British Soldiers, Cladonia cristatella
Cladoniaceae or British Soldiers Family

Lichen

Lichen body of two forms. First grow tiny (a few millimeters across) greenish flakes, called aquamules. From these squamules then grow little stubs, generally under a quarter inch tall, called podetia, which branch irregularly and are crowned with brilliant red caps. These caps are the spore-bearing structures (apothecia). The stubs are greenish like the squamules, and often have squamules growing on them. Individuals with yellow, orange, or puple apothecia are also known (as in the pictures in the bottom row. Grows on a variety of substrates, earth, decaying logs, stumps, and wooden structures.

 

Population

Common in the northeastern US into adjacent Canada. In Wildwood, quite common on fence rails, but you have to look carefully because of the tiny size. The pictures were taken of tiny populations growing on the fences near the North Bridge of the Riverway bikeway.

The genus Cladonia is one of the largest of the lichen genera. Many Cladonia have bright red apothecia and look at least somewhat like British Soldiers. However, this species is apparently the only one common on fences and other wooden structures. Only one other Cladonia is currently known from the Park; turban lichen (C. peziziformis) is generally unbranched and has pinkish-brown apothecia.

This is one of the very few lichens that are well known and have true common names invented by laypeople, as opposed to common names invented by lichen enthusiasts. The name comes from the fact that the lichen's red hats reminded colonial Americans of the similarly red hats and coats worn by the British military.

Population

 

Lichen
Dark form   Pale form

Flora & Fauna Home

Wildwood Home