Commonly known as the Devil’s Matchstick, the thallus consists of erect gray stalks emerging from a granular base on the surface of a rock. The stalks can be slightly branched, though are often completely solitary, standing up to 3 cm tall, and are a solid 1 mm in diameter. The surface of the stalks, or pseudopodetia, are minutely roughened. Though the stalks are solid when young, with age they can become hollow. The granular primary thallus is closely appressed to the noncalcareous rock surface and has irregularly shaped, brown cephalodia on the surface of the primary thallus or the base of the pseudopodetia. These cephalodia are compartments that contain a cyanobacterial symbiont and can therefore fix nitrogen and serving as an ecological advantage when colonizing rock. Reproduction is done sexually via terminal, more or less spherical, black apothecia placed on the tips of the stalks that glisten when wet. When the pseudopodetia are completely dry, they are very stiff, like the bristles of a wire brush. Grow of the thallus can occur in any direction from the substrate: up, down or horizontal.
The typical substrate of P. acicularis is non-calcareous rocks, rarely being observed on wood, in partial shade or open areas. Locations of these rocks are restricted to low to mid elevation forest and rocky roadcuts. This species is often found near waterfalls.
The geographic distribution of P. acicularis has a northern bound on the coast of Alaska moving southward to California and is blocked in the east by the Cascade Mountain Range and the Sierra Nevadas. There are rare occurences in northern Idaho.
The general appearance of the thallus of P. acicularis is similar to that of the genus Cladonia though can be distinguished due to the presence of the black apothecia, granular primary thallus and the cephalodia. The name Pilophoron aciculare has also been used to describe this species. Of the members of the genus Pilophorus, P. acicularis is the most common, typically cohabitating with species of Placopsis and Stereocaulon.
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.
McCune, B. and L. Geiser (2009) Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, Oregon.
Pojar, J. and A. McKinnon (1994) Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Lone Pine Publishing, Washington, Canada.