dish of lichens

Photo courtesy P.S. Williams

Reindeer lichen species on the Emerald Coast

On 2009, May 2, I received a thick oversized book entitled Lichens of North America. Reading it makes me stop and think more deeply about how to identify deer lichen species in my area, the Emerald Coast of Florida. The book categorizes Cladina species as reindeer lichens. Other lichens are not. The USDA also identifies 14 species of Cladina; only two in NW Florida. Deer moss, reindeer moss, and deer lichen are short terms for what is generally called reindeer lichen. See a list of links to relevant pages in the book.

In the picture above, you see the two types of reindeer lichens in Florida: Cladonia evansii is the powder-puff lichen in the the foreground. In the book, published in 2001, it is called Cladina evansii. This usage has not been changed in the corrections cited on the book page for the 2007 edition of the book. However, on the photographer's web site, it is Cladonia evansii. The photographer verifies that Cladinas are now in fact Cladonias but all web sites have not been updated. The other type is Cladonia subtenuis or Dixie reindeer lichen, which I recognize as often greener or more yellowish than the powder puff lichen. It forms large mounds or clumps.

From the book, page 224: "the reindeer lichens differ from most species of Cladonia (also stalked, hollow, fruticose lichens) in lacking an outer cortex and any scale-like squamules at the base of the podetia or on the stalks themselves." So what is an outer cortex? Outer dense, protective skin of fungal tissue. What are scale-like squamules? Small, overlapping lobes. What are podetia? Fruticose (branching) fruiting structures. What are stalks? A stem or main axis of an organism. In other words, the reindeer lichens differ from most species of Cladonia in lacking a dense outer skin and having no small, overlapping lobes at the base of branched fruiting structures or on the stems.

Also, deer moss is a common name for the most common reindeer lichen on the Emerald Coast, Cladonia evansii. How should I document plants that grow with deer moss? Should I separate them into their own sections? Or should I maintain sections based on sites with neighboring plants and separate species by identification? More basically, what really matters in this inquiry? I call them deer lichen and friends, growing together, documented together.

Back to Lookout 2009, deer lichen identification.

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