Experimental studies of lobe growth in the lichen Parmelia conspersa (Ehrh. Ex Ach.) Ach.

Richard A. Armstrong*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The radial growth of individual lobes of the foliose lichen, Parmelia conspersa (Ehrh. Ex Ach.) Ach. was studied to determine whether (1) adjacent lobes exchange carbohydrate and (2) marginal competition between lobes influences radial growth. In a survey of thalli of different size, the number of marginal lobes was linearly related to thallus circumference. However, the relationship between mean lobe width and thallus circumference was fitted by a second order polynomial. Hence, mean lobe width may reach a maximum in thalli approx. 3 cm in diameter. The interactions between marginal lobes were studied by either painting single lobes with acrylic paint or by removing lobes from the thallus. Painting the whole lobe virtually stopped its radial growth while partially painted lobes grew less than control lobes. The radial growth of a lobe was unaffected by either completely painting or removing its neighbour. Removal of both neighbouring lobes did not influence the radial growth of a lobe but severing the lobe from the thallus reduced its radial growth. In addition, lobe width increased significantly when both neighbouring lobes were removed. These results suggest that adjacent lobes have a considerable degree of independence and that there is little exchange of carbohydrate between them. In addition, marginal competition between adjacent lobes may restrict the lateral extension of the lobe and this may maintain a more constant mean lobe width in larger thalli. It is possible that the intensity of marginal competition between adjacent lobes may vary with thallus size and this could be a factor determining the growth curve of a foliose lichen throughout its life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-319
Number of pages5
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1991


  • Lichen
  • Parmelia conspersa
  • lobe growth
  • lobe interactions


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