New lichen species named after John Sawyer

The NBN Trust is humbled to note that a new species of lichen has been named in honour of one of our former CEOs, John Sawyer.

John was the much respected and inspirational CEO of the NBN Trust from 2014 until his untimely death in 2015 and therein lies the story of this lichen. John took the first author of the paper naming the new species, Brian J Coppins, and his wife to a hazel-wood close to his family home on the Isle of Mull, where material of this new species was collected. Tragically, in the evening of that same day, just a few hours after saying goodbye to Brian and his wife, John died from a heart attack.

John left his legacy with the NBN and we have no doubt he would be extremely proud to receive the honour of having a species named after him.

The new species

Opegrapha sawyeriana (Coppins sp. nov.) is a lichenicolous fungus, parasitic on thalli of Coniocarpon cinna-barinum DC., often arising in small, pale grey necrotic patches. It is similar to O. arthoniicola (Coppins & S. Y. Kondr), but with ascomata that are usually less clustered and with a brown excipular layer beneath the hymenium.

It appears to be not uncommon in strongly oceanic areas of south-western England, Scotland and Ireland, and always on branches and twigs of Corylus. The host lichen is common and widespread, and O. sawyeriana might well have a broad distribution in suitable habitat along the European Atlantic seaboard.

This lichen is one of three species of lichenicolous Opegraphas. lat. that are newly described in the paper “Notes on lichenicolous species of Opegraphas. lat. (Arthoniales) on Arthoniaceae and Verrucariaceae, with a key to British and Irish lichenicolous Opegraphaceae”.

Edited extract published here with sincere thanks to the authors – Brian J Coppins, Sergey Y. Kondratyuk, Javier Etayo and Paul F. Cannon.

Opegrapha sawyeriana(isotype)
Opegrapha sawyeriana (isotype), colony on thallus of Coniocarpon cinnabarinum.

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