Identification: Reindeer Moss outside its native range?

Discussion in 'Fungi, Lichens and Slime Molds' started by Caseylee Bastien, Jan 9, 2021.

  1. Caseylee Bastien

    Caseylee Bastien New Member

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    Hello, I came across something unusual for my region and I'm looking for some opinions on my ID and any background on its culture. I believe this is Reindeer Moss, (Cladonia rangiferina). I found it over a wide area at an discontinued air field in Harvard Massachusetts we are northwest of Boston. It was spotted while doing site analysis for ecological resiliency grants. I've never seen this in New England before. The closest we come would be Spanish moss on pine oak scrub on our south coast. otherwise we have few fruiticose lichens. I thought this only grows in Canada and the Northwest.
    The soil condition is rare as well, its an inland pitch pine savannah with deep sandy soil.
    Can you recommend any resources for more detail? If you travel have you seen it or similar varieties that show up in lower temperate areas?
     

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  2. Frog

    Frog Rising Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Hi @Caseylee Bastien - Lovely find and great question!

    Cladonia rangiferina and similar fruticose Cladonia species are found in your area, and I think C. rangiferina has the broadest range of the Cladina-type Cladonias, extending on the eastern side of the continent down to North Carolina.
    Also in your area are similar species Cladonia arbuscula, Cladonia mitis, Cladonia stellaris, Cladonia submitis, Cladonia subtenuis and others. I have not looked into relative abundance of any of these Cladinas in your region, as yes if you are rarely seeing this, it would be very interesting to know what the records show for your area. And to know what specifically may be affecting abundance.

    I'll take a closer look at your photos a bit later and see if whether I can confirm your ID - I might not be able to re the species you have in your area that I do not, and w/o specimen in hand but will see what is possible
    I am in the PNW, in BC, and have not done much lichen-observing on the east coast.

    We likely have more fruticose species here than in your area, but you do still have quite a few, though some are smaller and/or more cryptic.

    What sort of cultural background are you looking for?

    An excellent resource is Lichens of North America by Brodo, Sharnoff and Sharnoff.
    This is an online NA checklist (see Cladina rather than Cladonia), but it is not regionally specific: North American Lichen Checklist
    And here are a few regional east coast checklists: http://sweetgum.nybg.org/science/projects/southeastlichens/checklists/

    Hope that is helpful
    - frog
     
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  3. Caseylee Bastien

    Caseylee Bastien New Member

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    Thank's, that's very helpful. I'll check the book and the checklists for more information.

    For cultural background I'm looking for growing condition limits to protect and even replicate this as part of a natural groundcover palate. How readily could we transplant or cultivate it?
    I'd like it to be an alternative to lawns or part of green-roof palate. The airfield is part of a redevelopment zone. We are able to set design standards for the prospective developers and designate limited areas of protection. These will include building efficiency, stormwater management, and landscape requirements emphasizing nature based solutions.
     
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  4. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    Though you've given the nickname "Reindeer moss", you've correctly posted it in this forum as a lichen. Would a lichen be unusual to use in the situations you mention?
    I suppose on a roof it would hold less moisture than moss? My friends just mentioned having moss removed from their roof, not only to ward off complaints from the neighbours, but because of all that moisture it holds.
     
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  5. Frog

    Frog Rising Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    re:
    Interesting question. In general lichens are quite picky about habitat, and within a genus there can be multiple preferences. Growth rate and tolerance to transplant also varies. So, I think you need specialist knowledge this question, and I will make some inquiries.

    A few thoughts:
    There are other terrestrial lichens that will readily reattach: It strikes me as an advantage to be able to do so, hopefully the Cladina-types can. Reproduction/spread by fragmentation is fairly common in lichens. Some Cladonias (I don't know whether Cladina types do or not) send hyphae into the soil, which in my experience is a bit unusual in lichens, but it may be relevant in some way to what you are proposing. In my area Cladinas are sharply restricted to specific habitats and are very vulnerable to disturbance. They do not appear to be very tolerant of poor air quality, but that should be looked into: They are not on my lists of the usual NA species used in air quality studies, probably because they are so habitat restricted/vulnerable. I have no information on speed of growth, but all things considered I would expect it to be slower than arboreal fruticose lichens. Again, needs to be looked into, hopefully someone has studied this: Growth rates are not easy to measure in lichens. Although a rooftop would provide the sun exposure most Cladina-type Cladonias require, I wonder about the effect of heat emanating from the surface as well as the limits to potential substrates used. I also expect there will be more research of relevance to your question coming from Scandanavian countries rather than NA, as there is some commercial activity there, but be cautioned of the potential differences between similar looking species.

    I will respond again if I find any useful info,
    frog
     
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  6. Frog

    Frog Rising Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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  7. Caseylee Bastien

    Caseylee Bastien New Member

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    Thank's. This was exactly what I was hoping for. We know the airstrip will be redeveloped and that high environmental value low energy buildings will be a requirement. With the lichen widely available here but regionally rare we can make transplanting it to extensive roof gardens a marketable feature. As a light weight, low albido, atmospheric nitrogen fixer it will improve rooftop conditions for companion plants like the bluestem and low bush blueberry it is sharing space with now, it is also a pale color 'low albido' evergreen so it keeps soil temperatures down which is good for the soil and the building energy efficiency. Keeping it on the same site means we know we have a microclimate it can thrive in. This lichen is a key nutritional component in the diet of Caribou. We lost the last of our Caribou around 1900 after the massive land clearing activities associated with logging and wool production. If cultivating it here helps it to increase regionally it may help renew other species in the future.
     

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