A Lesson in Lichens

Toy Soldiers (Cladonia bellidiflora)
The bright red apothecia of Toy Soldiers (Cladonia bellidiflora) stands out on gray winter days.

Quite often it is the small things that are missed when one is walking with being attentive. This week I discovered a beautiful community (?) of lichen on a log near the ocean at Miracle Beach Provincial Park. I’ve been specifically looking for cladonias since Susannah’s (aka Wanderin’ Weeta) Pixie Cups on a Fence post on this genus of lichen. She does an excellent job of describing the features of these challenging (but then, what lichen isn’t) group of lichens.

Toy Soldiers (Cladonia bellidiflora)
Note the squamulose (scaled) podetia of these Toy Soldiers (Cladonia bellidiflora).

I’m not 100% sure on the species of this Cladonia but I’m definitely leaning toward Toy Soldiers (Cladonia bellidiflora). There are a couple of other possibilities including Lipstick Cladonia (C. macilenta). I think that the lichen that I photographed is more squamose (covered with scales) suggesting C. bellidiflora as more likely. Both of my reference books, Plants of Coastal British Columbia and the essential Lichens of North America, support that identification. C. bellidiflora is described as having “abundantly squamulose podetia and bright red fruits (apothecia).” C. macilenta has “relatively few podetial squamules, ending in blunt or pointed tips frequently with bright red apothecia, without cups.” Note the cups in the photograph below.

Toy Soldiers (Cladonia bellidiflora)
Toy Soldiers (Cladonia bellidiflora) with apothecia beginning to form.

Here’s a couple of links to web pages with pictures of both of these species:

Cladonia bellidiflora

Cladonia macilenta