Niebla flabellata

©The World Botanical Associates Web Page
Prepared by Richard W. Spjut
April 2003, Comments and map, 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
Niebla, 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




W of Bahia de Tortegas, towards Punta Eugenia, N 27°49.701 W 115°03.454 35-40 m, Sérusiaux 17186A. Jan 2016, has unknown terpene (Rf ±  norstictic acid) as minor component in addition to salazinic acid.


W of Bahía de Tortegas, towards Punta Eugenia, N 27°44.969, W 114°56.690, 140-160 m, Sérusiaux 17194A. Jan 2016

N of Guerrero Negro, Punta Santo Domingo, N 28°14.469, W 114°05.763, 25 m, Spjut & Sérusiaux 17291. Feb 2016

South of El Rosario at Punta Baja, on Mesa and steep coastal hillside, on the west side of the Point, 30 m, Leavitt et al. 16-977, Dec 2016


West of Villa Jesus Maria, along shoreline, at Punta Morro Santo Domingo, 70 m, Leavitt et al. 16-936, Dec 2016

West of Villa Jesus Maria, along shoreline, at Punta Morro Santo Domingo, 10 m, Leavitt et al. 16-900, Dec 2016

flabellata-10546.jpg (82614 bytes)

Isla Cedros,
Spjut & Marin
, Apr 1989


flabellata-11425.jpg (106075 bytes)

  Arroyo Sauces between 
  Punta Blanca and Punta
  Canoas, Spjut & Marin
, Apr 1990


flabellata-9704.jpg (130230 bytes)

Sierra Hornitos,
Vizcaíno Peninsula,
Spjut 9704, May 1986

flabellatta-11416.jpg (97344 bytes)

4 mi S of San José de Puerto, Spjut & Marin 11416, Apr 1990


flabellata-12707.jpg (111948 bytes)

Cañón San Fernando, Spjut & Marin 12707, Apr 1993

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  Punta Cono,
Spjut & Marin
, Apr 1990


flabellata-x-effusa.jpg (153394 bytes)

Bahía Blanca, Spjut & Marin 11474, Apr 1990

Escarpment of Mesa Camacho, between Punta Canoas and Puerta Catarina, Spjut & Marin 13064, May 1994

Rock face of escarpment
 leading up to Mesa Camacho, Spjut & Marin 13071, May 1994

Illustration of TLC data for species of Niebla


Geographic Distribution



     Niebla flabellata is a lichen that is endemic to the coastal Vizcaíno Desert Regions of Baja California, occurring on the main peninsula and on Isla Cedros.  It is recognized by having salazinic acid and relatively short and variously flattened branches arising in small tufts from a holdfast attached to small stones, rock walls of canyons, or along steep sides of large boulders.  Above the thallus base, the branches become irregular in shape, varying from nearly linear to somewhat elliptical, or almost rotund, all of which appear with various lacerations, contortions and spine-like branchlets. 

     The lack of any regularity to the thallus shape, other than its rounded tufted outline of the main branches, makes it difficult to distinguish from other related species such as N. josecuervoi and N. effusa Niebla josecuervoi has a more uniform linear shape to its branches that are also prismatic to sub-teretiform (in x-section) as in most other species of Niebla.  Those with a flattened branch morphology such as N. caespitosa, N. dilatata, and N. flabellata,  exhibit a wider range of variation in the shape of their branches, probably because the flattened morphology allows for more environmental variation.

     Niebla effusa, a closely related species to N. flabellata, shows partial flattened segments, generally where the branches divide, especially near apex.  This species usually spreads over the ground (terricolous), often initiating between small rocks, rather than growing on the rocks (saxicolous).

    Niebla flabellata is frequently encountered in the Vizcaíno Desert Regions of Baja California, from Cañón San Fernando south to the Vizcaíno Peninsula, and is also found locally on the southern part of Isla Cedros.  The most abundant occurrences observed are on lava along the beach areas between Guerrero Negro and Punta Santa Rosalillita, often occurring as a pebble Niebla.  In 1979, Spjut and Edson collected a 1 kg sample from Playa Altimar for cancer research; the voucher specimen was initially identified by Mason Hale as Desmazieria josecuervoi, which has since been discovered to be illegitimate and synonym of Niebla josecuervoi

     Niebla flabellata usually occurs with other lichens, particularly Vermilacinia paleoderma along beaches, and N. caespitosa on vertical rock walls in narrow canyons.  In 1985, a sample collected for anti-HIV screening near Rancho San Andrés was difficult to separate morphologically from N. caespitosa, that is otherwise easily distinguished by its lichen substance of divaricatic acid.  Another species, N. spatulata, which has hypoprotocetaric acid, also occurs with N. flabellata at all known locations where N. spatulata has been found; these also are distinguished by their lichen substances as concluded from more than 100 specimens of N. flabellata determined by TLC.  Niebla spatulata is one of a few species that appears closest to a “sibling species” in the genus Niebla, although it may morphologically differ by terminal apothecia on filiform branchlets; the other is the isidiate pair-like species, N. usneoides and N. isidiaescens that may have independently evolved from their sexual relatives N. suffnessii and N. flagelliforma, respectively.