Niebla flabellata

©The World Botanical Associates Web Page
Prepared by Richard W. Spjut
April 2003, Comments and map, Oct. 2005, Sep 2012
Additions May 2017.  Last updated Nov 2021, images of specimens
from the Southern Vizcaíno Desert transferred to N. spatulata.
Updated Aug 2022

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

Spjut R, Simon A, Guissard M, Magain N, Sérusiaux E. 2020. The fruticose genera in the Ramalinaceae (Ascomycota, Lecanoromycetes): their diversity and evolutionary history.  MycoKeys. 73: 1–68. published online.
MycoKeys. 2020;73:1-68. Published 2020 Sep 11. doi:10.3897/mycokeys.73.47287

Evolution and diversification of Niebla
Steve Leavitt et al., Baja California, Dec 2016
Manuscript presented 2021 on Authorea. April 05, 2021.

Jorna J, J Linde, P Searle, A Jackson, M-E Nielsen, M Nate, N Saxton, F Grewe, M de los Angeles Herrera-Campos, R Spjut, H Wu, B Ho, S Leavitt, T Lumbsch.  Species boundaries in the messy middle -- testing the hypothesis of micro-endemism in a recently diverged lineage of coastal fog desert lichen fungi. Ecology and Evolution. Published Online: 20 Dec 2021.

Additional Discussion: See: Introduction to Niebla and its phylogeography




San Antonio del Mar, near Punta Colonet N 31°05.403' W 116°16.268' 92m, Spjut & Sérusiaux 17005. Jan 2016

N of Guerrero Negro, Punta Santo Domingo, N 28°14.469, W 114°05.763, 25 m, Spjut & Sérusiaux 17291. Feb 2016




Southwest of San Quintín in the Punta Mazo Reserve, on volcanic slopes of Volcan Sudoeste, Leavitt et al. 16-713


Just north of the city of El Rosario, along the Transpeninsular Highway, Hwy 1, on west side of road on small ridgeline dominated by euphorbs and small rocks. Leavitt et al. 16-813. A few of the loose branches appear to be N. fimbriata.

South of El Rosario at Punta Baja, on Mesa and steep coastal hillside, on the west side of the Point, 30 m, Leavitt et al. 16-977, Dec 2016


West of Villa Jesus Maria, along shoreline, at Punta Morro Santo Domingo, 70 m, Leavitt et al. 16-936, Dec 2016

West of Villa Jesus Maria, along shoreline, at Punta Morro Santo Domingo, 10 m, Leavitt et al. 16-900, Dec 2016


flabellata-11425.jpg (106075 bytes)

  Arroyo Sauces between 
  Punta Blanca and Punta
  Canoas, Spjut & Marin
, Apr 1990


flabellatta-11416.jpg (97344 bytes)

4 mi S of San José de Puerto, Spjut & Marin 11416, Apr 1990


flabellata-12707.jpg (111948 bytes)

Cañón San Fernando, Spjut & Marin 12707, Apr 1993


flabellata-x-effusa.jpg (153394 bytes)

Bahía Blanca, Spjut & Marin 11474, Apr 1990


flabellata-11540c.jpg (59840 bytes)

  Punta Cono,
Spjut & Marin
, Apr 1990





Escarpment of Mesa Camacho, between Punta Canoas and Puerta Catarina, Spjut & Marin 13064, May 1994

Rock face of escarpment
 leading up to Mesa Camacho, Spjut & Marin 13071, May 1994


Illustration of TLC data for species of Niebla


Geographic Distribution



     Niebla flabellata is a fruticose lichen widely distributed along the Pacific Coast of Baja California.  Specimens collected on the Vizcaíno Peninsula, previously identified N. flabellata (Spjut 1996) by having only salazinic acid, are considered here to belong to the N. spatulata species complex as a result of Spjut et al. (2020) showing no DNA correlation with three chemotypes, (1) salazinic acid, (2) hypoprotocetaric acid which may also have salazinic acid, and (3) acid deficient).  In BCS, the thalli of N. spatulata with different chemotypes commonly grow near each other in the same Niebla colony, and are often found to be closely associated with three DNA cryptic species that have not proved distinguishable by their morphology and chemotype.  Thalli north of the peninsula, which have only salazinic acid, are recognized as a separate species, N. flabellata, at least perhaps at the type locality.  Both species are characterized by having relatively short and variously flattened branches arising in small tufts from a holdfast attached to small stones on beaches. Above the thallus base, the branches become irregular in shape, varying from nearly linear to somewhat elliptical, or almost rotund, all of which appear with various lacerations, contortions and spine-like branchlets.   The pycnidia in N. flabellata appear less dense and less sharply defined from the cortical surface in contrast to those of N. spatulata.  Thus, the two species complexes (N. flabellata, N. spatulata)  can be distinguished by their morphology, chemistry in part, and phytogeography.  In Baja California, N. flabellata also occurs on rock walls in narrow coastal ravines, or on steep rocky slopes facing the ocean, arising to mesas.  

     Niebla flabellata is frequently encountered  from Cañón San Fernando south to the Morro Santo Domingo. The most abundant occurrences were observed on lava along the beach areas between Guerrero Negro and Punta Santa Rosalillita, often as a pebble Niebla.  In 1979, Spjut and Edson collected a 1 kg sample from Playa Altimar for cancer research; the voucher specimen was initially identified  by Mason Hale, Desmazieria josecuervoi, the genus name later discovered by Rundel and Bowler (1978) to be illegitimate, the species N. flabellata (Spjut 1996) treated as a synonym of Niebla josecuervoi by Bowler and Marsh in the Lichen Flora of the Greater Sonoran Desert.  Niebla flabellata usually occurs with other lichens, particularly Vermilacinia paleoderma along beaches, and N. caespitosa on vertical rock walls in narrow canyons.

     Related salazinic acid species include Niebla josecuervoi, distinguished by the sublinear-prismatic-cylindrical branches and N. effusa, identified by a more rigid thallus (thicker cortex) with branches terminally flattened and fringed, digitately arising in scorpioid mannerNiebla limicola, similar in it irregularly widened branches, differs by the ± regular  occurrence of short bifurcate acicular branchlets along primary branch margins below apex, often arising from near the base of the thallus. 

          The type for N. flabellata was collected near Puerto San Andrés.  In 1985, the track to the the former San Andrés Ranch did not reach the coast; it terminated just beyond the ranch.   A sample collected for anti-HIV screening near Rancho San Andrés was difficult to separate morphologically from N. caespitosa, that is otherwise easily distinguished by its lichen substance of divaricatic acid.  The type specimen (Spjut & Marin 9073H5) was selected from a mix sample of mostly N. caespitosa (Spjut & Marin 9073C, divaricatic acid) and N. flabellata but included also N. flagelliforma (Spjut & Marin 9073F, divaricatic acid) and the type for N. brachyura (Spjut & Marin 9073k, hypoprotocetraric acid).   In 2016, only N. caespitosa was collected at the type location.  However,  a specimen collected a few km south near Punta Santa Rosalillita, in association with N. caespitosa and N. flagelliforma, appeared monophyletic in Spjut et al. (2020). In the narrowest sense, then, N. flabellata would appear  supported by DNA phylogeny as a micro-endemic species, while the species as circumscribed by Spjut (1996) awaits further study.

For more discussion and reference materials see Introduction to Niebla