Keyhaven, New Forest, Hampshire, Saturday 16th of March 2013

An afternoon visit to Keyhaven to look at coastal scrub in the hope of finding Goldeneyes Teloschistes chrysophthalmus. There were very few records for this species from southern England in the 20th century and it was considered gone by the 21st Century. It had never been recorded from Hampshire, but there were 19th century records from the Isle of Wight and Sussex. In the 2000s it started being found again, especially along the coast and in 2012 was found in the Isle of Wight, Hampshire and then Sussex. It seems a recolonisation is underway; see link and follow links back.

We met by the car park at SU306915 at 1.30pm. Led by Neil Sanderson, with Eric Clement, Ginnie Copsey, Andrew Cross, Mark Jackson and John Norton attending. There had been some very heavy rain in the morning but this had cleared by the early afternoon. The site has lots of coastal thorn scrub, which had previously been noted as having a high and luxuriant lichen cover, so seemed a good target site for Goldeneyes.

The meeting started with the great news that it had succeed before it had started; Mark, had already spotted some Goldeneyes cycling down the green lane along the back of the marshes from Lymington (the Ancient Highway). Thereby confirming his title as the Goldeneyes finder general (see), bestowed by me for his success in find the species in Sussex. We started across the Avon Water bridge; the formerly pump drained field to the north now a impressive lagoon and reed bed. The Blackthorn hedge on the west side was bright yellow with Xanthoria parietina, which totally dominated here. Promising for finding the nutrient demanding Goldeneyes but, as we were to observe, probably too much Xanthoria here. Across the bridge it started to get interesting. An exotic bush (Sorbus intermedia?) by the east end of the bridge (Way Mark K01, SZ30795 91599) supported two thalli of Physcia stellaris; one especially magnificent. In the south this is a local but possibly increasing species near the sea and new to the New Forest coast. Further east, deep in the hedge, was an even better discovery a big but sterile thallus of Ramalina fraxinea (Way Mark K02, SZ30811 91604). As far as I am aware this is the first recent record of the once frequent, but pollution sensitive, Ramalina from Hampshire. The epiphytic vegetation here was no longer dominated totally by Xanthoria parietina, the species was abundant but joined by Physcia adscendens, Ramalina farinacea and Ramalina fastigiata.

Physcia stellaris & Ramalina fraxinea (K01 & K03)

As I was recording the Ramalina fraxinea Mark demonstrated that he really is in the zone for finding Goldeneyes by finding a tiny bit just down the lane on the south side (Way Mark K03, SZ308 916). This consisted of little more than apothecia emerging from under Xanthoria parietina; this plant caused a bit of doubt but, with a lens, the cilia were visible. It was growing with Xanthoria parietina (parasitised by Xanthoriicola physciae) and Ramalina fastigiata. Mark then found another small, some what better, plant on the other side of the hedge and a much bigger good looking plant high up on the hedge on the north side of the lane.

Finding the first Goldeneyes Teloschistes chrysophthalmus (K03)

Walk along the Ancient Highway a distinct pattern was noted to the lichen communities on the Blackthorn scrub. The abundance of Xanthoria parietina was dependant on exposure to the sea, with its abundance declining with shelter from the sea. In sheltered stretches the Xanthoria parietina disappeared altogether, with the grey Ramalina species and Evernia prunastri dominant; essentially a reproduction of the yellow and grey zones of sea cliffs on Blackthorn bushes. There was no Goldeneyes in the pure grey zone but on the east side of the lane the sea influence was catching the top of the bushes, with Xanthoria parietina mixed in with the grey species. In this zone Mark found a really beautiful Goldeneyes Teloschistes chrysophthalmus thallus (Way Mark K04, SZ309 917). This was growing with Evernia prunastri, Melanelixia subaurifera, Physcia adscendens, Ramalina farinacea and Xanthoria parietina.

A hoary hedge & a fine Goldeneyes thallus (K05)

At the junction with Iley Lane we made a short foray up this lane to search for Usnea species. John had found the first record of the south western Usnea esperantiana here a few yeas ago. This lane is adjacent to pools in the marsh and the grey lichens were growing with great vigour but with no Xanthoria parietina. On the east side we found some Usnea subfloridana but were then recalled to the Ancient Highway by Mark having found another single thallus of Goldeneyes Teloschistes chrysophthalmus. This was on a more exposed bush with some Xanthoria parietina present (Way Mark K05, SZ310 918). Back in Iley Lane John found some more Usnea on the west side (K06, SZ30983 91883). This had a black base and small round soralia with no visible isidia. A K test gave a yellow to strong deep orange red reaction. This was either Usnea glabrescens or Usnea wasmuthii; the former probably having been mistaken for the latter in Hampshire. They can be told apart without TLC by most chemical races of Usnea glabrescens having norstictic acid. Under the microscope norstictic acid gives a K + yellow to blood red reaction producing needle shaped crystals. Usnea wasmuthii, in contrast never has norstictic acid but, when it is K reacting it has salazinic acid, which gives a K + yellow to red reaction without crystals. In the field the red reaction looked quite deep red raising hopes of Usnea glabrescens but back home, there were no needles, so probably more Usnea wasmuthii. This which is still a good species to find and I will get the identification checked by TLC.

A hoary hedge in Iley Lane

Back on the Ancient Highway we carried on towards then spot where Mark had first seen Goldeneyes when cycling to the meeting. The lichens in SZ3192 were recorded on the way. The hedges along the lane were cut annually, which is no good for rich lichen communities, but uncut accessible bushes supported the same RamalinaEverniaXanthoria community. No more Goldeneyes was found until we reached Mark’s site (K07, SZ313 921). Here an old over stood Blackthorn hedge had been recently laid, bringing down twigs that would have been out of sight. Mark refound his first thallus and then found three more. The first thallus was growing with Evernia prunastri, Physcia adscendens, Ramalina farinacea and Xanthoria parietina. Finally John found a thallus by his own just to the east (K08, SZ313 922). Time will tell whether the Goldeneyes will survive the hedge laying.

Mark’s original thallus (K07)

After this we headed back towards Keyhaven, along the route we had come. Once back, the threatened rain arrived; I had been intending have a look along the coast, but gave up the idea. Instead I had a quick look with John at some lichens he had spotted before the meeting. A cherry by the car park supported Lecanora carpinea, while a timber barier (K10, SZ31380 92202) supported a patch of Lecanora barkmaniana.

We had found Goldeneyes Teloschistes chrysophthalmus at five locations, with 10 individual thalli. This species seems to becoming well established along the south coast, with populations now being found, rather than isolated thalli. At Keyhaven, we just looked along the right of way, there is a large area of adjacent thorn scrub within the reserve; it is likely there is a larger population of Goldeneyes off the lanes.

Route taken, with way points

The species list

Post script: an interesting article by Simon Davey on Goldeneyes, describing another new site in East Sussex, this time well away from the sea, and observations on the habitat. The latter also notes Goldeneyes also growing a similar habitat to that at Keyhaven, growing in communities with both yellow and grey lichens mixed together, including Xanthoria parietina, Ramalina farinacea and Ramalina fastigiata link.