Niebla infundibula

The World Botanical Associates Web Page
Prepared by Richard W. Spjut
January 2004, comments and map, Oct. 2005, Sep 2012

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.


Ridge south of Punta Negra, type locality, Spjut 9957B,
May 1986

San Nicolas Island, CA
Forman (COLO: L-44286)

Ridge south of Punta Negra, type locality, Spjut 9962, May 1986


Ridge south of Punta Negra, type locality, Spjut 9963B (type = Spjut 9963A),
May 1986

Geographical occurrences



    Niebla infundibula is a rare lichen known from Isla Guadalupe, San Nicolas Island, and the main peninsula of Baja California along mountain ridges in the southern part of the Northern Vizcaíno Desert.  With exception to N. homaleoides, this species is distinguished from other Niebla species by its rigidity rather than by specific morphological features. It is much like N. juncosa var. juncosa, from which it differs by the branchlets apparently not easily detaching, despite the appearance of fringed branchlets along the main branch.  This is further evident in the thallus not falling apart when pressed for storage in the herbarium.

      Niebla infundibula has a relatively thick glossy cortex that might explain its rigidity; yet, its thickness of 75–125  µm is within the range of the California species N. homalea, 75–150  µm; however, the weight of a specimen is noticeably much more. Undoubtedly this difference has to do with density of the cortical matrix. I recall Mason Hale bouncing a specimen of N. infundibula in his hand, while commenting on how "massive" it was.  Niebla homalea differs from N. infundibula in the branches that regularly twist and crack transversely.  The presence of ripples in the cortex in some specimens of N. infundibula may suggest N. eburnea, but the cortex of that species is less polished, while also differs in its branchlets developing more on the upper part of the thallus.

     The type collection has the largest apothecia and pycnidia in the genus.  However, variation in the presence vs. absence of apothecia, and differences in thallus size are not easily defined due to a great deal of variation within and among species of Niebla.  The epithet, infundibula, was chosen for the funnel-form shape of the main branch.

     The original (type) collection came from south of El Marrón on volcanic rocks, piled above the main ridge line, ~500 m elevation; other peaks in the area were indicated on maps to reach nearly 900 m.   Oceanic ridges in this area were not easily accessible, and had been observed in previous years to have fog lingering for much of the day.  In 1985, we had tried to reach the fog area by hiking west from the Santa Rosalillita-Punta Prieta Road, but then found the distance was too much for one day.  The next year we discovered an old track (not on any map) south of Punta Prieta that terminated near the base of a mountain where we also felt more secure about leaving our vehicles. We then hiked west up a slope to the ridge to where we were able to see the ocean.  Niebla thalli were lush all along the ridge and slopes.  Marin and McCloud went off to take pictures while Spjut collected lichens.  Towards the end of the day, Spjut came across a large rock outcropping on a very windy part of the ridge that undoubtedly received more than average moisture from the oceanic advection atmosphere.  Marin assisted in winding-up the collection, upon which an attempt was being made to sort out specimens according to species for anticancer screening, voucher specimens of which were later named N. infundibula, N. homaleoides, N. josecuervoi, N. juncosa, N. sorocarpia, Vermilacinia paleoderma, and V. rigida.  However, because the species were not clearly understood, the samples were kept as specimens for taxonomic studies, with exception to V. paleoderma that was later submitted for a chemical study. 

    Niebla josecuervoi and N. homaleoides were later separated from others at the type locality of N. infundibula by their chemical constituents.  Niebla juncosa and N. sorocarpia, which have the same chemistry as that of N. infundibula (divaricatic acid) were distinguished by their more brittle thalli, in which branches break-off near their tips (N. juncosa), or by the aggregate apothecia on thalli that fall apart from the base (N. sorocarpia).  The type collection for N. infundibula is distinct for its intact, rigid, heavily gelatinized thallus with relatively large apothecia.