How do lichens and sheep get on together? Lichens are a great indicator of the quality of the air around us. Lichens like to grow where the air is pollution free, hence the profusion of lichens around the Jersey coast. They are formed from a fungus living in mutual association with an algae and are able to live on different surfaces like soil, wood or rock.
The short turf at Sorel has been opened up by the sheep and the habitat allows a range of lichens to grow between the grasses. Common lichens to be seen on the soil up here include Cladonia furcata and Cladonia fimbriata. Cladonias sometimes have friuting bodies that are cupshaped and easily identifiable in the field.
Open heaths provide an excellent habitat for some of the more unusual Cladonias, the heathers are being encouraged to return to Sorel to create more heathland. The National Trust has fenced off some heathers to encourage them to self seed.
Lichens growing on rock can be seen near the cliffs at Sorel, including the very common sea ivory Ramalina siliquosa. There are several varieties of Ramalina on the rocks, careful study reveals some strands are flatter and some bear fruiting bodies. Also on the rocks are flat patches of crustose lichens that are firmly embedded on the rock and are very slow growing.
There are not many trees at Sorel; however, the blackthorn and hawthorn bushes provide branches and twigs that are covered in lichens. Especially the very common Xanthoria parietina that gives rise to the expression ‘yellow trees’. Close examination of Xanthoria parietina shows lots of round fruiting bodies often called ‘jam tarts’ by lichenologists. This lichen grows well in nitrogen rich air, hence the increase in Jersey due to the rise in nitrogen in the air from farming activities. So, yes, lichens, like choughs, do appreciate those sheep making it a better place for them at Sorel.