Old mans beard lichen

Atlantic Coast: Learning to Love Lichens

Part of our professional development involves keeping our skills and knowledge up to date. This usually involves going canoeing, biking or walking. But sometimes the opportunity to expand our understanding of the environments we work in comes up. So we grab them. Especially when it is the amazing Atlantic Coast woodland that is almost on our doorstep.

This time it was an opportunity to learn about lichens and mosses on the Atlantic Coast with a very enthusiastic trainer, Polly, from ‘Plantlife‘.

As well as lichens and mosses, they are also concerned with seaweeds, liverworts, fungi and wild flowers in Scotland. Especially the west coast of Scotland where the Atlantic Rainforests are. And one of the best examples happens to be in Strontian! A 2 mile bike ride from our base.

The distribution of Golden Eagles is limited and numbers are small. Distribution maps for some lichens shows just how rare they are. Some are found only in Atlantic Woodland. This shows us just how diverse and unique the Atlantic Coast is and why the small pockets left need to be looked after.

Ariundel Oak Woods

The Ariundle Oak Woods nature reserves Strontian has easy access paths through a fair bit of it. It also has a slightly rougher and wetter circular walk alongside the Strontian River. You can see some of the following lichens and mosses adjacent to the paths. To really see the best parts, you’ll need to follow the extension to the circular route up a fairly steep path into the woodland. Here you will find the boulders, ravines and rivulets that help create the conditions that make up the Atlantic Coast Woodlands.

I suggest you leave the paths if you can, or at least get up close and personal with the tress, boulders and ground. For there you will discover the smaller plants that define this habitat.

And what a variety there is…


These are just some of the lichens we got to know on our training day. Each has a story to tell: history, mythology, intrigue. Each has a different colour, texture (feel them, but please don’t pick them) and even smell (especially the ‘stinkisticktors’).

Tree lung wort
A wonderful example of tree lung wort on a woodland tree
Some lichens smell really bad
Smelly lichens abound
Shrubby lichen on branch
Old man’s beard grows in abundance on the woodlands of the Atlantic Coast

These are just three of species we got to know during the day through a variety of activities and games. But most importantly with our senses. When you visit and go for a walk in the Ariundle Oak Woods, use your sense and get to know them as well.


Slender mouse tail moss
Slender mouse tail is indicative of Atlantic Coast woodland

There are so many beautiful and amazing (if a little small) plants that we could post pictures of to entice you. And stories we could tell you (if we can remember all of them). However, we will leave that for you to discover if you join us on one of our journeys or adventures by canoe, bike or on foot. Wherever you go, you will be surrounded by this unique Atlantic Coast woodland.

Which means we should get the opportunity to introduce some of them to you very soon.