An industry on Dartmoor that has become completely extinct is the collection of lichen from the rocks for the use of the dyers. There exists in MS. an interesting book by a Dr. Tripe, of Ashburton, recording what he saw and did each day, at the close of last century. He says that he observed women scraping off the lichen from the rocks near the Drewsteignton cromlech. This they sold to the dyers, who dried it, reduced it to powder, and treated it with a solution of tin in aqua fortis and another ingredient, when a most vivid scarlet dye was produced. The lichen is called botanically Lichinoides saxatile. Other lichens were employed to give purple and yellow colours. The cudbear and crab's-eye lichens (Lecanora tartarea and Lecanora parella) gave a dye of a royal purple, and the two species called Parmelia saxatilis and Parmelia omphalodes gave a yellowish brown. Moss also was employed for the purpose; the Hypnum cupressiforme yielded a rich reddish brown.
"Lichens and mosses," says Mr. Parfitt, "are the pioneers of the vegetable kingdom in attacking the hard and almost impenetrable rocks, and so preparing the way for the more noble plants—the trees and shrubs—by gradual disintegration, and by adding their own dead bodies to the soil, enrich it for the food of others."
It is marvellous to see how the lichen attaches itself to the granite. A harshly glaring piece that the quarrymen have cut is touched with fine specks that spread into black and crocus-yellow circles, and
- "The Lichen Flora of Devonshire," in Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 1883.