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Cladonia rangiferina

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Cladonia rangiferina
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Ascomycota
Class: Lecanoromycetes
Order: Lecanorales
Family: Cladoniaceae
Genus: Cladonia
C. rangiferina
Binomial name
Cladonia rangiferina
(L.) Weber (1780)
  • Lichen rangiferinus L. (1753)
  • Verrucaria rangiferina (L.) Humb. (1793)
  • Baeomyces rangiferinus (L.) Ach. (1803)
  • Capitularia rangiferina (L.) Mart. (1817)
  • Patellaria foliacea var. rangiferina (L.) Wallr. (1829)
  • Patellaria rangiferina (L.) Wallr. (1831)
  • Cladonia fusca var. rangiferina (L.) Rabenh. (1840)
  • Cladina rangiferina (L.) Nyl. (1866)
  • Cladonia rangiferina var. abbayesii Ahti (1961)
  • Cladina rangiferina subsp. abbayesii (Ahti) W.L.Culb. (1983)
  • Cladonia rangiferina subsp. abbayesii (Ahti) Ahti & DePriest (2001)
Top view of C. rangiferina
The underside of C. rangiferina

Cladonia rangiferina, also known as reindeer cup lichen,[2] reindeer lichen (cf. Sw. renlav) or grey reindeer lichen, is a light-colored fruticose, cup lichen species in the family Cladoniaceae. It grows in both hot and cold climates in well-drained, open environments. Found primarily in areas of alpine tundra, it is extremely cold-hardy.

Other common names include reindeer moss, deer moss, and caribou moss, but these names can be misleading since it is, though somewhat moss-like in appearance, not a moss. As the common names suggest, reindeer lichen is an important food for reindeer (caribou), and has economic importance as a result. Synonyms include Cladina rangiferina and Lichen rangiferinus.


Cladonia rangiferina was first scientifically described by Carl Linnaeus in his 1753 Species Plantarum; as was the custom at the time, he classified it in the eponymous genus, as Lichen rangiferinus.[3] Friedrich Heinrich Wiggers transferred it to the genus Cladonia in 1780.[4]


Thalli are fruticose, and extensively branched, with each branch usually dividing into three or four (sometimes two); the thicker branches are typically 1–1.5 millimetres (132116 inch) in diameter.[5] The color is grayish, whitish or brownish gray. C. rangiferina forms extensive mats up to 10 centimetres (4 in) tall. The branching is at a smaller angle than that of Cladonia portentosa.[6] It lacks a well-defined cortex (a protective layer covering the thallus, analogous to the epidermis in plants), but rather, a loose layer of hyphae cover the photobionts. The photobiont associated with the reindeer lichen is Trebouxia irregularis.[7] It grows on humus, or on soil over rock. It is mainly found in the taiga and the tundra.

Reindeer lichen, like many lichens, is slow growing (3–11 millimetres or 1838 inch per year) and may take decades to return once overgrazed, burned, trampled, or otherwise damaged.[8]

A similar-looking but distinct species, also known by the common name "reindeer lichen", is Cladonia portentosa.


A variety of bioactive compounds have been isolated and identified from C. rangiferina, including abietane, labdane, isopimarane, the abietane diterpenoids hanagokenols A and B, obtuanhydride, sugiol, 5,6-dehydrosugiol, montbretol, cis-communic acid, imbricatolic acid, 15-acetylimbricatoloic acid, junicedric acid, 7α-hydroxysandaracopimaric acid, β-resorylic acid, atronol, barbatic acid, homosekikaic acid, didymic acid and condidymic acid. Some of these compounds have mild inhibitory activities against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci.[9] Exposure to UV-B radiation induces the accumulation of usnic acid and melanic compounds.[10] Usnic acid is thought to play a role in protecting the photosymbiont by absorbing excess UV-B.[11][12]


Cladonia rangiferina often dominates the ground in boreal pine forests and open, low-alpine sites in a wide range of habitats, from humid, open forests, rocks and heaths. A specific biome in which this lichen is represented is the boreal forests of Canada.[13]


Cladonia rangiferina is a known host to the lichenicolous fungus species Lichenopeltella rangiferinae, which is named after C. rangiferina, Lichenoconium pyxidatae[14] and Lichenopeltella uncialicola[15]


In certain parts of its range, this lichen is an endangered species. For example, in the British Duchy of Cornwall it is protected under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.


The reindeer lichen is edible, but crunchy. It can be soaked with wood ashes to remove its bitterness, then added to milk or other dishes.[16] It is a source of vitamin D.[17]

This lichen can be used in the making of aquavit,[18] and is sometimes used as decoration in glass windows. The lichen is used as a traditional remedy for removal of kidney stones by the Monpa in the alpine regions of the West Kameng district of Eastern Himalaya.[19] The Inland Dena'ina used reindeer lichen for food by crushing the dry lichen and then boiling it or soaking it in hot water until it becomes soft. They eat it plain or, preferably, mixed with berries, fish eggs, or lard. The Inland Dena'ina also boil reindeer lichen and drink the juice as a medicine for diarrhea. Acids present in lichens mean their consumption may cause an upset stomach, especially if not well cooked.[20]

According to a study published in 2017, reindeer lichen was able to grow on burnt soil as soon as two years after a forest fire in Northern Sweden, indicating that artificial replanting of lichen could be a useful strategy for the restoration of reindeer pastures.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "GSD Species Synonymy. Current Name: Cladonia rangiferina (L.) Weber, in Wiggers, Prim. fl. holsat. (Kiliae): 90 (1780)". Species Fungorum. Retrieved 22 June 2024.
  2. ^ "Standardized Common Names for Wild Species in Canada". National General Status Working Group. 2020.
  3. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1753). Species Plantarum (in Latin). Vol. 2. Stockholm: Impensis Laurentii Salvii. p. 1153.
  4. ^ Wiggers, Friedrich Heinrich (1780). Primitiae Florae Holsaticae (in Latin). Kiel, Germany: By the Press of Michael Friedrich Bartsch, Academic Printer. p. 90.
  5. ^ Geiser L, McCune B (1997). Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest. Corvallis, Oregon: Oregon State University Press. p. 62. ISBN 0-87071-394-9.
  6. ^ Raine M. (2009). Nature of Snowdonia: A Beginner's Guide to the Upland Environment. Pesda Press. p. 56. ISBN 978-1-906095-10-9.
  7. ^ Rikkinen, J. (1995). "What's behind the pretty colours?: a study on the photobiology of lichens". Bryobrothera. 4: 16.
  8. ^ Rook EJS (11 October 1999). "Cladonia species. Reindeer lichens". Archived from the original on 2012-04-03. Retrieved 2012-03-25.
  9. ^ Yoshikawa, Kazuko; Kokudo, Naoki; Tanaka, Masami; Nakano, Tatsuro; Shibata, Hirofumi; Aragaki, Naokatsu; Higuchi, Tomihiko; Hashimoto, Toshihiro (2008). "Novel Abietane Diterpenoids and Aromatic Compounds from Cladonia rangiferina and Their Antimicrobial Activity against Antibiotics Resistant Bacteria". Chemical & Pharmaceutical Bulletin. 56 (1): 89–92. doi:10.1248/cpb.56.89. PMID 18175983.
  10. ^ Nybakken, Line; Julkunen-Tiitto, Riitta (2006). "UV-B induces usnic acid in reindeer lichens". The Lichenologist. 38 (5): 477–485. doi:10.1017/S0024282906005883.
  11. ^ Bjerke, Jarle W.; Lerfall, Kjetil; Elvebakk, Arve (2002). "Effects of ultraviolet radiation and PAR on the content of usnic and divaricatic acids in two arctic-alpine lichens". Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences. 1 (9): 678–85. doi:10.1039/b203399b. PMID 12665305.
  12. ^ Bjerke, J; Elvebakk, A; Dominguez, E; Dahlback, A (2005). "Seasonal trends in usnic acid concentrations of Arctic, alpine and Patagonian populations of the lichen Flavocetraria nivalis". Phytochemistry. 66 (3): 337–44. doi:10.1016/j.phytochem.2004.12.007. PMID 15680990.
  13. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2008. Black Spruce: Picea mariana, GlobalTwitcher.com, ed. N. Stromberg Archived October 5, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Brackel, Wolfgang von (2011). "Lichenopeltella rangiferinae sp. nov. and some other lichenicolous fungi from Iceland" (PDF). Acta Botanica Islandica. 15: 51–60.
  15. ^ Zhurbenko, M.P.; Pino-Bodas, R. (2017). "A revision of lichenicolous fungi growing on Cladonia, mainly from the Northern Hemisphere, with a worldwide key to the known species". Opuscula Philolichenum. 16: 188–266.
  16. ^ United States Department of the Army (2009). The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants. New York: Skyhorse Publishing. p. 85. ISBN 978-1-60239-692-0. OCLC 277203364.
  17. ^ Björn, L.O.; Wang, T. (2000). "Vitamin D in an ecological context". International Journal of Circumpolar Health. 59 (1): 26–32. ISSN 1239-9736. PMID 10850004.
  18. ^ Meuninck, Jim (2018). Basic Illustrated Edible Wild Plants and Useful Herbs. Falcon Guides. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-4930-3641-7.
  19. ^ Rout, Jayashree; Kar, Ashish; Upreti, D. K. (2005). "Traditional remedy for kidney stones from a high altitude lichen: Cladonia rangiferina (L.) Wigg (reindeer moss) of Eastern Himalaya". Ethnobotany. 17 (1/2): 164–166.
  20. ^ "Caribou Moss – Cladonia rangiferina". Retrieved 2009-01-12.
  21. ^ Roturier, Samuel; Ollier, Sébastien; Nutti, Lars-Evert; Bergsten, Urban; Winsa, Hans (2017). "Restoration of reindeer lichen pastures after forest fire in northern Sweden: Seven years of results". Ecological Engineering. 108: 143–151. doi:10.1016/j.ecoleng.2017.07.011.

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