Xanthoparmelia scabrosa

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Xanthoparmelia scabrosa
Scientific classification
X. scabrosa
Binomial name
Xanthoparmelia scabrosa
(Taylor) Hale (1974)
Parmelia scabrosa

Xanthoparmelia scabrosa, jocularly known as sexy footpath lichen or sexy pavement lichen,[1] is a foliose lichen in the Parmeliaceae family. It tolerates a very wide range of substrata, predominantly rock but also tree bark, roofing tiles, glass, and in wetter areas bitumen paths and roads.[2]


Xanthoparmelia scabrosa has a thallus that is foliose (leafy in appearance). The upper surface is yellow-green, while the lower surface is pale to dark brown.[2]

Habitat and range[edit]

Xanthoparmelia scabrosa is common in Australia and New Zealand, also occurring on Norfolk Island, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Argentina, South Africa and Japan.[2] In New Zealand it grows abundantly on roads and footpaths, ordinarily an inhospitable environment for lichens.[3]


Xanthoparmelia scabrosa appears to tolerate the high levels of heavy metals present in asphalt by accumulating these in the thallus. It can also accumulate high levels of calcium. These abilities may make it useful for phytoremediation.[3]

Medical use[edit]

Xanthoparmelia scabrosa has been marketed as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, but many scientists do not recommend this use. While the lichen contains a PDE5 inhibitor, which may inhibit an enzyme responsible for impotence, the same substance may itself be toxic. The lichen is also high in toxic heavy metals.[1]


The lichen was dubbed 'sexy footpath lichen' in a talk for the Auckland Botanical Society by Dr Allison Knight. The name was popularised by Dr Peter de Lange as 'sexy pavement lichen'.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Hancock, Farah (14 August 2019). "Don't lick sexy pavement lichen - here's why". Newsroom. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Xanthoparmelia scabrosa (Taylor) Hale". Checklist of the Lichens of Australia and its Island Territories. Australian Government Department of the Environment and Water Resources. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b Bennett, James P.; Wright, Darrell M. (Winter 2004). "Element Content of Xanthoparmelia scabrosa Growing on Asphalt in Urban and Rural New Zealand". The Bryologist. 107 (4): 421–428. doi:10.1639/0007-2745(2004)107[421:ECOXSG]2.0.CO;2.

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