When I first saw this about 15 years ago, I thought it was some type of moss or fern or? Originally growing on old pahoehoe lava flow with various grasses, but lots of bare spots of exposed lava and sunshine. Since then, the uluhe ferns have invaded the area. This lichen still persists underneath the uluhe, but it now appears to be struggling.

Species Lists


Growing over the base of a long ago toppled ohia (which continued to survive on it’s side) on old pahoehoe lava flow.
Typical setting, with other grasses & ferns.
Used as convenient media when planting orchids years ago. This lichen seems to thrive on these two ohia trees, as opposed to the terrestrial habitat originally seen.
dichotome branching
cortex texture
darkened tips on some examples – not sure if significant

Proposed Names

8% (2)
Recognized by sight
21% (2)
Recognized by sight
30% (2)
Recognized by sight
28% (1)
Recognized by sight: based on yellowish color and dichotomous branching, see comments

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= Observer’s choice
= Current consensus


Add Comment
Thanks, Chris
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2012-02-18 10:51:22 PST (-0800)

What a confusing mess! Note that Elix and McCarthy 2008 include Cladonia ciliata f. tenuis, but not in boldface. Not sure what that means.

According to Stenroos and Smith, both C. magnussonii and C. skottsbergii f. fuscescens are lacking usnic acid, so those are ruled out for the present observation. But that still leaves the same three options:

C. ciliata f. tenuis (?)
C. leiodea
C. skottsbergii

Even if we throw out tenuis (based on confusion surrounding it, it’s unlikely to be common, right?), I think we’re still stuck between the other two without P test. (KOH might do in a pinch, but the K+ yellowish/dingy brownish of fumarprotocetraric is a tough one to interpret. Make sure the KOH solution is strong, and give it a long time to act. After an hour, the spot should be distinctly discolored. With a very strong solution, you can get distinct reddish-brown within a minute.)

Interesting discussion. Learned a lot about Pacific Cladonia. :)

Pacific Island lichens
By: Chris Parrish (kitparrish)
2012-02-18 06:44:16 PST (-0800)

The Checklist of Pacific Island Lichens (Elix and McCarthy, 2008) includes a list of 890 lichens from the Hawaiian Islands. Among the Hawaiian Cladonia are

Cladonia leiodea H. Magn.
Cladonia magnussonii Ahti
Cladonia skottsbergii H. Magn. f. skottsbergii
Cladonia skottsbergii f. fuscescens Ahti

Hawaiian Cladina
By: Chris Parrish (kitparrish)
2012-02-17 22:25:51 PST (-0800)

Stenroos and Smith, 1993, Notes on the amphipacific relations of Hawaiian Cladoniaceae, report 22 species of Cladoniaceae from the Hawaiian Islands, including four species of Cladina:
Cladina leiodea endemic, known from most Hawaiian Islands
Cladina magnussonii endemic, known only from the summit of West Maui
Cladina skottsbergii endemic, known from most Hawaiian Islands
Cladina f. fuscescens [not endemic?, apparently = Cladonia pycnoclada, which is known from Florida, the Dominican Republic, and Chile, fide CNALH]

The last name apparently refers to Cladina pycnoclada f. fuscescens (Ahti) Ahti which is now a synonym of Cladonia pycnoclada (Pers.) Nyl. according to the Smithsonian Names in the Cladoniaceae, which lists all four species as members of the genus Cladonia and gives nomenclatural references for each one.

The EOL page for Cladina attaches “f. fuscescens” to two different names:
Cladina pycnoclada f. fuscescens (Ahti) Ahti 1984
Cladina skottsbergii f. fuscescens (Ahti) Ahti 1984

Smith’s Checklist of lichens and lichenicolous fungi of Hawaii (USA) includes the following entries for Hawaiian Cladina:
Cladina ciliata f. tenuis (Flörke) Ahti – Elix & McCarthy (1998: )
Cladina leiodea (H. Magn.) Ahti – Elix & McCarthy (1998: 61)
Cladina magnussonii (Ahti) Ahti – Elix & McCarthy (1998: 61)
Cladina mitis (Sandst.) Hustich – Elix & McCarthy (1998: 62)
Cladina portentosa (Dufour) Follmann – Elix & McCarthy (1998: 62)
Cladina pycnoclada (Pers.) Leight. – Elix & McCarthy (1998: 62)
Cladina rangiferina (L.) Nyl. – Elix & McCarthy (1998: 62)
Cladina skottsbergii (H. Magn.) Follmann f. skottsbergii – Elix & McCarthy (1998: 62)
Cladina skottsbergii (H. Magn.) Follmann f. fuscescens (Ahti) Ahti – Elix & McCarthy (1998: 62)

You make a convincing case!
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2012-02-17 21:24:09 PST (-0800)

Fair enough. Color is hard to get right in digital photography, so let’s just chalk the whitish appearance of the first photo up to generic color-balancing problems.

Great close-ups! Yes, definitely branching in 2’s. The black tips are pycnidia. (The coloroless or red “gelatine” would be found inside these, presumably. I’ve never checked.)

Wish we could get more info on these species. C. tenuis appears to be called C. ciliata var. tenuis nowadays. There are photos of it on the web, looking nothing like yours. (The bent tips are conspicuous in the photos I saw, but I still urge caution in putting too much weight in that.)

By: Richard Greever (rgreever)
2012-02-17 16:19:32 PST (-0800)

Checked all three colonies photographed. All have branching forks of two. All are light yellow to yellow-greenish. Today they seem to have a bit more green, perhaps from the recent rains…

This seems to reduce the choices to C. tenuis, C. leiodea and C. skottsbergii in 2’s.

Magn. & Zahlbr. distinguish between C. leiodea and C. skottsbergii based on the smooth cortex of C. leiodea. Added detailed cortex image – which I don’t know if counts as smooth or finely textured.

Today noticed the tips of some examples are darkened. Added photograph, but don’t know if this is significant/useful.

Magn. & Zahlbr. don’t discuss C. tenuis

I think the first photo isn’t yellowish
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2012-02-17 12:04:18 PST (-0800)

The main characters in Magn. & Zahlbr. are useless for us, unfortunately. We don’t have the result of the PD or K tests, and I have long since given up trying to make sense out of the “branch tips bent in one direction” character. I find it to be completely bogus. The branching pattern is, however, more useful. “Polytome” versus “dichotome” means how many branches emerge from each node. Look especially toward the tips. Dichotome means it forks in twos. Polytomes means there are whorls of 3 or more branches at each node. It’s a difficult thing to see in photos, and it’s always variable on any one thallus in the best of circumstances, but there is usually a general trend toward more or fewer branches.

C. rangiferina and C. mitis branch in 3’s and 4’s; I don’t know about C. impexa. C. sylvatica and C. fallax are apparently in 3’s and 4’s, C. tenuis, C. leiodea and C. skottsbergii in 2’s.

There just doesn’t seem to be enough information to make an educated guess.

All light yellow in color
By: Richard Greever (rgreever)
2012-02-17 05:03:41 PST (-0800)

Not sure what leads to suspecting two or more species being shown.

I would guess C. leiodea, but don’t understand all the terms used in key found in Hawaiian Lichens by Magnusson & Zahlbruckner.

Quite a few species of Cladina in Hawaiian flora
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2012-02-15 15:48:26 PST (-0800)

Who knew?? Three gray ones: C. rangiferina, C. mitis, and C. impexa. Five yellowish/greenish ones: C. sylvatica, C. tenuis, C. fallax, C. leiodea, and C. skottsbergii. I’ve never even heard of most of these. I’d suspect your photos show two or more species. I’d have guessed C. subtenuis from my southeastern US experience, but that’s not even an option. Of course, names have undoubtedly changed since 1944, when the above list of species was published…