The Petersfield Area Lichen Enthusiasts (PALE) discovered a rarity on Petersfield Heath one cold morning earlier this year. 

The unusual lichen – Teloschistes chrysopthalamus – was thought to be almost extinct in the British Isles.

This is a Mediterranean lichen whose last known substantial sighting was back in the 1960s on old, outgrown orchard trees in Herefordshire. 

Since then the occasional record has been made of Teloschistes along the south coast, in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, but this would be one of the first inland records – and, certainly, the most northerly. 

It was found growing on a dying branch of oak.

Teloschistes, or ‘split ends’, refers to the hairy spinules that protrude from the edges of the thallus, or base, of the lichen. 

This attractive species known as ‘Golden eyes’ was pale orange on first encounter, but on later viewings, in damp fog, the lichen appeared pale green to apricot in colour.

Lichens are not in fact one simple organism, but rather an association between a fungus and algae. 

PALE, which was co-founded by Peter Bisset and Duncan Wright, aims to spread the interest in this often-overlooked field of nature by bringing interested people together to explore and learn about these fascinating organisms.

Duncan, who is also the treasurer for the British Lichen Society – a charity with members throughout the world – said: “PALE always welcomes absolute beginners to its field trips, which normally last about two hours. 

“Indeed, this lichen was found by the first member, Keith, to join Peter and me.”

For more information and notification of lichen forays, email PALE at [email protected]

Melanie Oxley