Orange-fruited elm-lichen (Caloplaca luteoalba)

GenusCaloplaca (1)
SizeDiameter of fruiting bodies: up to 0.8 mm

Classified as Vulnerable in the UK.

Orange-fruited elm-lichen is called a 'crustose' lichen from its crust-like texture. Its main body is light grey, and the fruiting bodies are orange and often very numerous on the surface of the lichen.

This species occurs only in the east of England and Scotland although it was once much more widespread. Its range covers western Europe, but it has declined rapidly with the advent of Dutch Elm disease, which has killed almost all of the mature elms in the UK on which it grows. The lichen now appears to be extinct in Denmark, the Netherlands and northern Germany. It has also been recorded in North America. It is now only known in England from three trees in Norfolk, Suffolk and Oxfordshire where it grows on either black poplar or horse chestnut, all in open situations. It still occurs on elm in eastern Scotland where Dutch elm disease has not yet reached. In addition, it is known from chalk pebbles on one or two sites in the Chilterns and South Downs.

As its name suggests, this lichen is associated with elm trees, where it grows on the bark. It has also been recorded on black poplar Populus nigra ssp betulifolia, horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum, sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus and field maple A. campestre. It is also occasionally found on chalk pebbles in downland.

This lichen has also been found on soft chalky rock and pebbles, and this is largely how it persists today due to the disastrous effects of Dutch elm disease. It has been found on other tree species, but it requires dry, well-lit situations in regions with relatively low rainfall.

As well as the loss of its preferred host tree, the lichen is also potentially at risk from accidental clearance of individual trees in its remaining sites. Agricultural intensification and air pollution have also thought to have contributed to its decline.

The orange-fruited elm lichen is listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, and included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme.

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. Purvis, O. W., Coppins, B. J., James, P. W. & Moore, D. M. (1992). The lichen flora of Great Britain and Ireland. Natural History Museum Publications. The British Lichen society, London.