Species: Florida perforate reindeer lichen (Cladonia perforata)
Status: Endangered (EN)
Interesting Fact: The Florida perforate reindeer lichen is not known to reproduce sexually, instead spreading vegetatively when broken-off pieces of the lichen re-grow.
As its name suggests, the Florida perforate reindeer lichen is found only in Florida in the United States, where it occurs in three separate regions, each with a number of highly fragmented populations. Like other lichens, this species consists of two different organisms, a fungus and an alga, living in a close symbiotic relationship. The Florida perforate reindeer lichen grows in a complex branching pattern, with each branch measuring around four to six centimetres in length. The branches are smooth and yellowish- or greyish-green, and have conspicuous holes at the base. This species grows slowly, only branching once a year. The Florida perforate reindeer lichen grows on high sand dune ridges among Florida rosemary scrub, where it typically occurs in open patches of sand between the shrubs.
One of the main threats to the Florida perforate reindeer lichen is habitat loss due to development and land conversion. This species is also vulnerable to disturbances caused by fires and hurricanes, and can be trampled by people and by vehicles using sand dunes for recreation. In 1993, the Florida perforate reindeer lichen became the first lichen species to be placed on the U.S. Endangered Species List, meaning that all federal landowners with populations of this species are responsible for protecting and conserving it. In addition, Florida has an active conservation programme which monitors and conserves species such as this by acquiring and managing land. Several of this lichen’s populations are protected, and the species has been reintroduced to some locations. Further measures are needed to ensure that the Florida perforate reindeer lichen and its habitat are protected from trampling and unsuitable fire regimes.
Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author