Grey Reindeer Lichen

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Top view of Cladonia rangiferina

Cladonia rangiferina is also known as grey reindeer lichen belonging to the Cladoniaceae family. The thallus is prostrate and squamulose. The secondary thallus (podetium) is more conspicuous, being upright and fruticose. Fruticose forms are three-dimensional and have been described as shrubby and stringy. Podetia are hollow, higlybranched, and capable of trapping wind-blown algae. They grow upward at the tip and die back at the base. The spore-producing fungal bodies (apothecia) are produced at the tips of the podetia. It forms extensive carpets on the ground in open coniferous forest and in open sites, from lowland bogs to arctic tundra. It is relatively widespread in the arctic and temperate zones of the United States and Canada. There are reports of reindeer lichens found in Southern distributional limits of Oregon, Montana, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia and New Jersey. Asexual reproduction of reindeer lichens occurs through fragmentation of the thallus or by small particles that contains both fungal and algal cells. Both means of vegetative regeneration can produce new thallus. Sexual reproduction occurs through fungal spore production. Reindeer lichens grow very slow but live very long. Average growth rate has been recorded between 4.8 to 11.1 mm/year and ages have been recorded over 100 years. Other notes: Northern native people used grey reindeer lichen as a medicine to treat colds, arthritis, fevers and other problems. Caribou and reindeer frequently graze this lichen. In Europe people have collected reindeer lichen as a fodder for livestock. It was believed that milk from the cows that eaten reindeer lichen would be creamier and their flesh would be better and sweater. This lichen is an excellent example of plant that has been adapted to surviving the severe conditions. Stress studies showed that only boiling and radiatian caused severe injury to these lichens.

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Cladonia rangiferina under dissecting microscope. Apothecia are produced at the tips of the podetia.

10.06.16

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