Species of the Month - March 2018

Reindeer Lichen

Cladonia portentosa

Cladonia portentosa

Reindeer Lichen is an elegant multi-branched whitish to pale blue lichen, usually found growing with heather.  It occurs on bogs, heathland and peaty moorland.  It can also sometimes be found on mossy walls, fallen trees and rocky roadside banks.  At Tralee beach it grows on damp sand among marram.

Cladonia portentosa

In this photo by Jan Hamilton from our April 2017 LNHG field trip, Reindeer Lichen is growing on a heathery trackside bank.  There are several Cladonia species that could be confused with Reindeer Lichen, though they are all much less common than it.  Most of them have all the branch tips turned in one direction, as if they had been swept by a strong wind.  As this photo shows, Reindeer Lichen has branches growing in all directions.

Cladonia portentosa

Reindeer Lichen often forms large round cushions, but it can also occur as several scattered small pieces like this one.

Cladonia portentosa

The stems are repeatedly branched, dividing into 2 to 4 branches each time, often with a hole in the centre from which the branches radiate.  With each successive branching, the branches become thinner and shorter, until at the very tips there are minute branches, often with brown reproductive bodies called pycnidia on the end of them.

Cladonia portentosa

The surface of Reindeer Lichen is rough with whitish "warts", as this photo shows.  If instead the surface is smooth with green "islands", then you probably have Cladonia rangiformis, which can look similar to C portentosa since it too has branches in all directions (unlike all the other confusion species).  It does not grow on heathy ground however.

  Cladonia portentosa

Reindeer lichen is protected under the EU Habitats Directive, and is therefore one of the priority species that SNH have asked us to record in connection with their funding of our recording activities.  Although common in our area, it is indicative of a habitat - bog and heather moorland - which is declining all over Europe and is in urgent need of protection.  The north and west of Scotland is a stronghold of this habitat.

Please send in your Reindeer Lichen sightings using the form below, or email sightings@lnhg.org.uk with the details if you prefer.  If you are not sure of the identity of your lichen, please send a photo to sightings@lnhg.org.uk, or put one on the LNHG Facebook page.

Date of sighting 
Grid reference 
Name of finder 
Your name (if different) 
Email (not needed if I already know it!) 
Any other details, e.g habitat    


By filling in this form you agree that the information contained in this form may be collated and disseminated manually or electronically for environmental decision-making, education, research and other public benefit uses in accordance with the LNHG data access policy.  Your email address will not form part of the record and will not be passed on to anyone.

Carl Farmer
LNHG Biological Records Manager

Note you can still send in records for past species of the month.  Here are the previous March species:

Mar 2017 - Butterbur
Mar 2016 - Coltsfoot
Mar 2015 - Hebrew Character
Mar 2014 - Hairy Bittercress
Mar 2013 - Oak Beauty
Mar 2012 - March Moth
Mar 2011 - Frogspawn

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This project is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage

All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer except where stated.  The 2nd photo is Jan Hamilton.  Mouse over photos to see credits.