This tuft of Evernia prunastri, a common grey-green foliose (leaf-like) lichen was growing on a twig at the edge of the copse alongside the Balk at Netherton. Its branching pattern, always dividing into two, reminds me of fronds of seaweed. Evernia means ‘branched’.
The fronds (the branches of thallus, or body of the lichen) are strap-shaped (not cylindrical, as in a similar-looking lichen, Ramalina), usually paler underneath. You’re probably thinking that if this is a lichen where are the spore-producing bodies? They’re rarely seen and reproduction is often via those granules – the soredia – dotted all over the surface, which can eventually break off to form new lichens.
From Twig to Wig
In Lichens, an Illustrated Guide, Frank S Dobson lists the numerous uses that this lichen has been put to: as wadding for shotguns and as powder for wigs; as a flavouring in bread in the Middle East; as a fixative for perfume; and as an antibiotic, although Dobson adds that it has been known to trigger an allergy in woodcutters. Long-tailed tits use it to camouflage their nests.
It is distributed throughout Britain and is very common on twigs, rocks, fences and even on consolidated sand dunes and it can cope with a moderate amount of pollution.