Cladonia furcata has the unique growth form of genus Cladonia producing prostrate squmules as well as upright extensions with the fertile surfaces called podetia. Typically the podetia of C. furcata is highly branched, with the fertile branches being more or less flattened and fissured producing terminal apothecia. The color of the podetia can range between gray green, brownish or pale green, often with blackening at the base and the cortex looking patchy or granular. The axils of the podetia are open with the edges inrolled, often with a longitudinal inrolled fissure that extends the length of the podetia. The squamules appear scattered on the podetia, but are often absent especially in western populations. The sole reproductive structures produced are the smal, brown apothecia; no asexual soredia or isidia.
C. furcata is found on soil, moss, humus, rotten wood or trees bases in shaded, moist, coastal forests from low to mid elevations.
The distribution of C. furcata starts in Alaska and reaches southward to California, commonly found west of the Cascade Mountain Range.
There is one other lichen species that may be considered a look-alike: cupless forms of C. multiformis. To distinguish between the species, one must just identify that the fertile branches are flattened as those of C. furcata. The range can also help distinguish, C. furcata is found west of the Cascades and C. multiformis is found east of the Cascades.
The taxonomy of C. furcata is currently unsettled due to the lack of resemblance between western populations and that of eastern North America and Europe. Some lichenologist refer to the western populations as C. herrei. In North America, the name C. subrangiformis is a synonym for C. furcata.
Though lichens are not typically given common names, C. furcata is sometimes called ‘Many Forked Cladonia’.
The above photo was taken in the forest of Burnt Woods, approximately 15 miles west of Philomath, Oregon during the fall of 2010.
Brodo, I.M., S.D. Sharnoff and S. Sharnoff (2001) Lichens of North America. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.
McCune, B. and L. Geiser (2009) Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, Oregon.