Walk in the woods - Am dro trwy'r coed



My aim for the next few weeks is to gather enough research for my next illustration LICHENS WALES. The trigger for this collection came from a recent visit to the beautiful Portmeirion, nestled on the shores of the river Dwyryd. A small haven with a mild microclimate, and an abundance of stunningly colourful lichens. The specimens seen on the rocky outcrops vary from sublime greys to vibrant yellows, whilst the beautiful woodlands provide the perfect habitat for circular, oval and undulating edged specimens.

When looking, something quite magical happens, the unnoticed become noticed, and what was passed by before is now highlighted. Somehow, quite strangely they now appear everywhere.... I am more aware, with a heightened sense of inquisitiveness, and many unanswered questions.

So the journey of discovery begins.....

Today I continued my research on Lichen, and met up with  Twm Elias for expert advice and guidance.

The day started with a walk along the banks of the river Dwyfor in Llanystumdwy. An ancient woodland with unique and special features, the flora and fauna here remain undisturbed, with a mosaic of habitats, often transient, between open water and a drier woodland habitat. It is early spring so remnants of snowdrop foliage still carpet the floor, with some bluebell buds appearing in amongst the greenery.

My main aim was to photograph as many examples as possible, and to identify key characteristics, by sketching and recording colour form and textures.

There are around 1,800 species of lichen can be found in the UK, with approximately 1,300 growing in Wales.


There are 4 distinct types of Lichens:

a) Crustose - Crawennog - Crust structure and difficult to remove from the substrate without damaging the fungal body of the lichen; the thallus.



b) Foliose - Deiliog - Leafy or lobe structure, with an upper and lower layer called the cortex. The layers are of different form and colour, these often grow flat to the surface of a tree or rock.



c) Fruticose - Llwynaidd - Shrub or branch structure, with a similar appearance on the upper and lower surface.



d) Cladonioid: associated with the complex genus Cladonia, often having both Foliose and Fruticose elements.



Many lichens have been used as dyes in the past. They can be mixed with other substance such as urine, pine sap or water, to create an array of beautiful hues ranging from yellow, browns, purples and reds. The Cudbear Lichen; also known as Claret or Cocur; Lecanora Tartarea was scraped off rocks and steeped in urine for 3 months, taken out and formed into cakes to dry. The cakes were then crushed into a powder format and fixed with alum.


LICHENS in literature.

The passage comes from the last chapter in Modern Painters (1860);

Ruskin describes a scenic route:

“…among the mountains, the silver lichen spots rest, star like, on the stone; and the gathering orange stain upon the edge of yonder western peak reflects the sunset of a thousand years”


Lichens have been used medicinally across the world for centuries. According to research it has been estimated that around 50% of all lichen species have antibiotic properties. Many lichen extracts have been found to be effective in killing bacteria. Other lichens commonly feature in folk medicines such as Icelandic moss used for treating mouth and throat irritation, cold, indigestion, and many other alignments. There are also links to ancient beliefs documented in "The doctrine of Signatures", an important aspect of folk medicine from the Middle Ages until the early modern period. Within this piece of literature it states that herbs that take on the resemblance of parts of the human anatomy would be beneficial as a form of cure. Hence due to the resemblance of Lobaria pulmonaria or Tree Lungwort to the lungs, bronchial tree and alveoli, it was believed that this Lichen would be beneficial for the treatment of lung alignments.


Image result for twm elias

Recordings of Twm Elias

Twm Elias yn trafod Cennau

1. Peltigera 



2. Pulmonaria


Fruticose - Llwynaidd

Foliose - Deiliog

Crustose - Crawennog




First steps involve sketching and taking macro shots to document their setting, environment, colour, form, and texture. The tools are limited on this occasion so the experimentation will happen at home. It’s then onto the books and secondary research online, to identify and make connections between the visual recording and the factual evidence....this involves the what, where, when and how. Eventually, I am able to start putting the jigsaw pieces together with the addition of bilingual terms. The experimental stage I begin by using unconventional recycled materials, to re-capture their beauty, form, colour, and textures, this leads into drafting a layout and choosing the most common species seen. 



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