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Naming lichens

Herbarium label typed on a typewriter by Claude Garton in 1959 (before the days of correction tape availability). The specimen from the packet is scattered on the label surface.

The above picture is the label of one of the older specimens in Claude Garton's original collection, verified at the time by one of the pre-eminent lichenologists, Dr. Mason Hale. The crumbled specimen pieces scraped from a rock surface by Claude Garton were scattered on the surface of the label. In the intervening years, the name of this particular organism has changed two more times! To most people it is known as Xanthoria elegans, but recently the name was changed by taxonomists to Rusavskia elegans. So, lichen names are a "moving target" - but do not despair!

Common (English) names are problematic in that they may not be the same in different parts of the world. On the other hand they tend to be quite descriptive and can help in attaching a memorized name to a particular organism. Who would disagree with "Elegant sunburst lichen" for the bright specimen above!