Niebla arenaria

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

Evolutionary history of coastal species of fog lichen genera
, Ramalina and Vermilacinia
Emmanuel Sérusiaux & Richard  Spjut
Baja California, Jan-Feb 2016

Evolution and diversification of Niebla
Steve Leavitt et al., Baja California, Dec 2016


Mesa above San Antonio
del Mar, Spjut & Sérusiaux 17019
Jan 2016

Punta Canoas, Leavitt et al. 16-969
Dec 2016

Bahía de San Quintín,
Laguna and peninsula

Spjut & Sérusiaux 17052
Jan 2016


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 its morphology of a hemispherical thallus intricately divided into numerous narrow ribbon-like branches that lack a holdfast and become terminally antler-like, often shortly bifurcate, and by its secondary chemical substance of salazinic acid, which may be accompanied by consalazinic acid but not with terpenoids.  Black pycnidia are often prominent at the tips of branchlets.

     Niebla arenaria is often gregarious in which it forms a single dominant Niebla community, while it also can be member of mixed  Niebla terricolous communities with N. effusa, N. josecuervoi, and N. juncosa on mesas southwest of El Rosario to Punta Baja.  It appears most common in the chaparral-desert transitional vegetation.

     Other species with terminal antler-like branchlets are Niebla limicola and Niebla brachyura. Niebla limicola differs by having flattened and expanded branch parts from which the short bifurcate branchlets develop. It is most common south of Morro Santo Domingo.  Niebla brachyura differs by having hyprotocetraric acid instead of salazinica acid; it  is relatively rare, found mainly 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).