Coral Lichen - Cladia retipora
Also referred to as Snow Lichen, Cladia retipora is a fruticose (shrubby) lichen that grows on the ground and is native to Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. It sometimes grows in pulvinate clumps (like cushion), often with moss, forming large mats resembling a layer of snow.
The branches have delicate open-work structure. The three dimensional network of holes are called fenestrations, hence the common name of Coral Lichen. This lichen is usually white to pale grey and sometimes there is a yellowing at tips. The tiny brownish-red tips on the branches are the fungal component’s fruiting bodies called apothecia. These produce the spores.
In Australia this lichen can be found in Queensland, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, and Tasmania.
The Coral Lichen was the first Australian lichen to be described in a scientific publication, the second volume of Novae Hollandiae Plantarum Specimen (Labillardie, 1806). Labillardie classified it as an alga, and named it Baeomyces reteporus; it was later classified as a lichen.
Besides its beautiful structure, and the attractive landscapes that this lichen creates in the fields where it grows, Cladia retipora has pharmacological properties (its extracts show antimicrobial, cytotoxic and antiviral activity), and is also one of the species being used to monitor fluoride pollution around an aluminum smelter in New Zealand.
[Ascomycota - Lecanoromycetes - Lecanorales - Cladoniaceae - Cladia - C. retipora]
Photo credits: [Top: ©Kevin Wells | Locality: Tasmania, 2013] - [Middle-top: ©Kok van Herk | Locality: Australia] - [Middle-bottom: ©Vanessa Ryan (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) | Locality: Sleepy Bay Walk, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania, 2014] - [Bottom: ©Danya Rose | Locality: Blackbutt Plateau, New South Wales, Australia, 2007]