Early Lichen

At this time of year the light and the season can play tricks.  Driving down woodland bordered motorways oner the weekend I thought we could see the first blush of buds bursting in the trees and a green flush spreading across the trees.  Indeed some trees like the hawthorn and willow with their catkins are starting to green up.  However, look a little harder and something else is happening.  The green isn’t on the tips of the branches and twigs.  It’s on the branches and trunks.  Plus the green is often not the bright green of spring foliage flush with new chlorophyll but it has a touch of mustard yellow in it.  Overall, it’s the beginnings of a welcome touch of colour in the woods that have been little more than a sombre, ideal for hiding elephants if we had them, grey in the winter.  In the morning sunlight, the trees are beginning to glow a little. Like this:

It’s not foliage and a closer inspection begins to reveal that this is lichen. At the moment, the effect has only just begun and it’s been creeping across the branches almost unnoticed until its prevalent enough to stand out on the still bare branches.

Finally a close up shoes the new growth of lichen with its photosynthesising algae layering itself over the dry pale grey remains of last year’s growth.  I’m not sure if this is like the growth of a reef, building up in layers over the years or whether its just the same lichen pumping itself back into life for the spring and trying to get a head start over the leaves that will soon be pushing it back into the shadows where we will overlook it for the rest of the year.  

The set of three images were taken at the edge of our local woodland which is a sunny and sheltered corner bordering the grass meadows.  Each year it’s this corner that catches the sun first and one of the earliest areas to come into life.  (It’s also a fine place to walk on a blustery day because it always affords a bit of shelter from the cold winds.)