Lichen Species in the Christopher B. Smith Preserve

Lichen Characteristics: Lichens are tiny mini-ecosytems consisting of hundreds of individuals of at least two different types of organisms: 1) fungus and 2) photobionts (either a green alga or a cyanobacterium.) The fungus component ensures protection and regulates the supply of minerals and water. The photobionts photosynthesize, providing organic carbon. Click here to learn more about fungus and algae in the Smith Preserve.

Each lichen species has its own form and looks much different from the individual contributing organisms. Lichens are informally classified by the growth form of the thallus (body) as: 1) crustose ... paint-like), 2) foliose ... leafy, 3) fruticose ... branched, and 4) gelatinous ... thick and gluey. The physical and chemical properties of a substrate are very important in determining which lichens develop in a particular area. No one knows how many lichen species are on Earth, but estimates range from 13,500 to over 30,000. A survey of lichens growing in the Smith Preserve has just begun.

Interactions in the Smith Preserve: Lichens produce acids that slowly disintegrate the surface on which they grow. For that reason, they play an important role in breaking down rock and organic materials to form soil. They are an important energy source (food) for many animals including tiny invertebrates, deer, and some birds. Some birds use lichens to build nests. Some insects use lichens for camouflage. Where lichens cover the soil, they prevent the soil from drying out and help stabilize it for other plants to take root. To learn more about lichen soil crusts in the Smith Preserve, click here. Lichens have the ability to capture fog and dew, thus conserving moisture where water is scarce. Lichens accumulate and release nitrogen and phosphorous, required by many plants for healthy growth. In addition, lichens clean the environment by removing and storing air pollutants.


Thallus Growth Form
Species Name
Crustose
Crustose
Crustose
Crustose
Crustose
Crustose
Crustose
Crustose
Crustose
Crustose
Foliose
Foliose
Foliose
Foliose
Foliose
Fruticose
Fruticose
Fruticose
Fruticose
Fruticose

 

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Crustose Lichens

Crustose lichens are usually attached directly to the substrate. Their growth patterns are circular with new cells forming along the margins as older cells in the center die.

Arthonia sp. on Roystonea regia (Royal Palm)

This lichen has a white thallus and flat black structures that may be apothecia (fruiting bodies). It was identified by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013.

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Caloplaca sp. (Possibly) on Roystonea regia (Royal Palm)

This organism had the appearance of fine powder. It could be a lichen (Caloplaca sp.) or an alga (Trentepohlia sp.). If it is Caloplaca, it will stain blood-red with KOH solution. Identification was determined by Dr. Robert Lücking by analysis of these photographs January 8, 2013.

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Chrysothrix sp. on Decaying Wood

This lichen had the appearance of dried, powdered paint and was growing on a fallen tree branch. Identification of this lichen was made by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013.

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Chrysothrix sp. on Pinus elliottii (Slash Pine)

Identified by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013.

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Cryptothecia rubrocincta / Herpothallon rubrocinctum .... Christmas Wreath Lichen

on Quercus laurifolia (Laurel Oak)

 

Cryptothecia rubrocincta (aka. Herpothallon rubrocinctum) is a widely distributed lichen found in the tropics and subtropics, including the southeastern United States. The body of this lichen forms a continuous, circular patch on dead wood. The center of the lichen is the oldest portion and is fungal tissue. As shown in these photographs, this center is dotted with red spherical to cylindrical granules. The granules are asci, sexual spore-bearing cells of the fungus. Moving out from the center, there are 3 zones of color: gray-green, white, and a bright red cottony rim.

The distinctive red and green colors give it the appearance of a Christmas wreath, which is the origin of its common North American name, "Christmas Wreath Lichen." The red pigment in this lichen is chiodectonic acid, one of several chemicals produced to help the lichen tolerate inhospitable growing conditions.

An unusual thing about the Christmas wreath lichen is that it lacks fruiting bodies.

Identification of this lichen was confirmed by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013.

 

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Cryptothecia sp. on Bursera simarouba (Gumbo Limbo)

Identification of this lichen was made by Dr. Robert Lücking from this photograph on January 8, 2013. He identified it as probably a young, sterile Cryptothecia sp.

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Dyplolabia afzelii on Coccoloba uvifera (Sea Grape)

This is a script lichen with elongated apothecia. As seen in these photographs, the apothecia have narrow slit openings (lirellae). The apothecium is a fungal reproductive structure in which the fungus produces spores. The spores will disperse and germinate to become new fungi. The spores do not produce new lichens. For a new lichen to be created, the fungus and photobiont must disperse together. In script lichens, the thallus is very thin and grows within the outer bark tissues of the tree. Identification of this lichen was made by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013.

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Graphis sp. on Roystonea regia (Royal Palm)

This white lichen is overgrown by orange algae (Trentepohlia sp.). (To learn more about Trentepohlia in the Smith Preserve, click here.) The black lines indicate that this is a script lichen. Script lichens are crustose lichens with strange hieroglyphics that are the fruits of the lichen. Script lichens are often found on the smooth bark of trees growing in moist, shaded locations. The royal palm on which this lichen is growing has smooth bark and it is growing adjacent to the Smith Preserve's filter marsh. Identification of this lichen and algae was made by Dr. Robert Lücking from examination of these photographs on January 8, 2013.

 

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Graphis sp. (Probably G. caesiella) on Bursera simarouba (Gumbo Limbo)

The strange hieroglyphics (fruiting bodies) are characteristic of script lichens. Script lichens are often found on the smooth bark of trees, growing in moist, shaded locations. This lichen was growing in the hammock portion of the Smith Preserve on the smooth bark of a gumbo limbo tree. Identification of this lichen was made by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013.

 

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Leucodecton sp. on Dead Branch

Identification of this lichen was made by Dr. Robert Lücking from this photograph on January 8, 2013. According to Dr. Lücking, this lichen "is crustose but often forms inflated, gall-like thalli."

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Foliose Lichens

Foliose lichens have a sheet-like structure and are attached directly to the substrate by root-like growths (rhizines). The rest of the lichen is held above the substrate to maximize photosynthesis. The lower surface of the thallus is made of absorptive tissue, the mid-layer contains the photobiont, and the upper surface is fungal tissue. Growth takes place at the margins, and the margins are usually lobed.

Cladonia sp. on Sand

The foliose ground lichen shown above is quite common in the Smith Preserve scrub. An area where it can be easily observed is from Smith Preserve Way, the elevated roadway into the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center. The photograph above was taken looking north to the roadway.

 

The lichen shown at far left was photographed in the winter on a very dry day. As can be seen, the lichen was dried out, flattened and curled, and had many grayish-white lobes. For scale, the ground is covered with the fallen leaves of Quercus virginiana (Virginia Live Oak).

At left, this lobed section of the thallus expanded, turned green, and became erect after a rain.

In the three photographs below, a cluster of lichens were spritzed with water to observe the reaction. As can been seen (moving left to right) after being hydrated, the lichen quickly became erect and turned green. This process took only minutes.

Identification of this lichen was confirmed by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs January 8, 2013.

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Cladonia sp. on Dead Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto)

Identification of this lichen was made by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013.

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Parmotrema sp. on Asimina reticulata (Netted Pawpaw)

Parotrema sp. belongs to Family Parmeliaceae. The example above was located on a branch of Asimina reticulata (Netted Pawpaw.) The photographs above show that under dry conditions, the thallus is tightly curled, shriveled, and gray. Following a rain, as shown below, the lichen rehydrates, turns green, and the thallus flattens.

 

The close-up at left shows these large ruffled lichens have black cilia growing along the edges of the thallus.

Species of Parmotrema are collected in large quantities as a food supplement in India and for medicinal uses including as a diuretic, headache remedy, sedative, and antibiotic for wounds.

 

Identification of this lichen was confirmed by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013.

 

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Parmotrema sp. on Quercus geminata (Sand Live Oak)

The lichen below was growing on a branch of sand live oak. It is similarly adorned like the lichen shown above with cilia. In addition, it has apothecia (cup-like structures that are spore-producing bodies.) The spores are produced by the fungal portion of the lichen. Once a spore has been dispersed, it must come in contact with a compatible photobiont before a new lichen will form.

Identification of this lichen was confirmed by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013.

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Physcia sp. on Roystonea regia (Royal Palm)

The larger grayish-green lichen in this photograph has the classic shape of a crustose lichen with its circular shape, but it is leafy and lobed like other foliose lichens, as shown in the close-up. Other smaller lichens in the first photograph appear to be similarly lobed, but without the circular shape.

Identification of this lichen was confirmed by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013.

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Fruticose Lichens

Fruticose lichens are attached to the substrate by a holdfast. The thallus of the lichen is either erect or hanging downward, and often highly branched. Growth takes place at the ends of the “stems”. The thallus elevates above the substrate and remains attached only at the holdfast.

Cladina confusa .... Reindeer Moss Lichen on Sand

Cladina confusa is a member of Family Cladoniaceae. This lichen is a very slow growing, grey-green, fruticose lichen. Large mats of this genus take decades to develop. Since fire kills this lichen, the large carpet shown in the first photograph above is an indication that the area has not been burned for a very long time. The first photograph shows that this particular carpet in the Smith Preserve is growing adjacent to Ceratiola ericoides (Florida Rosemary). Ceratiola ericoides produces a chemical that suppresses the germination of other species, but because reindeer moss, like all lichens, lacks roots, it is not affected by the chemical. Cladina lichens also produce chemicals which leach into the soil and inhibit the germination of plant seeds and growth of young plants.

When the weather is dry, this lichen is brittle and crunchy. After a rain, it can be as soft as a cotton ball.

The close-ups below show the many intertwining branches of this species. All Cladina spp. propagate by fragmentation, which is a type of asexual reproduction in which the branches break off and each fragment develops into a new individual that is a clone of the original organism.

Thousands of tons of Cladina spp. are collected each year for use in Christmas and graveyard wreaths and for model building. Architects and model railway builders use the reindeer moss lichen to make realistic looking miniature trees and shrubs.

Identification of this lichen's genus was confirmed by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013. The species name appears in on original scrub plant survey conducted prior to 2005 by Charles Holmes and Michael Seef.

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Cladonia sp. ..... British Soldiers Lichen on a Dead Serenoa repens (Saw Palmetto) Trunk

Cladonia sp. is a member of Family Cladoniaceae. The photograph at left shows this fruticose lichen growing on a decomposing trunk of Serenoa repens. The lichen helps break down the wood and puts nutrients back into the soil for plants to utilize.

 

British soldier lichens look like red-tipped match sticks. The red structures are a form of asexual reproductive material consisting of special propagules of algal cells surrounded by fungal filaments. These powder-like structures called soredia are dispersed by the wind, water and small animals.

Identification of this lichen was confirmed by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013.

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Ramalina sp. on Roystonea regia (Royal Palm)

 

This lichen has characteristics of both foliose and fruticose lichens. It is leaf-like with branches. In addition, it has apothecia (cup-like structures that are spore-producing bodies.) The spores are produced by the fungal portion of the lichen. Once a spore has been dispersed, it must come in contact with a compatible photobiont before a new lichen will form. Identification of this lichen was made by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013.

 

 

 

 

As shown enlarged at left, the thallus is shaped somewhat like a celery stalk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ramalina sp. on Roystonea regia (Royal Palm)

This fruticose lichen is growing in in middle of the foliose lichen described earlier, growing on the royal palm. As shown in the enlargement (2nd photograph), this lichen has many pointed spikes on its thallus. Identification of this lichen was made by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013.

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Ramalina sp. On Stick On Sand

Identification of this lichen was made by Dr. Robert Lücking from these photographs on January 8, 2013.

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© Photographs and text by Susan Leach Snyder (Conservancy of Southwest Florida Volunteer), unless otherwise credited above.

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