Dixie Reindeer Moss, Cladonia subtenuis
Sometimes called Dixie Reindeer Lichen because technically it is a lichen not a moss, but when have common names been technical?
Cladoniaceae or British Soldiers Family

Lichen on ground

Lichen body (thallus) much branched, resembling a leafless shrub. Varies in size from less than an inch to several inches across. The branching is mostly in pairs, and the ultimate tips are mostly in pairs. The axils (where the branches come together) are closed, meaning there is no hole there as in other reindeer moss species. The color is greenish white, and close up the surface looks fibrous (see below right); this is because this lichen has no proper outer skin and we are seeing the internal fungal fibers. The tips of the branches are brown.

Grows on the ground, on decaying wood, or on bare wood. The specimen at top left was on a decaying log along the Main Street Staircase, growing with Turban Lichen. The smaller one in the other pictures was growing on the fence along the bikepath, with red-tipped British Soldiers (top right).

Reindeer mosses are the highly branched, pale members of the genus Cladonia that lack an outer cortex (skin). There are many species in the north, but this is the only one known from Wildwood. The others can be distinguished by branching in threes or fours, by axils with holes in them, and by their overall shapes. All reindeer mosses, when dry, are very brittle. Pieces that break off can blow or wash away and start new lichens.

In boreal regions acres upon acres are covered with various species of reindeer moss, and they are a favorite and important food of reindeer and caribou. Not many reindeer are known in Dixie, so this species is fairly safe, although I would not be surprised if hungry deer nibble on it.

Lichen on fence
Lichen on fence   Branches

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