Around St Mary’s

Today was slightly less eventful but still productive. I went for a walk to the Lower Moors of St Mary’s to find elm trees. Being so isolated, the elms on Scilly have successfully avoided Dutch elm disease, which has claimed all living elms on the British mainland. When I arrived at the spot on the map, I was quite shocked to see that although the elms were free of disease, they were covered from top to root in a thick coat of ivy. It was quite a disconcerting sight, but I had come to photograph live elms and here they were, so I experimented with different angles – shooting right against the trunk and looking up, focussing on a close section in the foreground and so on.

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I also found some beautiful patches of lichen so spent a lot of time photographing them too. Abundance of lichen was a good indicator of clean air. There is a distinct lack of dust and pollution on Scilly, and as a result there are forty different species of lichen on the islands. It can be seen growing on almost every surface, whether that’s tree, rock or garden fence. Lichen is what’s known as a composite organism, consisting of a fungal element for structure and an algal element for photosynthesis. This combination allows lichens to grow in a diverse range of habitats and environmental conditions. Sea ivory (Ramalina siliquosa) is a branched lichen – known as fruticose – that is one of the more common varieties, but there are also crustose lichens that form a tightly-clinging crust on rocks and foliose lichens which appear leaf-like, growing in lobes that are more-or-less parallel to the substrate on which they are found. Although I had no hope of identifying the lichen species I found on Lower Moors, it was fascinating to photograph them and see just how diverse they could be.

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