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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Reindeer Moss

Nestled among the rocks and low growing plants of the alpine and boreal regions of the continent, Reindeer Moss (Cladina rangiferina) peeks out through the greens and browns with its frosty white, bubbly-like mounds.


Upon closer inspection,



it's hardly bubble-like at all and is a silvery grey-green color!  Reindeer Moss is actually a lichen that can be found growing as far south as Florida, but abounds in the colder climates because it is exceptionally hardy and doesn't require much to sustain it's growth.  In some areas, it is considered rare and endangered.  Functioning in nature as a 'nitrogen fixer', it helps form new soil, stabilizes eroding soil, and helps form new habitat for other plants and animals.

Loaded with carbohydrates, vitamin A, and vitamin B, Reindeer Moss was thus named because it provides food and energy to reindeer and caribou during the harsh winter months, making up about 60 - 70% of their winter diet.  They can smell it through the snow!

Throughout history, Reindeer Moss has been used as a tea, to thicken soups and desserts,  and as a traditional medicine for treating kidney stones, as well as a forest fire indicator. 

Reindeer Moss easily absorbs toxic atmospheric pollution and some environmentalists fear this will result not only in the elimination of the species, but in sickening the deer, the caribou, and the people who consume their meat.  Therefore, it can and, more importantly, should be taken more seriously as a global indicator of environmental health.

15 comments:

Elizabeth Seaver said...

What an interesting post. I learned lots.

Rambling Woods said...

I love learning about nature. I will have to take a close look at some moss that is growing around here and post about it..great post...Michelle

Linda Reeder said...

Very interesting. I have some reindeer moss that is sold commercially by florists that is a bright green. It must be related.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Karen: I so much enjoy lichen and all the forms it produces.

Living In Williamsburg Virginia said...

Nice photos and very informative post.

Darryl and Ruth : )

soulbrush said...

wow i learnt a lot from this post. thanks pal.

walk2write said...

For some reason, I thought that an abundance of reindeer moss or any lichen was an indicator of a relatively clean environment since its rootless existence requires air to provide it with nutrition and moisture. We do find a lot of it in the woods in Florida, which really surprised me when we moved here.

EG Wow said...

I enjoyed reading this post. Great information!

A piece of news said...

I would not have imagined it to grow so far south as Florida. This was interesting.

Carver said...

Fascinating information about the reindeer moss and great shots.

Barb said...

I enjoyed learning about the Reindeer Moss and now wonder if it would do well at high altitude and where I might get some! (I live at 10, 200' in CO.) You have a lovely, informative blog - I liked learning about the Pitcher Plant, too.

Self Sagacity said...

It looks like a hardy plant. Pretty with all the green surrounding.

Craig Glenn said...

Great post K! I love learning new things about nature!

Craig Glenn

A Spoonful Of Sugar said...

Nature is so amazing! Have never hear of reindeer moss before - thanks for such an informative and interesting post.

John said...

Hi Karen,

I am so pleased to see you have taken an interest in Lichen, it is an amazing subject and one that will take a lifetime to understand and the more you do the more it becomes more interesting.
I really enjoy your posts and I know a lot of other people do.

John