Niebla sorocarpia

The World Botanical Associates Sep Page
Prepared by Richard W. Spjut
April 2003, Oct. 2005, Sep 2012

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




N of Guerrero Negro, Punta Santo Domingo, N 28°14.469, W 114°05.763, 25 m, Spjut & Sérusiaux 171286, Feb 2016


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 lichen found on vertical faces of rock outcrops and on stones of mesas, ridges and peaks along the Pacific Coast from near Punta Santa Rosalillita in Baja California Norte to near Monterrey, California, and in the Channel Islands.

     Niebla sorocarpia is usually recognized for its appearance like “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 off.

     The  epithet was chosen for the branch marginal features that resemble sori of ferns.  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.”

     Forms of Niebla sorocarpia without apothecia are likely to be confused with N. juncosa or N. infundibula.  They may be recognized by the brittle thallus that easily falls apart, and by the expanded lobes towards the apex. The branches have longitudinal ridges that unite and divide as in N. homalea, and produce numerous fringed branchlets with shallow lobular margins.  'Sterile' specimens of N. juncosa differ in having branches with parallel margins. Niebla infundibula is distinguished by its rigid intact thallus with a relatively smooth shiny cortex.

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

     A variant of Niebla eburnea reportedly from Granite Point in Pt Lobos State Reserve as seen in an internet image might be considered N. sorocarpia by the aggregate apothecia on expanded terminal lobes; however, it has a yellowish green cortex transversely cracked at various intervals.  It may be a hybrid between N. sorocarpia and another more frequent variant of N. eburnea which also has aborted apothecia along margins of narrow branches well below apex.  It strongly resembles N. homalea except for the development of sessile apothecia, and more like N. laminaria in having marginal nodular apothecia, especially thalli that have irregular 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