Ginny B's picture

Lichen hunting

When you go lichen hunting what aids do you carry with you?

From what I have gleaned so far it must be quite a list of necessary equipment!




synan's picture


This is a personal choice, not a recommendation, but I usually take:

Waterproof cover for above
20x hand lens
Penknife (not the safest choice - see this guidance on carrying knives)
Notebook & pen
Geology hammer
Rock chisel
Dropper bottles with 'C' (Milton sterilising fluid) and 'K' (KOH)
Sample boxes *

* I use a lot of very small plastic boxes with lids rather than the paper packets that are widely advised. I take the lids off when I get home to allow samples to dry.


Fenwickfield's picture


I bought a great box from a D.I.Y store with lots of compartments inside with a lid that stops them getting mixed up,I think there for assorted screws,nails ect.It has a carrying handle but fits in my rucksack I pierced holes in the to to stop the samples sweating it is very useful I to carry all the above mentioned but I also have a garden kneeling mat cut down to fit rucksack which stops me getting soggy knee's oh and a pair of latex gloves and my trug.I don't bother with the kitchen sink :)



Ginny B's picture

Thank you for the insight

Thank you very much for giving me an insight into what you each find useful when out lichen hunting. I particularly like the idea of a cut down gardening kneeler to save the knees. Not only is it wet where I go, but also very stony!

At the moment, my lichen forays are really more dog orientated walks and as such I don’t spend an enormous amount of time looking lest the hounds become bored and start getting into some trouble or other; but having said that, I now spend twice as long out there and they are enjoying that too! My pockets are now filled not only with edible dog treats as rewards for good behaviour, but also my smallest hand lens, a notebook and pencil and my camera. I can see the need fast arising when I shall require a rucksack.

I already have a couple of little dropper bottles and getting hold of Milton is no problem, but my search for ‘K’ (KOH), which I think may be the stuff used to pour down a blocked drain, is proving much more difficult. It used to be readily available in crystal form but so far I’ve only found it as a thick liquid. Would that be the stuff to use? I’m sorry but I know nothing about chemicals and am a bit wary of using things I don’t know about.


synan's picture


I would try to obtain the solid. I bought KOH (potassium hydroxide) flakes from lincsbiofuels on eBay - £6.50 for 500g, which should last me many years. It is hygroscopic (absorbs water from the air), so keep the container sealed. A 10% solution works well - a ratio of 10g in 100ml of water. Add the solid to the water because it is exothermic (gives off heat) when dissolving. The solution absorbs carbon dioxide from the air and needs replacing every few months or when it becomes cloudy. It is corrosive, but a 10% solution will not dissolve your hand or do anything terrifying. Be careful with it but not fearful of it. Just don't get it in your eyes.

NaOH (sodium hydroxide or caustic soda) can be used as a substitute. This is more easily obtained as a drain cleaner, but is sometimes mixed with sodium carbonate (washing soda) and may not be as reliable. Dobson mentions that sodium carbonate can be used as a safer substitute in its own right, but it is slower to react and doesn't distinguish Candelariella from Caloplaca.

Whatever you decide to use, test it on Caloplaca or Xanthoria (purple reaction) or Pertusaria corrallina or Cladonia polydactyla (yellow).


Ginny B's picture

I'll keep looking. Thanks

I'll keep looking. Thanks once again for the information and reassurance that what I'll be carrying around with me won't be too terrible. I'll be very careful not to get it in my eyes.

Washing soda is something that I've nearly always had in the house to soften the water until we moved here where I haven't needed it, as the water is already pretty soft.