British Soldiers

What did you expect in a garden blog? Of course it’s Lichens! Also known as Red Crest Lichen, I like the name British Soldiers, for the little red fruiting tips. You might prefer to call them Cladonia cristatella, a fruticose lichen.

Lichens are dual organisms, composed of a fungus and an alga. The fungus supplies the alga with water and minerals while the alga manufactures carbohydrates, also used by the fungus.


I found these beautiful lichens growing on pieces of petrified pine, which we call ‘lightard’ or light wood, left when termites eat away the soft cellulose, leaving hardened, resin-rich inedible parts of pine logs and stumps. Lichens grow best where the air is clean and they can grow undisturbed.

Foliose lichens grow along this log, with moss.

I thought these non-flowering plants particularly beautiful, conditions for them being just right as the weather cooled and there was sufficient moisture to sustain them.

I’ve found British soldiers growing on discarded fence posts and other weathered wood. I even found some at the college once, growing on a bench outside the science lab, to the delight of the Biology Professor, Dr. Perry, who had not noticed nor had any of her students. British Soldiers are easily identified by the greyish color and the red tips at the end of fruiting bodies.

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14 Comments

  1. Mary Delle

     /  November 11, 2009

    I love moss and lichens. Your post reminds of living in New York state countryside and exploring the woods for moss, ferns and lichens. They are truly beautiful and so small.

  2. Susan

     /  November 11, 2009

    Great photos of lichens and British soldiers. I love old wood that is covered by lichens. It adds a nice aged feel to a garden.

  3. Amy

     /  November 11, 2009

    I haven't really thought much about it. It really is pretty, though. I will have to pay more attention to notice.

  4. azplantlady

     /  November 11, 2009

    What beautiful lichen. I do love the name too. I often wonder how they come up with common names?

    I do have some lichen growing on some rocks in my garden.

  5. Rosey Pollen

     /  November 11, 2009

    How rude! I am talking about anonymnous with that statement.
    I have heard that it takes hundreds of years for lichen to grow and we shouldn't disturb them. I appreciate anything green, so thanks for this post. Although a hunky soldier would have been nice. 🙂

  6. donna

     /  November 11, 2009

    I'm a fan of both lichens and moss. Enjoyed learning about the Red Crest Lichen…..interesting.

  7. Wendy

     /  November 10, 2009

    I'm echoing Sue's message about paying closer attention. I don't think I've ever seen the red tips on lichen. I don't particularly like it, but then again, haven't taken a good look at lichen. I do love moss and find your photos of the moss covered logs beautiful.

  8. Helen

     /  November 10, 2009

    Likin' the lichen! Great information and photos.

  9. Grace Peterson

     /  November 10, 2009

    Hi Nell~~ The air in my neck of the woods must be really clean because moss and lichen are all growing all over the place. In fact just this morning I took a photo of green moss growing on my fence. They are very cool plants. I've never heard them referred to as British Soldiers. Kinda cool.

  10. Deborah at Kilbourne Grove

     /  November 10, 2009

    What beautiful, beautiful photographs!

  11. Kiki

     /  November 10, 2009

    Truly beautiful photos..wonderful post!! I love it!

  12. Corner Gardener Sue

     /  November 10, 2009

    Hi Nell,
    I don't think much about lichens. Your post made me want to pay more attention. I enjoyed your information, and love your photos!

  13. Randy Emmitt

     /  November 10, 2009

    Neil Jean,

    Thanks for picking my post tonight! You know is is now lichen season. I have a friend that can go into about any forest around here (Durham, NC) and find 30 species of lichen.

  14. Benjamin Vogt

     /  November 10, 2009

    Gotta find green anywhere at this time of year. Though the average high is 50, it's in the 60s, so maybe the trees will leaf out again…?

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