Cladonia rangiferina

Cladonia rangiferina

Reindeer lichen (Cladonia rangiferina (L.) Weber ex F.H. Wigg.) Is a lichen belonging to the Cladoniaceae family.

Systematics –
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Fungi Kingdom, Ascomycota Division, Lecanoromycetes Class, Lecanorales Order, Cladoniaceae Family and therefore to the Cladonia Genus, to the Cladina Subgenus and to the C. rangiferina Species.
The terms are synonymous:
– Cladina alpestris (L.) Nyl. not auct .;
– Cladine rangiferina (L.) Nyl .;
– Cladonia alpestris (L.) Rabenh. not auct .;
– Patellaria rangiferina (L.) Wallr ..
This species has a high variability and therefore has the following forms, subspecies and varieties:
– Cladonia rangiferina c rangiferina (L.) Weber ex F.H. Wigg. (1780);
– Cladonia rangiferina c sphagnoides Flörke;
– Cladonia rangiferina f. adusta;
– Cladonia rangiferina f. bicolor Müll. Arg. (1879), (= Cladonia confusa f. Bicolor);
– Cladonia rangiferina f. bicolor Räsänen (1932);
– Cladonia rangiferina f. caerulescens Schade (1956);
– Cladonia rangiferina f. crispata Coem .;
– Cladonia rangiferina f. erythrocraea Britzelm .;
– Cladonia rangiferina f. flavicans Flörke (1828), (= Cladonia ciliata var. tenuis);
– Cladonia rangiferina f. humilis Anders .;
– Cladonia rangiferina f. recessed Schaer .;
– Cladonia rangiferina f. leucosticta G. Merr .;
– Cladonia rangiferina f. major;
– Cladonia rangiferina f. Moldavian Cretz. (1933);
– Cladonia rangiferina f. nivea Räsänen (1932);
– Cladonia rangiferina f. patula Flot. formerly Sandst .;
– Cladonia rangiferina f. prolifera Flot. ex Sandst .;
– Cladonia rangiferina f. pumila Llimona & Hladun, nom. confus .;
– Cladonia rangiferina f. rangiferina (L.) Weber ex F.H. Wigg. (1780);
– Cladonia rangiferina f. foamy Flörke, (= Cladonia portentosa);
– Cladonia rangiferina f. stygia Fr. (1780), (= Cladonia stygia);
– Cladonia rangiferina f. subspumosa Abbayes (1963);
– Cladonia rangiferina f. tenuis Flörke (1828), (= Cladonia ciliata var. tenuis);
– Cladonia rangiferina f. tenuoir (Delise) Vain;
– Cladonia rangiferina f. umbellata Anders;
– Cladonia rangiferina subf. caerulea Schade (1957);
– Cladonia rangiferina subf. caerulescens Schade (1956);
– Cladonia rangiferina subf. rangiferina (L.) Weber ex F.H. Wigg. (1780);
– Cladonia rangiferina subsp. abbayesii (Ahti) Ahti & DePriest (2001);
– Cladonia rangiferina subsp. grisea Ahti (1961);
– Cladonia rangiferina subsp. rangiferina (L.) Weber ex F.H. Wigg. (1780);
– Cladonia rangiferina subsp. rangiferina var. rangiferin;
– Cladonia rangiferina var. abbayesii Ahti (1961);
– Cladonia rangiferina var. alpestris Schrad .;
– Cladonia rangiferina var. crispatula Nyl. (1869);
– Cladonia rangiferina var. intricate Müll. Arg. (1886);
– Cladonia rangiferina var. minor Michx. (1803);
– Cladonia rangiferina var. Patagonian Kremp. (1877);
– Cladonia rangiferina var. pungens (Ach.) Wain .;
– Cladonia rangiferina var. pycnoclada (Gaudich.) Nyl. (1860);
– Cladonia rangiferina var. rangiferina (L.) Weber ex F.H. Wigg. (1780);
– Cladonia rangiferina var. signata Eschw .;
– Cladonia rangiferina var. tenuis Flörke;
– Cladonia rangiferina var. versicolor Elenkin .;
– Cladonia rangiferina var. vicar (R. Sant.) Ahti (1961);
– Cladonia rangiferina var. vulgaris Jatta.

Etymology –
The term Cladonia comes from the Greek kladṓn, a variant of kládos ‘branch’, for the divisions of the thallus.
The specific rangiferina epithet is derived from the late Latin rangifer, reindeer, whose scientific name is Rangifer tarandus, precisely because this species of lichen, together with the others of the Cladina section, is the favorite food of these artiodactyls.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Cladonia rangiferina often dominates the terrain in boreal pine forests and low mountain open sites in a wide range of habitats, from wet and open forests, rocks and moors. A specific biome in which this lichen is represented is the boreal forests of Canada.
In some parts of its range, this lichen is a threatened species. For example, in the British Duchy of Cornwall it is protected by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
In Italy it is a fairly common species in the north close to the Alpine chain, while it is quite rare in central Italy and Sardinia. More specifically, it has been found in the northern part of Friuli, in the northern Veneto, throughout the Trentino-Alto Adige, in the valleys of the northeastern side of Lombardy, throughout the Valle d’Aosta, in the valleys of the western and northern slopes of Piedmont with quite common diffusion; quite rare in Liguria, in the Tuscan-Emilian, Umbrian-Marches Apennine arc and in Sardinia.

Description –
Reindeer lichen is a slow growing species (3-5 mm per year), extremely branched, each divided between three and four thicker branches. Colors vary from whitish, gray or brownish gray. Forms large mats up to 10cm high, with branching at a smaller angle.
The primary thallus of this species is crusty in appearance, and is often not present. The podezi are abundantly branched in all directions, have no cortex and are gray in color, except the most proximal branches of the podezi which are brown in color.

Cultivation –
As is known, lichens have two separate organisms, fungus and algae, due to this successful combination the fungus provides moisture and minerals, in which photogenic algae provide photosynthetic nutrition. Lichen can survive for long periods of time without water. They dry up and go dormant when there is little water or light. They can start growing again even after long periods of dormancy.
Reindeer lichen is a species capable of growing in a variety of habitats from hot and cold climates that are well-drained, open environments. Also for this reason, lichen is present in many pine forests and low alpine sites, as well as rocky soils and wetlands.

Customs and Traditions –
Cladonia Rangiferina is a lichen that can be easily confused with the other species of the Cladina section.
A variety of bioactive compounds have been found and isolated in this species, including: abietane, ladan, isopimaran, abietane diterpenoids hanagokenols A and B, ontuanhydride, sugiol, 5,6-dehydrosugiol, montbretol, cis -communic acid, imbricatolic acid, 15-acetylimbricatoloic acid, giunicedric acid, 7α-hydroxysandaracopimaric acid, β-resorilic acid, atronol, barbatic acid, homosekikaic acid, didymic acid and condydymic acid.
Some of these compounds have mild inhibitory activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci.
Exposure to UV-B rays induces the accumulation of usnic acid and melanic compounds. Usnic acid is believed to play a role in protecting the photosymbiont by absorbing excess UV-B.
This lichen is used as a traditional remedy for the removal of kidney stones by Monpa peoples in the alpine regions of the western Kameng district of the eastern Himalayas.
The Dena’ina of the Alaskan hinterland use this lichen as food by crushing it dry and then boiling it or immersing it in hot water until it becomes soft. They eat it plain or, preferably, mixed with berries, fish roe or lard. This population boils this lichen and drinks its juice as a medicine for diarrhea.
However, due to the acids present in lichens, their consumption can cause stomach upset, especially if not well cooked.
A study published in May 2011 states that some lichen species, including Cladonia rangiferina, are capable of degrading the deadly prion implicated in transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) through the serine protease enzyme.

Preparation Method –
Reindeer lichen is used as food, mashing it when dry and then boiling it or dipping it in hot water until soft.
It can also be eaten plain or, preferably, mixed with berries, fish eggs or lard.
It is also taken by boiling it and drinking its juice as a medicine for diarrhea.
It was once used to treat colds, arthritis, fevers and other problems. It has also been used as a poultice to relieve arthritic joint pain.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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