The thallus of Cladonia belldiflora is of the typical form of the genus Cladonia, posessing a primary thallus of prostrate squamules and a secondary thallus of upright podetia. The 1 to 3 cm tall podetia have a dense covering of squamules and typically display a red apothecia on top. The apothecia are often lumpy and lobed, measuring to 1 cm in diameter. When no apothecia is present, the top of the podetia can be cupped or blunt. Primary squamules measure 8-12 by 4-7 mm. The thick, though discontinuous, cortex has a greenish yellow color, indicative of the presence of the secondary lichen compound usnic acid. When found on a shaded substrate, a chemotype of C. belldiflora containing thamnolic acid as opposed to usnic acid, especially on northern Vancouver Island northward to Alaska along the coast.
Mossy rocks or logs, bark, wood and soil of cool, moist, talus slopes, rocky outcrops or old lava flows are the usual home of C. belldiflora. Large, densely crowded beds of of C. bellflora have been observed.
Populations of C. belldiflora are restricted to the west side of the Cascade Mountain range, rarely observed inland to British Columbia and Washington.
Two other species of Cladonia can look like C. belldiflora, C. transcendens and C. cristatella. The podetia of C transcendens are smaller than those of C. belldiflora. C. cristatella has a distribution restricted to the east of the Cascades, will never produce cups on the top of the podetia, the primary squamules are much smaller and the chemical tests will differ, making it simple to distinguish the species despite superficial resemblance.
Photos were taken near the town of Detroit, OR along a roadcut in early March.
Brodo, I.M., S.D. Sharnoff and S. Sharnoff (2001) Lichens of North America. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.
Kozloff, E.N. (1976) Plants and Animals of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press, Seattle and London.
McCune, B. and L. Geiser (2009) Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, Oregon.