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Australian Lichens - Information about Australia's flora
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What's in this site and what isn't

Lichens are very common and widespread and many people have seen them, though not necessarily always recognized them as such. A range of species feature in the composite image on the opening page of this website, so giving you a good idea of the variety of forms to be found amongst the lichens.

This website will introduce you to the basics of lichens and the aim is to cover a broad range of topics with more than just a superficial account of each. However, the website is not an overly technical one so that a lichen expert will find nothing new here.

You don't need any prior knowledge of lichens and the best starting point for someone who knows nothing about lichens is the WHAT IS A LICHEN? page. It gives a short summary of the fundamental facts. Moreover, the links in that page will take you to various other sections for more information about topics that might interest you.

This website will not help you identify lichens to species, nor even to genera. There are various printed and electronic sources that will help you in that. In the FURTHER READING SECTION you'll find an annotated bibliography that would help you in your search for sources that are useful for identifying Australian lichens.

The photographs

Virtually all the photographs used in this website show lichens that are found in Australia and include both endemic species as well as those also known from other parts of the world. There are some photos of lichens that are not known to occur in Australia - but that will be made clear.

The links and icons within the text

Most photos on these web pages are linked to larger versions - just click on a photo to bring up the larger image in a new window. Close that window before proceeding.

There are many photos and drawings in the text and you can bring up additional photos whenever you see this camera icon: Just click on the icon to see the photo in a new window.

From time to time you’ll see grey Reference buttons which look like this: . If you click on such a button you’ll find references to more detailed information (generally in books or journals) about the topic being discussed at that point. The references vary in level (some simple, others quite technical) but you don’t need them to get a good grasp of the basics. The website will do that, so you can safely ignore the references knowing that you are not missing out on anything fundamental. The references are there simply for those who’d like to follow up a topic in more depth. Close the little reference window before proceeding.

Links in underlined UPPER-CASE lettering take you to different areas of the lichen web site. While most other links open up new windows within your current page, these links take you to new pages.

There are also links to CASE STUDIES at various parts of the website. A case study is often a more detailed account of a particular aspect of some topic. The discussion may be too long (or perhaps a little too technical) to sit well in the main body of the website and such discussions have therefore been put into the separate CASE STUDIES SECTION. As with the references in the REFERENCE buttons, if you ignore the case studies you will still get a very good grasp of the basics.

The illustration at the top of a page

At the top right of this page you'll have seen a painting of a lichen and similar illustrations, though not always paintings, will be found at the tops of most of the pages on this website. Most of those illustrations have been taken from the following work:

English Botany; or, Coloured Figures of British Plants, with their essential characters, synonyms, and places of growth: to which will be added, occasional remarks.
Text by James Edward Smith and illustrations by James Sowerby.
Published in London (by Sowerby) between late 1790 and early 1814 in numerous instalments that were grouped into 36 volumes.

In total there were 2592 engraved plates, including several hundred lichen plates. These were printed as outlines and then hand-coloured by a team under Sowerby's direction. The page headings on this website will produce only details from a small number of Sowerby's plates. For interest here are links to several full plates, with the species names as used by Smith:

Plate 2300 Lichen rufescens

Plate 2372 Lichen ceuthocarpus

Plate 2454 Opegrapha venosa

Plate 2501 Calicium chrysocephalum


A few of the page-top illustrations have been taken from other sources. In some cases a source is used for only one section of the website and the bibliographic details are then given in the relevant section. However, each of the following have provided illustrations for more than one section and so the bibliographic details are given here:

Cryptogamie illustrée ou histoire des familles naturelles des plantes acotyledones d'Europe coordonnée suivant les dernières classifications et complétée par les recherches scientifiques les plus récentes. Famille des Lichens contenant 927 figures, représentant, pour chaque genre, la plante de grandeur naturelle et l'anatomie de ses différents organes de végétation et de reproduction, dessinés au microscope.
Casimir Roumeguère.
Published in 1868 in Paris (by J.-B. Baillière) and Toulouse (by F. Gimet).

The illustrations, published in black and white, show both macroscopic and microscopic features but are rather sketchy and are crowded many to a page. However, in my copy a previous owner has coloured in a few and some are useful for this website. For interest sake here is a full page from which I've taken some of the coloured figures. You can find Roumeguère's book in the digital library of the digital library of the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid.

British Fungi, with a chapter on Lichens
George Massee (with coloured plates by his daughter, Ivy Massee).
George Routledge and Sons, London. The book bears no publication date but other sources give it as 1911.

The book is devoted almost wholly to non-lichenized fungi, with just two of the forty coloured plates showing lichens. You can find Massee's book in the digital library of the digital library of the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid.

Lecanora siplei - illustration by G.E. Baker.

Botany of the Second Byrd Antarctic Expedition. II. Lichens and Lichen Parasites.
Carroll W. Dodge & Gladys E. Baker.

This is a long paper rather than a book and constitutes pages 515-718 of volume 25 of the Annals of the Missouri Botanic Garden, published in 1938.

The illustrations in the paper are by Baker and give both macroscopic and microscopic views. Though monochrome, the figures showing whole lichens are striking, admirably capture the structural features of the species depicted and so have been used in a few page headings of this website to give a contrast to the more frequent coloured page-top illustrations. You can find the Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden on the Missouri Botanical Garden digital library website.

If you position your cursor over any such page-top illustration a small box will pop up, giving the illustration's source and the species name used to caption the illustration in the original publication. In many cases the modern scientific names will be different to those given in the pop-up boxes.

Why use the old species names in those pop-up boxes?

Each such illustration simply aims to give a page a decorative start and to let you see some more of the variety in lichen form. For such purposes the names of the species featured in the illustrations are not of great importance and are some of the reasons for deciding not to spend time modernising the captions in the pop-up boxes. Another reason is that the older names will make it easier for you to follow up the species in the source publications. Should you be interested in the current names for the species concerned, the names as given do at least give you a starting point should you wish to carry out your own detective work. It's not always an easy matter to decide which modern species name should be applied to an old illustration and it's important to note that finding the modern name for a particular older species name is no guarantee that you've also found the name that should be applied to an older illustration of a particular specimen. If you're really keen you can read the ANTARCTIC UMBILICARIA CASE STUDY for examples of the issues and complexities that can arise when trying to find the current species name for an older illustration.

Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens

This web site was sponsored by the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, a non-profit support group for the Australian National Botanic Gardens. One of the objectives of the Friends is providing information and education to the community about growing, studying and promoting Australian plants. The Friends provided generous funding for the author, Heino Lepp, an Honorary Associate of the Gardens to write and develop this web site.