This book provides an invaluable guide to identifying the British and Irish species both for the amateur naturalist just starting to study lichens, and the more advanced lichenologist and it offers the environmentalist and ecologist a concise work of reference, compact enough to be used in the field.
The seventh edition has been revised to conform with the nomenclature of The Lichens of Great Britain and Ireland (2009) and more recent changes to the British lichen flora. lt includes many species that do not appear in that flora. It provides a description of most of the species likely to be found in Great Britain and Ireland, those excluded being very rare or very local. Mark Powell has given valuable assistance in the revision of this edition and has added a new section on lichenicolous fungi on Physcia and Xanthoria.
Entries usually consist of a description of each species, notes on habitat, the results of the simple spot tests as well as notes on distribution with a map giving 3 date separations including when it was most recently recorded. A particular feature of this book is the large number of photographs, with most species illustrated in full colour. These are supplemented by numerous line drawings of microscopic and other diagnostic features. There are frequent suggestions to assist in separating species that appear similar but could otherwise cause confusion.
The popular generic ‘lateral key’ has been retained in an enlarged form. A generic synopsis is included to assist the more experienced lichenologist.
Each genus has a key or table to the species contained in this book. Where there may be confusion, these keys often include similar species from other genera. Where genera are closely related a ‘group’ key is frequently supplied.
I got a chance to test out this revised and updated guide when I came across a couple of lichens on a tree in a supermarket car park.
Rather than go straight to the book, I checked out the Field Studies Council's Guide to Common Urban Lichens 1 (on Trees and Wood), and soon found them, then looked them up in this field guide for a more detailed description and some up to date notes on distribution.
The two publications work well together.
I already have five field guides on my bookshelves which include a selection of lichens – so why should I need another? Only one of them briefly mentions the particular Xanthoria that I'd found, but without an illustration or enough of a description to enable me to identify it, so I'd say it's worth investing in this field guide and, to narrow the selection of species for a particular habitat, the pack of six FSC lichen charts.
I went for the hardback and I'm pleased to say that it has a binding that stays open when you put it down on the desk, which is so useful when you're looking something up!
I'm not methodical or patient enough to work through keys and I don't want to carry around a phial of bleach or potassium hydroxide to carry out a chemical spot test, so I'm glad that so much effort has gone into bringing together colours photographs, non-technical descriptions (as far as that's possible with lichens) and distribution maps to enable me to be reasonably confident of making a visual identification – totally confident in the case of the lichens I'd found in the supermarket car park. I didn't just get a name, there's a story behind them relating to SO2 levels, one of the lichens is thriving as air quality improves, the other is becoming rarer as it prefers acidic conditions. Lichens are mini-ecosystems, so every one of them has some kind of story to tell.
Frank S. Dobson has written and illustrated many books and articles on lichenology, natural history, and photography. He has lectured and run many courses on lichenology for the Field Studies Council and other similar organisations. This has enabled him to understand many of the difficulties experienced by someone starting in lichenology and to write this book in a manner that minimises such problems.
He is an honorary member of the British Lichen Society and has acted as Treasurer; serving on the BLS Council for a number of years and was elected President for the years 1992-94. He is now retired but was professionally involved in photography for most of his working life and was on the photographic consultative committees of both Twickenham College and the London College of Printing.