• wildwoodlandlearning

It could be easy to think there isn’t much colour in nature during wintertime. But surprisingly if you get a chance to really look there is actually millions of little blazes of shapes, textures and colours that are there growing extremely slowly all year round. They can be found on walls, rocks, bark, twigs and even on soil and that is the fascinating word of lichens.

What is a Lichen?

Lichens are a partnership made up of more than one organism. A symbiotic association between a fungus and an algae/and or a Cyanobacteria (known as photobionts). The fungus needs a food source whilst the photobionts require protection to survive. As the Photobionts are photosynthetic they provide a food source for the fungus made from the sun, water and air and in return the fungus provides them with a home and shelter! It’s a winning partnership!

The life of a Lichen

This group of fungi is extremely old. It is estimated to have evolved during the Carboniferous period (over 300 million years ago). With the very first lichens likely dating back to before the origin of land plants, when most of the biodiversity of our planet earth was in the sea!

Lichens take a long time to grow, only about 1-2mm per year! They prefer an established undisturbed place like ancient woodlands to live as then they have the time and space to grow there but can also be seen in many varied places around towns and cities too. They are very sensitive to air pollution so are a good indicator of that areas air quality and the overall health of the environment. Crusty species of Lichen are more hardy to pollution, with beardy species more delicate and only found in areas of cleaner air quality. It’s great to see so much Lichen here in the south side of Glasgow – our inclement climate must suit!

What to look out for?

Check out our wee video showing some of my local Lichens!

Lichens come in different shapes, textures and colours to look out for and can range in colour from white to yellow, green, grey or brown. Some species associate with different surfaces to grow on for example needing certain barks like the Ash Tree as it gets is more acidic (alkaline) with age. Others grow on rocks, or even directly on soil – in the video I was looking at a birch tree. Additionally using a magnifying glass if you have one will let you see so much more detail - a world in miniature!

Lichen Shapes to look for: bushy beards!, leafy pads, strap branches, crusty leaves & spots.

Lichens are non-parasitic and don’t harm any plants they live on. They are extremely valuable to wildlife as a source of nesting materials for birds and food and shelter to lots of invertebrates which in turn become food for other creatures feed on. A woodland rich in lichen supports more wildlife than any other. Threats to Lichen come from pollution and destruction of their habitat.

Epic Lichens

Lichens have adapted to live in some of the most inhospitable environments all over the world from arctic, to desert to coast. Fungi’s morphing into lichens (Lichenisation) and hosting the photobionts is an ecological strategy for survival for them both. It’s like an epic movie story line!

Xanthoria Parientina - Common Sunburst Lichen on Birch 2021.

So grab yourself a magnifying glass this week and look out for the incredible world of Lichens. I found all these ones really close to home. Lichens are such a great source of interest on our Forest School Sites, it’s always a pleasure to see them.

Take care and hope to see you all soon at W.I.L.D.



With reference;



'Scottish Lichens' group on Facebook.

With Many Thanks

Hello and welcome again to our blog.

Last March during lockdown we decided to post weekly tree identification videos of trees you can find in Linn Park. We loved researching trees and sharing our findings with you so we thought we'd do it again but with fungus this time. We tend to associate mushrooms or the fruit of the fungus with Autumn but they can be found all year round if you look carefully.

What we see is the 'fruit' of the fungus. The main body of the fungus is made up of fine threads (hyphae) that group together to make a mycelium. Most of the time the mycelium is hidden from view because it is growing through the soil or under fallen logs or decaying plant and animal remains. The fungus breaks down the dead remains and releases simple food products that it can absorb through the hyphae that make up its mycelium. This is how the fungus gets food for growth.

The fruit bodies are the fruits of the fungus - just like pears are the fruit on a pear tree.

Fruit bodies come in lots of different shapes, colours and sizes. The fruit of the Tinder fungus looks a little bit like a horse's hoof with a very hard shell and soft underside.

Tinder fungus can also be known as Horses Hoof fungus and it's Latin name is Fomes Fomentarius which means 'used for tinder'. Tinder fungus is found on birch trees in Scotland and occasionally beech trees in the south of the UK.

Tinder fungus belongs to the Polyporaceae family. It's a bracket fungus which means it grows out of trees that are dead, standing or lying on the ground. Tinder fungus fruiting bodies only appear once the tree it is growing on has died. Its incredible woody, tough fungi can grow up to 40cm wide and 20ch deep. Each curved line on the top of the fungus represents a year of its life, they can live up to the age of 22! The fungus will die when it has broken down the deadwood and removed all the nutrients it can from it.

As I mentioned we've used this fungus during our Forest School sessions. It was very tough and tricky to cut open so we ended up having to use a Billhook to split it open to have a closer look inside. Once inside you can see all the tiny tubes through which the spores will travel. The 'tinder' or Amadou is the fluffy looking part that's coincidentally shaped like a mushroom, we gave lighting it with a flint and steel a go but it was much more difficult than we thought. I've later learned that it needs to be prepared in a certain way, hopefully we can try it again when we get back into the woods.

The use of Tinder fungus to light fire dates back to over 5000 years ago. The body of the 'Iceman' found preserved in a glacier in the Alps in 1991, was accompanied by a pouch containing flint and a piece of dried tinder fungus, indicating that it played an important role then in people's use of fire.

The fungus has also long been known to have important healing properties, and in 400 BC Hippocrates referred to it as being used as an anti-inflammatory. Recent studies have found that it has strong anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, thereby confirming its age-old use.

Happy fungus finding

Until next week,


Referenced with thanks



  • wildwoodlandlearning

Forest School is a continuous process. An opportunity to adapt to the environment around you as it moves through time. We learn through the changing seasons, adapt to fluctuating temperatures, rain, wind, snow, sunshine and now darkness.

We thrive on delivering sessions that work with and get the best out of seasonal changes, finding alternatives, making do with and improving what we have to work with. At W.I.L.D. we are extremely fortunate to use an incredible woodland brimming with flora and fauna. One thing our site doesn’t have is any lighting.

Bat detecting on Ha'Penny Bridge

Setting up the site safely in the dark was something we had to think long and hard about. Working with children in a public park in the dark is not something to take lightly and so the risk assessing and planning began in early October. Every forest school site we use is risk assessed, seasonally, monthly and daily taking into consideration every aspect of the woodland from the canopy to the forest floor. Now we’ve added in every additional risk darkness brings which means reducing the size of the site, lighting boundary lines and bringing in an additional member of staff (among many other things).

Fire creates warmth and focus for everyone

Once we had a plan, a dry run was the next stage. We visited the site in the dark loaded with various torches and lights to find out how it all worked in situ. We needed bright welcoming lighting for children and parents arriving at site as well as lanterns to light up the main areas of play, basecamp and the fire area. We wanted to create a warm, welcoming space as playing in the dark could be a little scary or least disorientating for some.

We are delighted to have Chloe join us for the remainder of the dark nights sessions. Chloe is also a Level 3 Forest School Leader and has tonnes of experience we can all learn from. Having an additional member of staff with us enables us to continue with activities like having a fire, crafts and tool work. So far we've been bat detecting, whittling, sawing tree cookies and lots of cooking on the fire.

These sessions work because we know the children and tailor the sessions to work in the dark. We meet the children in advance of the session, put on head torches and a high viz vest then walk to our Forest School Site. The same rules apply throughout the session, we practice 1,2,3 basecamp and they all understand the importance of coming to basecamp when called. They've all transitioned to the dark nights well, and mud play... whether you love it or loath it, has become a magnetic force few can resist...


Email:    wildwoodlandlearning@gmail.com

Tel:        07495 734274

Booking: https://bookwhen.com/wildwoodlandlearning

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