Lichen (Calicium corynellum)

Calicium coynellum on stone
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Lichen fact file

Lichen description

GenusCalicium (1)

This species is commonly called a 'pin-head' fungi as the fruiting bodies (the structures that produce the lichen's spores) are shaped rather like black pins, or tiny wine cups. The part of the lichen forming the main body of the organism is called the 'thallus'. On C. corynellum this is a bright yellow-green and powdery in appearance.

Height of fruiting bodies: 1- 2 mm

Lichen biology

All species of Calicium fungi have fruiting bodies, which decompose when ripe into a mass of spores. As they are small, they are often overlooked, and the best way of identifying the different species is by examining the thallus or main body of the lichen. However, as some species remain concealed within the wood or bark of trees, this can prove difficult.Lichens are fascinating things, being a partnership between two different types of organism. In most examples, this is an alga, and a fungus. The fungus is the part of the lichen we usually see as it makes up the main body of the organism. However, the alga - unlike the fungus - is capable of manufacturing its own food by photosynthesis. The fungus provides the alga with a place to live and the fungus takes some of the carbohydrates produced as a result of the photosynthesis. While it is believed that many of the algae that form one half of the lichen can live independently, it is also thought that many - if not all - of the fungi in the partnerships could not exist without their particular alga.


Lichen range

C. corynellum is known from three sites in the UK. It is known from two sites in north-east England, on a church wall and on a sloping tombstone, and also one site in Scotland. It is also scattered across Europe and Canada.

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Lichen habitat

In its known UK sites, the lichen grows on a damp, north-facing church wall, on both the sandstone blocks and the mortar bonding the blocks together, and also on a number of tombstones. In Europe, the lichen is found on the underside of silica-rich rock overhangs.


Lichen status

Classified as Critically Endangered in the UK.


Lichen threats

The biggest threat to this lichen is its extremely limited range in the UK. Since it was discovered in 1972, the lichen has decreased in area by 90 per cent on the church wall. Those growing on the tombstones are threatened by churchyard tidying schemes, cleaning of the individual gravestone and similar activities.


Lichen conservation

Calicium corynellum is listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plans and included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme. One of its sites is on the stones of a Saxon Church tower in Northumberland, but by 1992 it had dwindled to a few traces on five stones. Through the Species Recovery Programme, some detective work unearthed the fact that a large stone had been removed from the base of the tower and replaced with gravel, stopping cascading rain from a drainpipe splashing on the wall. The reduction in the moisture level was killing the lichen. English Nature paid for a slab to be replaced and now it is hoped that the lichen will recover.

There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.


This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


Fruiting bodies
A differentiated spore bearing structure.
Metabolic process characteristic of plants in which carbon dioxide is broken down, using energy from sunlight absorbed by the green pigment chlorophyll. Organic compounds are made and oxygen is given off as a by-product.
Microscopic particles involved in both dispersal and reproduction. They comprise a single or group of unspecialised cells and do not contain an embryo, as do seeds.
Type of simple plant body that does not have stems, leaves and roots.


  1. Purvis, O. W., Coppins, B. J., James, P. W. & Moore, D. M. (1992). The lichen flora of Great Britain and Ireland. Natural History Museum Publications. The British Lichen society, London.

Image credit

Calicium coynellum on stone  
Calicium coynellum on stone

© Jenny Duckworth / PLANTLIFE

PLANTLIFE - The Wild-Plant Conservation Charity
14 Rollestone Street
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1722 342730
Fax: +44 (0) 1722 329035


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