trunks or on mossy rocks. Black-eyed Susan - Bunodophoron melanocarpum (lnhg.org.uk)


Possibly Icmadophila ericetorum; Candy Lichen a Lichen mainly found in north-west Scotland


Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria


Sphagnum subnites, Lustrous Bog-Moss


Hare's-tail Cottongrass, Eriophorum vaginatum


Carex nigra, Common Sedge and probably Phyllobius argentatus, Silver-green Leaf Weevil


Possibly Five-ranked Bogmoss, Sphagnum quinquefarium


Another burn


Slender Mouse-tail Moss, Isothecium myosuroides


Mossy oaks


Wood Anemone, Anemonoides nemorosa


Probably Common Striated Feather-Moss, Eurhynchium striatum


Ricscolia virens, Green Satin Lichen


Possibly Usnea dasopoga, Fishbone Beard Lichen


Interesting grass and moss growth over a tree stump


Possibly Icmadophila ericetorum, Candy lichen


Probably Common Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum


Frullania tamarisci, Tamarisk Scalewort, with possibly Sticta canariensis lichen (no common name)


Looking west toward Beinn Ghlas


Mossy trees


Bugle, Ajuga reptans


Brown Silver Line Moth, Petrophora chlorosata


Peacock Butterfly, Inachis io


Green-veined White, Pieris napi


Common Carpet Moth, Epirrhoe alternata


Probably Sphagnum capillifolium, Northern Peatmoss


Greater Stichwort, Rabelera holostea


Wood Anemone, Anemonoides memorosa


Lobaria pulmonaria, Tree Lungwort


Little Shaggy Moss, Rhytidiadelphus loreus


Probably Peltigera praetextate, Scaly Pelt Lichen


Ochre Bracket, Trametes ochracea


On the road back to Talynuit


Small White, Pieris rapae on Greater Stichwort, Stellaria holostea


Wavy Bittercress, Cardamine flexuosa, growing on moss on granite


Peacock Butterfly, Aglais io


Back in Oban


Fingal's Dogstone


A relict sea stack marooned on a raised beach between Oban and Dunollie on the west coast of Argyll and Bute, Fingal's Dogstone (or simply the Dog Stone or Clach na Con in Gaelic) is located a half-mile (1 km) northwest of Oban town centre. Geologically, the rock forming the pillar is an unusual Devonian conglomerate (the Dunollie boulder beds), comprising massive boulders in a fine matrix, which was deposited in a desert flash flood around 415 million years ago. Celtic folklore suggests that the Irish giant, Finn or Fingal McCool (Fionn Mac Cumhaill) would tie his dog Bran here and the groove around the base is where the rope has rubbed away the stone. Fingal's Dogstone: Overview of Fingal's Dogstone (scottish-places.info)



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