Lichen (Gloeoheppia turgida)

Gloeoheppia turgida on lava rock
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Lichen fact file

Lichen description

GenusGloeoheppia (1)

A rock-dwelling species, Gloeoheppia turgida is a ‘squamulose’ fungi, meaning that the main body (thallus) is entirely covered in minute scales. The thallus is partially gelatinous (viscous, like jelly), often with large internal air spaces, and is generally dark brownish to yellowish-olive in colour, although it may rarely appear to have a white-grey powdery covering (2).

Endocarpon turgidum, Heppia turgida.

Lichen biology

Lichens are a unique group of organisms that consist of two components, a fungus (called the ‘mycobiont’) and an alga or cyanobacterium (called the ‘photobiont’) that live in a close symbiotic relationship (6) (7) (8). The fungus produces the thallus (the main fungi body) which houses the alga or the cyanobacterium, providing protection and creating optimal conditions for the photobionts to photosynthesise. This process produces sugars and nutrients which can then be utilised by the fungus (8).

Like other fungis, Gloeoheppia turgida is poikilohydric, hence the lichen is able to desiccate (remove water) completely and suspend photosynthesis until more favourable conditions return. This remarkable ability has allowed lichens to colonise a wide range of habitats in which higher plants are unable to survive (3). In deserts, lichens with cyanobacterial components, like the lichen Gloeoheppia turgida, are important as they provide most of the fixed nitrogen to the ecosystem (6). Many lichens are known to be very sensitive to environmental pollution, and, consequently, are used as 'indicators' of the levels of pollution in an area (7).


Lichen range

Gloeoheppia turgida is known from the Middle East, with records from areas of the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran (1) (3) (4) (5).


Lichen habitat

Gloeoheppia turgida is found in rocky habitats, where it grows on compacted soils between rock crevices (3).


Lichen status

Gloeoheppia turgida has yet to be classified on the IUCN Red List.


Lichen threats

There are no known threats to Gloeoheppia turgida.


Lichen conservation

There are no known conservation measures in place for Gloeoheppia turgida.

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

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To find out more about conservation in the UAE, see:



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A simple plant that lacks roots, stems and leaves but contains the green pigment chlorophyll. Most algae occur in marine and freshwater habitats.
A group of bacteria that contain the pigment chlorophyll and are able to photosynthesise. Once known as ‘blue-green algae’, cyanobacteria are thought to have been the first organisms to produce oxygen; fossil cyanobacteria have been found in 3000 million year old rocks. As they are responsible for the oxygen in the atmosphere they have played an essential role in influencing the course of evolution on this planet.
Fungi are one of the taxonomic kingdoms, separate from plants and animals. They obtain nutrients by absorbing organic compounds from the surrounding environment.
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.
Organisms unable to regulate their water content to any significant degree, and able survive for long periods of time in a virtually dry state, resuming normal metabolic functions when re-wetted.
Describes a relationship in which two organisms form a close association. The term is now usually used only for associations that benefit both organisms (a mutualism).
Type of simple plant body that does not have stems, leaves and roots.


  1. Species 2000 ITIS Catalogue of Life (December, 2010)
  2. Schultaz, M. and Büdel, B. (2002) Key to the genera of the Lichinaceae. The Lichenologist, 34: 39-62.
  3. Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, London.
  4. Sipman, H.J.M. (2002) Lichens of mainland Yemen. Willdenowia, 32: 127-135.
  5. Sipman, H. (2003) Provisional key for lichen genera and some species of Iran. Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Freie Universität Berlin (Free University of Berlin). Available at:
  6. Ghazanfar, S.A. and Fisher, M. (1998) Vegetation of the Arabian Peninsula. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, the Netherlands.
  7. Nash, T.H. (1996) Lichen Biology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  8. Ahmadjian, V. (1993) The Lichen Symbiosis. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.

Image credit

Gloeoheppia turgida on lava rock  
Gloeoheppia turgida on lava rock

© Leif Stridvall

Leif Stridvall


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