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Golden-Eye Lichen Found

30/01/2008

Few lichens have common names. The recent rediscovery of a rare lichen in West Cork with a common name is a double whammy for lichen publicity. The Golden-Eye lichen was

found by lichenologist Vince Giavarini during the current Lichen Ireland Survey. Its binomial name is Teloschistes chrysophthalmus. The body of the lichen is shrubby in appearance and grows on trees and twigs. At just 1 cm high (at the best of times) it can spread along a branch for 3 or 4 cm. The 'eye' term in the common name derives from the 'eye lashes' that surround the gold coloured reproductive organs.
It tends to be a Mediterranean species; the south coast of England and Ireland marking its northern-most geographical area. It likes to grown on plants of the Rose family that are exposed to direct sunlight, but shaded from the wind. In areas where it is common it is found in hedgerows and orchards and is associated with nutrient rich air, such as that near farms. The West Cork specimen was found on Hawthorn.

There is no need to jump to a climate-change explanation for its appearance in West Cork. It was there before and the area it was found in fulfils all the ecological traits listed above. Local farming and lack of disturbance to the trees may have contributed to its success here. This is another case for preservation of Ireland's habitats. Save a habitat and we save countless species, known and unknown.

Text © Paul Whelan. Photograph © Paul Whelan, 2008.