Lichen: Ochrolechia or Pertusaria - Obsession nr. 3

The lichens that I have already posted about, have been foliose, but now it's time for a crustose lichen.  Those are the ones that are like stains on rocks.  This type is quite abundant on rocks in the wood where I walk the dogs.

I am not sure if it's an Ochrolechia or a Pertusaria.  It is probably either lactea or corallina.  The former is a creamy or gray colour and has a pimply surface and can grow to about 15 cm, the latter is very white and without the bumps and gets even bigger, to 20 cm.  I'm not the only one who is confused, P. lactea is sometimes also called Ochrolechia lactea, so if biologists are confused...

But anyway I'm pretty sure that both O. (or P.) lactea and O. (or P.) corallina both grow on the rocks because there definitely are lichens that are more white and others that are more gray or cream.  I collected tiny amounts of the cream or gray ones and still have the white ones to explore.  Oh, there is so much to do and so little time!  But, on the bright side, I have something to look forward to.

It is pretty amazing that a colourless body of a crusty something can produce colour, but it can.  This lichen gave me the most beautiful sunny yellow on wool when simmered.  I first dyed a small amount of Icelandic wool and as it is very white I got this beautiful yellow.  The Alpaca wool that I'm using for the lichen dyes now are much darker in colour, so that the colours are more muted.

After I had used the lichen to dye in water I put the same lichen into an ammonia solution and it turned a kind of red colour with a hint of brown to it.  I shook the jar every day faithfully for over 3 months, sometimes thinking it was on the verge of turning purple, but I gave up in the end and dyed with it.

It is a lovely earthy pink.  I also dyed another skein in the exhaust bath, which gave a lighter shade.  I was very happy with that and expected great things from it in a soap.  But of course you never get what you expect in this natural colour business.

In preparation for the glorious pink I expected I scented the soap with Geranium as well as the Vetiver and put some hibiscus on top.  But the colour never showed up.  Just a slight blush of a tint in spite of the strongly coloured water.

It is so amazing to me that it is possible to get two such different colours from the same material.  How can one not be fascinated by these unpredictable things?


  1. I am totally fascinated BUT am barely past the coloring with pink clay stage. YOU are like this genius scientist ! Love to read your blog.

  2. Oh, Donna! :) I'd love to colour with pink clay! This is the thing: "Neyðin kennir naktri konu að spinna = Necessity teaches a naked woman to spin" (that's a loosely translated Icelandic saying and the origin of the nakin (= naked) name of my blog) When one needs to order everything and wait for it and pay import duty and 25% VAT, it is sometimes easier to work with the free stuff. And I'm a bit of a nerd too...

  3. but when one has friends who can send pink clay marked as 'gift', one only has to wait. i'll get on it as soon as i'm back home

  4. Love your blog! We have the same saying in Norwegian (of course, since it's probably very old): Nød lærer naken kvinne å spinne


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