Niebla brachyura

The World Botanical Associates Web Page
Prepared by Richard W. Spjut
January 2004.  Comments and illustrations added Oct. 2005, Sep 2012
Additions May 2017, updated Dec 2021

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

Spjut R, Simon A, Guissard M, Magain N, Sérusiaux E. 2020. The fruticose genera in the Ramalinaceae (Ascomycota, Lecanoromycetes): their diversity and evolutionary history.  MycoKeys. 73: 1–68. published online. MycoKeys. 2020;73:1-68. Published 2020 Sep 11. doi:10.3897/mycokeys.73.47287

Evolution and diversification of Niebla

Jorna J, J Linde,P Searle, A Jackson, M-E Nielsen, M Nate, N Saxton, F Grewe, M de los Angeles Herrera-Campos, R Spjut, H Wu, B Ho, S Leavitt, T Lumbsch.  Species boundaries in the messy middle -- testing the hypothesis of micro-endemism in a recently diverged lineage of coastal fog desert lichen fungi. Ecology and Evolution. Published Online: 20 Dec 2021.

Additional Discussion: See: Introduction to Niebla and its phylogeography



Pacific Coast: Chaparral-Desert Transition. Road to Punta Baja south of El Rosario; 30°00'075, 115°45.965, 140 m. Large rounded mats, Cladonia-Cladina habit on ground,  branchlets all relatively long, tipped with black pycnidia. Cited in MycoKeys 73: 18, Fig. 7. DNA 5063. Spjut &  Sérusiaux 17082, Jan 2016. Hypoprotocetraric acid confirmed


Morro Santo Domingo,
on sand at base of volcanic lava cone, 110–130 m, Spjut & Sérusiaux 17269a, Jan 2016.  On lava.  DNA 4844.  TLC: Hypoprotocetraric acid, unknowns

Morro Santo Domingo,
on sand at base of volcanic lava cone,
110–130 m, Spjut & Sérusiaux 17262, Jan 2016. Thallus hemispherical, ~ 17 cm diam, possibly of two thalli growing side by side, on west-facing slope of lava cone; antler branchlets thick, bifurcating several     times from a terminally dilated branch. Cited in MycoKeys 73: 18, Fig. 7 (2020). DNA: 4848. TLC: Hypoprotocetraric acid 

Morro Santo Domingo,
on sand at base of volcanic lava cone, 110–130 m, Spjut & Sérusiaux 17271, Jan 2016


Morro Santo Domingo,
on soil at base of volcanic lava cone, 110–130 m, Spjut & Sérusiaux 17244, Jan 2016. MycoKeys 73 (2020), Suppl. Data File 3 cited as coll. # 17224. N.  brachyura  DNA 4830. TLC: Salazinic and hypoprotocetraric acids.



West of Villa Jesus Maria, along shoreline, at North of Punta Morro Santo Domingo
Leavitt et al. 16-937, Dec 2016



Morro Santo Domingo,
on sand at base of volcanic lava cone,
110–130 m, Spjut & Sérusiaux 17270a, Jan 2016. On lava. Cited in MycoKeys 73: 18, Fig. 7 (2020, suppl. file 2).  DNA 4852. TLC: hypoprotocetraric acid, 2 yellow unknowns, at Rf nortstictic acid (Solvent B). 

Niebla sp. [aff. brachyura]

Baja California Sur. Vizcaíno Peninsula: Southeast of Guerrero Negro near Whale Watch; 27°46.178, 114°00.665, 6 m. Type locality for N. limicola (salazinic acid).

Spjut & Sérusiaux 17132. Jan 2016. Hypoprotocetraric acid + psoromic acid?Cited in MycoKeys 73: 18, Fig. 7  (2020). New chemotype for Niebla. DNA 4752.



Punta Canoas, Spjut 11334, Apr 1990

Punta Cono, Spjut & Marin 11511, Apr 1990

Punta Cono, Spjut & Marin 11513, Apr 1990 

Niebla brachyura Holotype. North of Punta Santa Rosalillita, road to Puerto San Andrés, just west of San Andrés Ranch, Spjut & Marin 9073K (US), 2 May 1985


Illustration of TLC data


Geographical Distribution


      Niebla brachyura is a fruticose lichen that has been recognized as endemic to the Northern Vizcaíno Desert of Baja California from near El Rosario south to Morro Santo Domingo (Spjut 1996).   It is distinguished by its hemispherical thallus intricately divided into narrow to irregularly widened  branches that are often shortly bifurcate near apex, and by its lichen substance of hypoprotocetraric acid.  Niebla brachyura is one of two species in the genus that was recognized by hypoprotocetraric acid (Spjut 1996); however, specimens collected in 2016  for Spjut et al. (2020) discovered hypoprotocetraric acid in combination with sekikaic acid or protocetraric acid.  The other, the N. spatulata complex, occurs in the Southern Vizcaíno desert, from near El Tomatal, west across the Vizcaíno Peninsula, to southern Isla Cedros; it often includes demethylnotatic acid and conhypoprotocetraric acid, while closely associated with thalli containing salazinic acid. 

     DNA phylogeny for references cited above indicate that hypoprotocetraric acid does not alone distinguish the species in the Northern Vizcaíno Desert; instead two or three species of Niebla, while one specimen identified N. brachyura also has salazinic acid in addition to hyproprotcetraric acid (Spjut et al. 2020, Supp. file S5 ). 

     The type collection is a single specimen (Spjut & Marin 9073K, holotype) taken from a ~ 200 g  sample of mixed species  collected in May 1985 for  the National Cancer Institute anticancer/antiHIV screening.  Specimens in the sample analyzed by TLC  were found to have  either divaricatic acid, identified N. caespitosa,  N. eburnea and N. flagelliforma or salazinic acid, N. flabellata. Consequently, the sample was retained entirely for taxonomic study. The type for N. flabellata was also selected from this sample (Spjut & Marin 9073k).  It was not until five years later that Niebla brachyura was found at other sites, one near Punta Canoas where six specimens were collected in association with N. arenaria, then further south at Punta Cono with other species of Niebla and also Vermilacinia, and recently, in Feb 2016, at Morro Santo Domingo.

      Niebla brachyura is phenotypically similar to salazinic-acid species, N. arenariaN. limicola and N. effusa  Although N. brachyura is easily distinguished by its chemistry of hypoprotocetraric acid, this distinction is not entirely supported.  Four specimens cited in Spjut et al. (2020) did not collectively occur in a distinct clade; rather, they were distributed in four different microclades, three were collected at Morro Santo Domingo, a fourth along road from El Rosario to Punta Baja (Spjut et al. 2020).  Species delimitation by BBP recognized three species, Stacey 2 species, where Spjut (1996) recognized only one.  Thus, two of the DNA species would  have to be from the same locality, Morro Santo Domingo, while the third could have come from there, or from near El Rosario.  What distinguishes the species other than DNA is cryptic. One of the Morro Santo Domingo specimens, 17244, has salazinic acid in addition to hypoprotocetraric acid.  17262 might be distinguished by pycnidia immersed within the cortex but again their differences are not evident in the phylogeny (Spjut et al. 2020, Fig. 7).  Only one specimen was included in Jorna et al. (2021, Fig. 5), 16-937, in a clade with N. marinii and N. cf. limicola

For more discussion and reference materials see Introduction to Niebla