Niebla arenaria

©The World Botanical Associates Web Page
Prepared by Richard W. Spjut
April 2003.  Comments and illustrations, Oct. 2005, Sep 2012. Feb 2017

Niebla and Vermilacinia (Ramalinaceae)
from California and Baja California.

Spjut, R.W., 1996. ISSN 0833-1475, 208 pp.  
Sida, Botanical Miscellany 14.
Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Inc.


Spjut & Sérusiaux 17047-052
Bahía de San Quintín,
 Jan 2016, Field id N. arenaria
Confirmed  by TLC Oct 2016, salazinic acid

Spjut & Sérusiaux 17073-053
El Rosario to Punta Baja,
 Jan 2016, Field id N. arenaria
Confirmed  by TLC Oct 2016, salazinic acid


arenaria-10278.jpg (86051 bytes)

Punta Baja, Spjut 10278,
Mar 1988, Salazinic acid
(TLC Apr 1988)

Bahía de San Quintín,
Spjut, Cassady & McCloud 9327,
May 1986, Salazinic acid
(TLC Nov 1987), isotype

Punta Canoas, Spjut & Marin 11300, Apr 1990, Salazinic acid (TLC Dec 1990).  Growing abundantly on sand.

arenaria-11324.jpg (76488 bytes)

Punta Canoas, Spjut & Marin 11324, Apr 1990, Salazinic acid (TLC Dec 1992)

Punta Canoas
Spjut & Marin 13017,
Apr 1994


Bahía de San Quintín,
Spjut 10241, Mar 1988

Mesa above Punta Rocosa,
Spjut 10365, Mar 1988

Rancho San José between
Puntas Canoas and Blanca, Apr 1990
Spjut & Marin 11395


Mesa southwest of El Rosario,
Spjut 10267, Mar 1988


Near Punta Baja,
Spjut 10272, Mar 1988

Illustration of TLC data showing salazinic acid among other chemotypes of Niebla.

Geographical Distribution


     Niebla arenaria is a lichen that is endemic to the northern Baja California peninsula, ranging from Morro Santo Domingo north to near Colonet.  It grows loosely attached to soil on barren sandy beaches along the Pacific Coast and slightly inland on alkaline clay or gravel among low  scrub vegetation, often with Frankenia and Atriplex julacea, or with Ambrosia spp., Euphorbia misera, and various cacti. 

     The species is recognized by the hemispherical thallus intricately divided into numerous narrow branches that lack a holdfast and are terminally antler-like, often shortly bifurcate, and by the secondary lichen substance salazinic acid, which may be accompanied by consalazinic acid but not triterpenes.  Black pycnidia are often prominent at the tips of branchlets.

     Niebla arenaria is often gregarious, constituting a single dominant Niebla community, but it  may occur with other earth bound (terricolous) species of Niebla such as N. effusa and N. juncosa as found on mesas southwest of El Rosario to Punta Baja.  It appears most common in the chaparral-desert transitional vegetation.

     Niebla limicola, which is similar in chemistry and habit, differs by the dilated branches near thallus base.  It is more common south of Morro Santo Domingo where it replaces N. arenaria.  Another similar species,  Niebla brachyura, which may occur within populations of N. arenaria, is distinguished by having hyprotocetraric acid instead of salazinica acid; it  is relatively rare, however, occurring in the southern region of the Northern Vizcaíno Desert, and on Isla Cedros. 

     The geographical occurrences of Niebla arenaria shown on the map of Baja California are based on more than 100 specimens analyzed by thin-layer chromatography (TLC).  The type collection (Spjut, Cassady & McCloud 9327, holotype at US) from Bahía Falsa near San Quintín) included perhaps another 100 thalli that were extracted and tested for anticancer activity.  In addition to isotypes distributed to institutions in Baja California (BCMEX)  and California (LA), other specimens were submitted to the lichen exchange in Arizona (ASU).