Studying lichens

Learn how to start studying lichens here. Many of our common lichens can be identified reliably in the field with a little experience and a good book.

  • Picture-matching is a good start, but you need to read the description and check that the observed features match, often by doing simple chemical tests.
  • Identifying a specimen to genus is a great start!
  • For many species, microscopes are needed to identify spores and other features.

Read about lichens for background information. Joining up with a local group is a great way to get started.

Learn what lichen features are important to look for - and check the habitat and distribution maps.
Learn how to start identifying lichens in the field, what equipment you'll need and some safety tips.
Learn how to collect specimens - if need be. Do not take all the material from one location!
Learn how to do chemical tests safely using bleach (C), potassium hydroxide (K) and other chemicals.
Learn how to use dissecting and compound microscopes to look at sections of lichen thalli, fruit, etc.
Find out the skills and knowledge typically associated with beginner, intermediate and advanced lichenologists.
Find a list of useful books, guides for lichen identification, conservation and ecology.
Photos are a great way to record what you are seeing - find out how best to do it.

Don't be daunted if it gets tricky. Take heart in these coping strategies.

Find links to lichen content relevant to the UK and around the world.