Xanthoria Lichen in macro

Original Charcoal Drawing

Compressed charcoal on paper.

55cm x 70cm

By Nick McMillen

Mounted and framed


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Becoming slightly obsessed with lichens over the covid lockdowns, Nick found this specimen when out for a walk on the Ashford Hangers near where he lives.

This is a 3cm section of a 30cm branch which was totally covered in the Xanthoria lichen. To think that this much structure and complexity can be found in such a small specimen is astounding and just had to be drawn on a large scale to give justice to it.


Lichens comprise of two organisms, fungus and algae, which have formed a symbiotic relationship. Fungi don’t produce chlorophyll so can’t harvest their own energy from the sun as plants do. Algae do photosynthesise and have formed a partnership with fungi. In return for a supply of vital nutrients to the fungi, the algae gain protection from ultra-violet light by the structure of the fungi. It is the fungi which is the dominant partner in the relationship, in a way ’farming’ the algae to produce the food it needs.