Observation 196201: Cladonia P. Browne

When: 2015-01-01

Collection location: Wildwood Park, Radford City, Virginia, USA [Click for map]

Who: Dr. Gary Coté (gcote)

No specimen available

Growing on fence rail in moderately open area. Podetium about 4 or 5 mm tall.

Proposed Names

52% (2)
Eye3 Eyes3
Recognized by sight
15% (2)
Recognized by sight
30% (2)
Recognized by sight

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Eye3 = Observer’s choice
Eyes3 = Current consensus


Add Comment
My only concern is about the texture of the cortex
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2015-01-16 10:06:24 PST (-0800)

C. cristatella usually has a smooth cortex or at most somewhat rimose. Yes, it can sometimes do that crazy form with the abundant podetial squamules, but under those squamules it’s usually still smooth. Instead the texture of this specimen looks more like crumpled up blocks of ice during spring melt, which is what C. coccifera looks like. That’s all I’m going on. I readily admit that this could well just be a new variation on C. cristatella which I’ve never seen. The low elevation and exposed habitat definitely give me pause. (But I don’t want to let such petty details get in the way of a lively debate! :)

Looking at the keys in various other sources (especially the Great Smoky Mountains checklist that Lendemer and Tripp recently published), I can’t find any other plausible options.

I will definitely keep an eye out for similar specimens in the future, yoo!

I think it’s C. cristatella
By: Dr. Gary Coté (gcote)
2015-01-16 06:47:58 PST (-0800)

The more I think about it and the more we discuss it, the more I lean towards C. cristatella. I wish a third party would post an opinion. I will keep an eye on that fence and post any relevant changes. Perhaps someday enough purple podetia will sprout to collect and test.

Beautiful picture of the C. coccifera cup, by the way.

Yes that’s probably best
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2015-01-15 13:03:49 PST (-0800)

Despite everything I’ve argued, I certainly wouldn’t rule out C. cristatella completely either. Variation cuts both ways!

Maybe have to leave as Cladonia
By: Dr. Gary Coté (gcote)
2015-01-15 12:04:16 PST (-0800)

Point taken on variation. However, C. coccifera may be common above 5000 ft, but the fence is nowhere near 5000 ft. The specimens collected way above us in Shenandoah weren’t that high. So I’m still hesitant to accept that species.

Agreed that certainty requires someone with more experience and probably chemistry, but given its rarity (two on the fence) I hesitate to collect and test it.

You make some fair points, but if I may…
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2015-01-15 10:20:38 PST (-0800)

1) re: C. coccifera is arctic-alpine species — Yes, predominantly, but it is well-documented from high-elevations in the southern Appalachians. It is actually fairly common above 5000’ in the Smokies, and I’ve found it on Jane Bald in northern North Carolina. (The photo below was taken of a specimen from there.)

2) re: C. coccifera generally produces cups — Absolutely,but as you say, “generally”. My thinking is that if this is the only podetium present looking like this on the entire fence, then I conclude that the conditions are marginal, and lichens usually become distorted in various ways when struggling. I usually find the species on the ground in high-elevation spruce-fir forests. Here on a fence presumably in the open (with C. cristatella), this doesn’t surprise me.

3) re: this is purple-brown not red — This color variant for red species is not uncommon when found in unusually exposed places (for that species, obviously some red species like C. cristatella or C. macilenta typically grow in exposed places and manage to preserve their red color just fine). Here’s a close-up of the budding apothecia and/or pycnidia of a struggling exposed specimen from ~5700’ on Jane Bald in northern North Carolina. I think this color is pretty close to yours — certainly within expected uncertainty due to unavoidable issues with color-balancing in photography. Granted, yes, it does form cups unlike yours. But at least it demonstrates, I think, that this dark purple-brown-red ambiguous color is not out of the question. And this is not the most extreme example I’ve seen.

But obviously, in the end, only an expert with specimen in hand will be able to dispel any doubts. And in this case TLC is required to rule out C. borealis at very least, and should be done on general principle besides on any extreme forms such as this. The more data to base decisions on, the merrier!

It’s all just about having fun here on MO. :)

Two counts against that identification.
By: Dr. Gary Coté (gcote)
2015-01-15 06:29:53 PST (-0800)

Thanks Jason for your comments and suggested identification. However, I think C. coccifera is unlikely on two counts. 1) C. coccifera is an Arctic/alpine species, and while Wildwood Park is in the Appalachians, we are not alpine but in the New River Valley at about 2100 feet. C. coccifera is on the checklist of Virginia lichens, but was collected in the Shenandoah National Park which has some alpine areas. 2) C. coccifera generally produces cups while this specimen does not seem to. Admittedly, C. coccifera can be variable in form, and I would be more inclined to accept the identification if some cup-bearing forms were growing with it. However, it was quite lonely except for the presumed primary squamules.

The color really was a purple brown. There is some reddish tinge, as you noticed, but it was not true red. I wondered if it were pathological, but it looks otherwise healthy. I also wondered if it might be a purple variant of C. cristatella, which was quite common elsewhere on the fence rail, although not in the immediate vicinity of this specimen or of another purple one we found. However, I can find no mention of a purple variant of this or any other Cladonia in my books or on the web. It does not seem to be a chocolate brown species (C. rei or C. parasitica). If it is a variant of a red one, I would vote for C. cristatella.

Once I realized the apothecia are probably (supposed to be) red
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2015-01-13 16:19:45 PST (-0800)

… it clicked into place. I see a distinct red hue in the apothecia, and that together with that platy texture on the podetia, almost like C. pyxidata, is perfect for C. coccifera. (Or C. borealis, but it seems that that species is not present in the southern Appalachians.) This is exactly what my specimens look like (except for the unusually black apothecia).

Created: 2015-01-13 14:38:31 PST (-0800)
Last modified: 2015-01-15 13:04:17 PST (-0800)
Viewed: 125 times, last viewed: 2017-06-19 16:07:39 PDT (-0700)
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