• Name: Golden hair lichen | Teloschistes flavicans
  • Size: 1.5-7(-10) cm long, 2-4 cm in diameter tufts
  • Life span: Unknown.  Lifespan of Lichens can be measured in hundreds rather than tens of years; with some theoretically being immortal!  
  • Diet: Sunshine (Similar to plants, all lichens photosynthesize. They need light to provide energy to make their own food.)
  • Reproduction: Most lichens reproduce asexually; ie. when conditions are good they will simply expand across the surface of the rock or tree.  However they can also reproduce sexually; ie. the fungal component of many lichens will also sometimes reproduce sexually to produce spores.
  • When to see: All year round (January to December)
  • Where to see: Windy clifftops i.e. Peninnis, St Mary's | Shipman Head Down, Bryher | Wingletang, St Agnes in Scilly. 
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable and Nationally Scarce in Great Britain; protected under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
  • Population Trend: Decreasing
  • Threats:  Human activity (i.e.damage through recreational activities), pollution (highly sensitive to pollution, especially sulphur dioxide), loss of habitat
  • Fun Fact: All Lichens are formed of a fungus and algae (or cyanobacteria) living in partnership. It is unconfirmed whether this relationship is parasitic (in this case, the fungus would be parasitic on the algae, which provides it with carbon via photosynthesis) or mutualistic (benefits both partners, with the algae gaining protection and access to habitats it could not otherwise reach).

Description:   Recognized by its safron coloured pigmentation, Golden hair lichen (Teloschistes flavicans) grows on rocks and branches of trees.

Golden Hair-lichen is a fruticose (or shrubby) lichen, up to about 8 cm in diameter, with flattened lobes often branched into pairs: the genus name Teloschistes means ‘split ends’, in reference to the structure of this lichen group.

Golden hair lichen is known to be incredibly sensitive to sulphur dioxide air pollution and is now only found in south-west England and the coast of Wales in the UK.

Golden hair lichen can be saxicolous (grow on rocks), terricolous (grow on the ground) or epiphytic (grow on trees).  In the past it was epiphytic in many of its inland sites, with a love for old orchards, hedgerow trees and elms in particular. 

On the Mainland loss of suitable habitat, orchards and hedgerows; Elms as a result of Dutch Elm disease, means that it is now mainly a lichen of windy clifftops,and is classed as vulnerable and nationally scarce.   

However, here in Scilly we still have old orchards and Elm trees, as Dutch Elm disease hasn't made it this far, as well as an abundance of granite and windy cliff tops.

Bonus Fact!  There are approximately 20 000 different lichen species.


Do remember that we rely on donations to continue our work.  If you have searched, found and learned about Scilly's wildlife on our website, please Support Us and give what you can.  Thank you 💚

Support Us


With thanks to BareFoot Photographer for the Golden hair lichen image