Illustration by Mark Greco
I’ve reached that age where my local GP has offered to give me a free health check to see if it’s worth me making any long-term plans. Next week I’ve booked in to be weighed, measured and prodded. Meanwhile the health of Brighton itself can be monitored by a group of amazing organisms which, though they’re all around us, largely go unnoticed: lichens.
Lichens are the Banksys of the natural world, bringing their anarchic wildlife graffiti into our unnatural urban landscape, disrupting the dull uniformity of brickwork and concrete with a dazzling diverse range of patterns, shapes, textures and colours.
Considering that lichens cover 8% of the land’s surface it’s amazing that we hardly notice them, but next time you’re out, stop and look around. You’ll be overwhelmed – lichens are everywhere. Luminous yellow and orange crusts radiate across roofs, walls, benches and fences. The bare branches and bark of trees are festooned with green lichen lobes. Even the concrete and the clay beneath your feet is covered with the white splodges of lichens which resemble trampled chewing-gum. Once you start looking, an invisible world of lichens will materialise and you’ll feel like grabbing the nearest person by the lapels and, wild-eyed, yelling: “they’re everywhere – can’t you see? We’ve been invaded!”