14 March 2011

Bengal Matches (Cladonia floerkeana)

This fabulous lichen is conspicuous at this time of year with its bright red, spore-producing fruiting bodies (apothecia) which are produced on the tops of 10-15mm high grey stalks dressed in flaky squamules. It looks like bunches of live matches sticking in the ground, so the common name is really descriptive and memorable. In some books it’s called Devil’s Matches. The group shown in the photograph was in a clear felled area of Sitka Spruce forest at the top of the Neath Valley.
Old conifer stumps often become covered in mosses and lichens, particularly Cladonia species such as C. chlorophaea, and C. macilenta which were also here. Cladonia chlorophaea produces cups that are covered in granules that look like icing sugar. Some of them were proliferating brown apothecia from the rims of the cups, as shown below.

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