To many people, this lichen is an insignificant orange blob, but its ordinary appearance hides its as an indicator of environmental change. In April 2007, an observant Leicestershire County Council Highways Design Engineer, Lisa Bateman, discovered a bright orange lichen on the brickwork by a road. A British Lichen Society expert, Ivan Pedley, identified it as the Sunburst Lichen (Xanthoria elegans).
So, why is this small orange lichen so important? This species of lichen is more commonly found in areas with the purest air quality and is more usually associated with regions such as Mount Everest and, within Britain, North Norfolk or West Wales. So, it tells us how clean Leicestershire’s air has become now that damaging air pollution, caused by sulphur dioxide released during the coal-burning age, has ended. It is an environmental success story, and this species is one of many lichens that are now returning to the area.
This particular specimen was collected in 1991 by Dr Anthony Fletcher from the roof of the Towers Hospital in Leicester.
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Page Last Updated: 13 May 2013