Niebla sorocarpia

The World Botanical Associates Sep Page
Prepared by Richard W. Spjut
April 2003, Oct. 2005, Sep 2012, 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. The fruticose genera in the Ramalinaceae (Ascomycota, Lecanoromycetes): their diversity and evolutionary history.  MycoKeys. 2020 Oct 30;74:109-110].
MycoKeys. 2020;73:1-68. Published 2020 Sep 11. doi:10.3897/mycokeys.73.47287

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

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.



Niebla sorocarpia

Southwest of El Rosario
mesa on north side of road
to Punta Baja. Spjut & Sérusiaux 17087, Jan 2016 


N of Guerrero Negro, Punta Santo Domingo, N 28°14.469, W 114°05.763, 25 m, Spjut & Sérusiaux 171286-4863, Feb 2016. Phylogeny from Professor Leavitt in reference to Jorna et al. (2021)

Comparison of Niebla sorocarpia with N. podetiaforma, N. undulata, N. dilatata.

sorocarpia-10000c.jpg (120245 bytes)

Ridge S of El Marrón,
N of Punta Rocosa,
 Spjut 10000c

sorocarpia-12732.jpg (163367 bytes)

Cañon San Fernando,
Spjut & Marin 12732,
Apr 1993

sorocarpia-13064.jpg (165513 bytes)

Face of rock escarpment, southwest of Puerto Catarina, Spjut & Marin 13064, Apr 1994

Peak above Punta Rocosa, Spjut 10335, Mar 1988

Mesa Camacho,
Spjut & Marin 13053,
Apr 1994

Mesa Camacho,
Spjut & Marin 13090,
Apr 1994


Peak above Punta Rocosa, Spjut 10337, Mar 1988

Red volcanic rocks of
lower mesa  north of
Punta Canoas, Spjut 11309
14 Apr 1990

San Miguel Island, CA
Grigarick & Schuster (COLO)


     Niebla sorocarpia is a species of fruticose lichen occurring on vertical faces of rock outcrops and surfaces of stones of mesas, ridges and peaks along the Pacific Coast from near Punta Santa Rosalillita in Baja California to near Monterrey, California, and in the Channel Islands.

     Niebla sorocarpia is distinctive for its superficial appearance to  “broccoli.”   The basal tubular branches twist and divide into smaller branches that are fringed with elongate lobulate branchlets bearing aggregates of isidioid apothecia.  The apothecia apparently initiate then abort development, while occasional ones mature.  Pycnidia often develop along side apothecia, or also on spike-like filamentous branchlets that lose their cortex (decorticate).  The cortex may erode around the thalline margin of pycnidia and apothecia, and along margins of lobulate branches to the extent that lobules appear soralia-like.  Further loss of cortex seems to occur from storing specimens in the herbarium, probably from inadvertently being rubbed.

     The  epithet was chosen for apothecia that—in aborting their development in aggregates along margins of terminal branch lobes—they resemble sori of dryopterid ferns such as in the genus Gymnocarpium.  Ainsworth and Bisby's Dictionary of the Fungi by Hawksworth, Kirk, Sutton & Pegler (8th ed., 1995) define sorocarp as “a stalked fruiting structure" and sorus as a “fruiting structure in certain fungi, esp. the spore mass in Uredinales and Ustilaginales, a group of fruit bodies.”

     Niebla sorocarpia with relatively narrow branches to apex such as shown above for Spjut & Marin 12732 are still recognized by their aggregate apothecia in contrast to branch margins of  N. juncosa or N. infundibula lined with ± continuous pycnidia.  Niebla juncosa has a brittle thallus that easily falls apart when collected, whereas that of N. infundibula is rigid with a thick shiny cortex.

    Niebla sorocarpia can be difficult to distinguish from variants of N. undulata that have aggregate apothecia.  Niebla sorocarpia differs in its bushy growth with relatively longer tubular basal branches, > 6 cm in length, compared to shorter basal branches of N. undulata.  Generally,  the “stalk” of the 'sorocarp'  is much longer in N. sorocarpia, relative to the upper “sorocarp lobes.” 

     Niebla eburnea can appear similar to N. sorocarpia by the aggregate apothecia on expanded terminal lobes; it differs by terminal digitate branching, smooth to rippled cortex often becoming irregularly cracked with age as seen towards the base of the thallus, and by the at least some apothecia fully developing.  It may hybridize with N. sorocarpia N. homalea, and  N. laminaria. The latter differs in having marginal nodular apothecia, especially thalli with irregularly divided lobes as seen by a specimen from Stewart's Point (Hutchinson 867 at COLO) in Sonoma County.

     Niebla sorocarpia is also characterized by having divaricatic acid (with triterpenes) in contrast to N. lobulata with sekikaic acid that might appear otherwise similar; apothecia are usually not aggregate in N. lobulata

     Although Niebla sorocarpia appears distinct for the aggregate apothecia, its phylogeny is not that well differentiated from related divaricatic acid species.  Two specimens, which differ in apical development, terminally lobulate in 17087 and apotheciate in 17286, occur in sister clades, a common pattern seen for many depside species (Spjut et al. 2020). BPP analysis indicated two species, Stacey 1 species. The above images also show the eroding cortex on the terminal lobes. 

Additional References: See Niebla