“Plant” of the day: lipstick cladonia

I’ve always been entranced with the tiny gardens–lush yet austere–that grow on fallen logs. Ferns, lichens, fungi, tree seedlings and more all fall on stumps and fallen trees. On the edge of a redwood forest is a log hosting a minute forest of lichens. Small, dusty gray-green leaves cling to the wood, while tiny upright spires rise into the sunshine. At the tip of each little trunk is a red dot: a saucy salute to the world, if one looks close enough.

This is lipstick cladonia (Cladonia macilenta), one of my all-time favorite plants. Though of course, being a lichen, it is actually a symbiotic growth of fungi and algae–and not a plant at all. It is found on dead wood, the base of trees, and sometimes on rocks. It grows on every continent in the world (with the possible exception of Antarctica); mainly in temperate to boreal regions.


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