information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Black lichen (Lichina pygmaea)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.



A dark brown to matt black lichen forming branching tufts up to 1cm tall. It occurs as patches or may form extensive mats on rocky shores. Thallus composed of flattened branches (lobes), that become rounded at the tips. Spherical fruiting bodies, up to 2 mm in diameter occur at the tips of the branches.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Widely distributed around Britain and Ireland on wave exposed rocky shores but not recorded from the shores of south east England, probably due to a lack of suitable substrata.

Global distribution



May form extensive patchy mats at or just below high water level of neap tides on wave exposed rocky shores, especially on well-drained, south-facing surfaces. Usually associated with the upper limit of barnacles. A strictly maritime species.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Thallus dark matt brown or black in colour.
  • Thallus forms bushy tufts up to 1 cm tall.
  • Lobes of thallus flattened with apical fruiting bodies.
  • Found at or below high water of neap tides.

Additional information

Resembles a small seaweed at first glance. It may be confused with Lichina confinis, which is smaller (up to 0.5cm in height) with rounded branches and occurs above high water. Commonly confused with the small branching seaweed Catenella caespitosa, which has a small, dark purple, irregularly branched frond and is restricted to damp crevices and overhangs on the shore.

Listed by

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Further information sources

Search on:


  1. CABI Bioscience, 2000. Index Fungorum Database. [On-line], 2002-04-23

  2. Dobson, F.S., 1997. Lichens of Rocky Shores. [Foldout pamphlet]. Shrewsbury: Field Studies Council.

  3. Dobson, F.S., 2000. Lichens: an illustrated guide to the British and Irish species. Slough: The Richmond Publishing Co. Ltd.

  4. Fletcher, A., 1980. Marine and maritime lichens of rocky shores: their ecology, physiology, and biological interactions. In The Shore Environment, vol. 2: Ecosystems (ed. J.H. Price, D.E.G. Irvine & W.F. Farnham), pp. 789-842. London: Academic Press. [Systematics Association Special Volume no. 17(b)].

  5. Gibson, R., Hextall, B. & Rogers, A., 2001. Photographic guide to the sea and seashore life of Britain and north-west Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  6. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T. & Shields, C. 1996. Collins pocket guide. Sea shore of Britain and northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.

  7. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]


This review can be cited as:

Tyler-Walters, H., 2002. Lichina pygmaea Black lichen. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 24-09-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 10/07/2002