Cladonia Rangiferina is also known as reindeer moss, reindeer lichen, because it is a vital source of food eaten by reindeer. It is a slightly colored plant that has a three-dimensional branching with a bushy appearance, belonging to the Cladoniaceae family.
The generic name of Cladonia Rangiferina derives from the Greek word “Kladon” which means sprout, due to its appearance similar to a shrub with its branched segments of lichen.
Source and description
Reindeer lichen is a slow-growing plant (3-5 mm per year), is extremely branched, each divided between three and four thicker branches. Colors range from whitish, gray or brownish gray. Form large mats up to 10 cm high, with branching to a smaller angle.
Lichens have two separate fungus and algae organisms, because of this successful combination the fungus provides moisture and minerals, in which photogenic algae provide photosynthetic nutrition. Lichen can survive for long periods of time without water. They dry and become dormant when there is little water or light. They can start to grow again even after long periods of dormancy.
Being a hard plant can grow in a variety of habitats from hot and cold climates that are well drained, open environments. Lichen is present in many pine forests and low alpine sites, in addition to rocky terrain and wetlands.
Medical uses in history
During the Middle Ages lichens were considered therapeutic. The natives of the North used it to treat colds, arthritis, fevers and other problems. It has also been used as a poultice to alleviate the pains of arthritic joints.