Cladonia cristatella

Little rat hats of British Soldier Lichens are fruiting bodies called “apothecium”. Close up picture of apothecium under dissecting microscope.

Kingdom: Fungi

Phyla: Ascomycota

Class: Lecanoromycetes

Order: Lecanorales

Family: Cladoniaceae

Genus: Cladonia

Species: C. cristatella

Cladonia cristatella growing on the rotten wood in East Lansing



Description: Cladonia cristatella is very common and well-known lichen. It is found in most northeastern part of the USA and Canada. The little caps that on top of the lichen resemble the red hats that was worn during the invasion of British Troops by American Revolutionary and that was given the common name of this lichen “British Soldier Lichen”. In real life those little red caps are the sexual fruiting bodies of the fungus called apothecia. Apothecium is an open ascocarp that bears ascospores in asci. The American botanist Edward Tuckerwan in 1858 was first who identified this species. Cladonia means mountains and cristatella translates to crested.

Ecology notes: Cladonia cristatella usually grows on rotting wood. But they also found at the base of the healthy tree and mossy logs. Also in some places it can grow on rocky places and cement.

The lichens divided into different types and this British soldier lichens are considered fructose lichen. They are one of the very bright colored and beautiful lichens.

Map is showing where British Soldier Lichens are found in nature

The red caps “apothecia” produces when lichen older than 4 years. Pieces of lichens that breaks apart can start making a new life, if they have right condition to do. Most of the lichens are slow growing once and British Soldier is not an exception. They only grow 1-2 millimeters in a year.

Relevance to humans: Lichens known as an indicator of good air. If you see a lot of lichens around you, then you should know that the air is not polluted and it is healthy environment for lichen. Lichens have been used for medicine, dyes and perfumes, and also some used as a decorations.


References: british_soldiers.htm






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