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Cladina spp.

[“Reindeer lichen”; partial syn. Cladonia spp.]

FOLK NAMES: Jaegel [Name also applied to other lichens reindeer eat, Cetraria islandica, Cetraria ericetorum, Cetrariella delisei, and Stereocaulon spp.] (Saami: northern Scandinavia); Gros [lit. “Lichen”; name generally applied to Cladina spp. or Cetraria spp.] (Iceland)

USES: Food (Ingalik and other groups from Alaska to Baffin Island; Iceland, Scandinavia), Forage (Saami), Animal Feed (Saami, Scandinavians, Iceland, prehistoric Switzerland), Molasses (northern Russia), Alcohol (Sweden, northern Europe, northern Russia)

Many different lichens are eaten by reindeer and other arctic animals, but Cladina mitis, Cladina rangiferina, and Cladina stellaris are main food of reindeer and caribou (Brodo et al. 2001). Because of there role as food for animals, these lichens have been important to several groups of people. These lichens are directly used by the Saami of northern Scandinavia who herd reindeer, and indirectly by other northern First People’s that live off caribou, wood buffalo, musk-ox, and other animals of the arctic that feed on the lichens.

The partially digested lichen (generally Cladina spp.) found in the stomachs of caribou was eaten by the Ingalik as stomach ice cream. The lichen is taken out of the caribou’s rumen and put in a dish. Raw, mashed fish eggs of any kind are added. The mixture is then thoroughly stirred like ice cream (and perhaps frozen as well?). It tastes strong but it is eaten by men, women, and children and is a favorite dish (Osgood 1959). Brodo et al. (2001) records that other groups from Alaska to Baffin Island eat this lichen in the same way.

The reindeer lichens have special significance to the Saami (Lapplanders) of northern Scandinavia, who are nomadic reindeer herders. Because reindeer eat lichens and not mosses the Saami recognize lichens as being distinct from mosses and have several names for different types of lichens (Lynge1921, cited in Perez-Llano 1944).

Cladina rangiferina, Cladina arbuscula, Cladina stellaris, Cetraria islandica, Cetraria ericetorum, Cetrariella delisei, and Stereocaulon spp. are recognized by the Saami as being the preferred forage of reindeer in the field. They call these lichens Jaegel. Alectoreae and Usneae lichens are quite liked by reindeer, but do not form a huge part of their diet. The Saami call these lichens Lappo. Parmeleae and Gyrophoreae grow on rocks and trees and are eaten by reindeer when no other lichens are available. These are called Gadna by the Saami

The Saami also recognize that overgrazing and trampling can drastically reduce lichen cover and change species composition, and that there is a unique ecology to lichen-reindeer ecosystems (Lynge 1921, cited in Perez-Llano 1944). Stereocaulon paschale is an increaser under grazing pressure while Cladina stellaris is a decreaser. There is specific succession of lichen species after disturbance, like fire, trampling, or overgrazing. And the reindeer prefer the younger lichens. Saami keep the herds of reindeer constantly on the move during the critical winter period so the reindeer do not overgraze the lichen (Llano 1944b). Llano (1944b) reports that the U. S. A. imported some reindeer to Alaska with the idea that the Inuit could raise reindeer just like Saami. But this did not work and US Department of Agriculture in Alaska reported in 1929 that there was serious lichen overgrazing from the imported reindeer (Llano 1944b). Overgrazing has also been a problem in Scandinavia. In 1916 there were problems with overgrazing around Finmarken, and regulations had to be passed and enforced for some time (Lynge 1921, cited in Perez-Llano 1944).

Besides being grazed by reindeer, lichens are also harvested and fed to domestic livestock. The practice of feeding lichens to livestock is very ancient, as there were prehistoric remains found near Lake Constance in Switzerland that showed that lichens were used as fodder even back then (Perez-Llano 1944). Cladina rangiferina (and other Cladina species and Cetraria islandica, although the latter lichen is much less abundant) is the preferred lichen to collect for animal fodder in Scandinavia. Stereocaulon paschale is also collected, and Bryoria spp. [Alectoria jubata] is a common substitute if Cladina rangiferina is low (Smith 1921). Llano (1944b) reports that most Saami have a goat or cow in addition to their reindeer and they harvest lichen to feed them. And it is common for Scandinavian farmers in the north to harvest lichens for their livestock. According to Llano (1944b) this causes some friction between the two groups of people because the northern Scandinavian farmers harvest the lichens more intensely than the Saami, and deplete the lichen. Both groups harvest the lichen when it is wet (40% to 70% water) so it is not brittle. The Saami traditionally remove approximately one quarter of the lichen and do this by clearing away broad because this improves production. In contrast, Norwegian farmers usually remove two thirds of the lichen when they harvest it. The farmers then bundle the lichen up, transport it, dry it, and then store it for their livestock.

Usually there is about 700 kg of Cetraria islandica per square kilometer. Cladina stellaris can have much higher yields, the must productive areas having up to 1400 or 1500 kg per 1000 square meters (Perez-Llano 1944). One man can gather 50 to 100 kilograms of lichen a day, or 300 to 400 kilograms a day if he has implements (Llano 1944b). After a field has been harvested it takes about thirty years to regenerate (Perez-Llano 1944). According to Scotter (1964; cited in Kauppi 1979) Cladina spp. can take more than a century to regain dominance after a serious disturbance like a fire. Hand harvesting is harder on lichens than being grazed by reindeer because reindeer crop the lichens close but still leave some behind, while hand harvesting removes all of the lichen (Llano 1944b).

It would require about 15 to 56 hectares of land to support 10 cows if they were just fed lichen, but most livestock would only be supplemented with lichen (Perez-Llano 1944). The lichen can yield a high percentage of carbohydrate, but first the bitter lichen compounds have to be removed. People would usually soak the lichen in water for 24 hours before feeding it, or add potassium carbonate to the solution to speed up the process (Perez-Llano 1944). The lichen could also be boiled in lye and then thoroughly rinsed before being fed (Llano 1944b). Often before the lichen was fed hot water would be poured over it and then it would be mixed with straw and sprinkled with a little salt (Smith 1921). The various methods of processing would remove fumarprotocetraric and other acids from the lichen.

Hesse (1916; cited in Perez-Llano 1944) reports that Cetraria islandica has 3.35 times more carbohydrate than potatoes, and Cladonia rangiferina has 2.5 times more. Besides being a useful calorie source, it was generally thought that an addition of some lichen to livestock diet was beneficial to the animal’s health (Perez-Llano 1944). The reindeer lichen isn’t that good a feed though, as it usually only contains 1% to 5% protein (low for a lichen and low for a forage) and is generally only worth one third of its weight of poor fodder (Llano 1944b).

Reindeer lichens (Cladina spp.) were also eaten by humans in Scandinavia, but not as often as Cetraria islandica. The use of these lichens for famine food is described by Airaksinen et al. (1986). Cladina rangiferina, Cladina arbuscula, and Cladina stellaris were all used for food in times of famine. In Iceland the Jónsbók [“law book”] in 1280 mentions Gros (lichen, probably Cetraria spp. and Cladina spp.) as a natural product that could not be collected without landowner permission. The last major collection of Cetraria spp. and Cladina spp. in Finland and Sweden happened during WWI at the recommendation of the authorities.

Traditionally people would have usually processed the lichen by soaking it in ash water for a few days and/or boiling it for 10 to 20 minutes. The lichen would then be dried and stored for future use. The processed lichen would be mixed with grain flour at a ratio of about one part lichen to three parts flour by mass, and then used to make bread.

Processing the lichen was probably necessary to remove the slightly toxic lichen compounds. Airaksinen et al. (1986) discovered that reindeer lichen was toxic to mice when it was fed to them at 50% of their diet. Even when the lichen was soaked in ash and boiled, when it was fed to mice it still caused gastrointestinal symptoms within 3 days and then killed them. The processing didn’t seem to help the mice much in that instance, but it was more successful in reducing fatalities at lower concentrations of lichen in the diet, or with more palatable lichens.

There were also experiments in the Kola Peninsula that tried to produce molasses from eight species of lichens (including Cladina spp., Cetraria islandica, and Alectoria ochroleuca) (described by Llano 1944b and Brodo et al. 2001). They were looking for alternative glucose sources for northern locations and found lichens to be rich in polyhexoses with little cellulose or pentosan. In 1944 two small factories in Kirovsk were producing molasses from lichens. They treated the lichens with weak alkali to make the lichen acids soluble. Then they hydrolyzed the lichen with dilute H2SO4, neutralized this with chalk, and purified it with activated charcoal to produce a molasses containing 65-70% glucose. But when the molasses was produced from Cladina spp., especially Cladina stellaris, it had an unknown bitter taste.

Several Cladina species have been used extensively for short periods of time to manufacture brandy. SEE: Making brandy from lichen under Cladina rangiferina.


Cladina arbuscula

[“Reindeer lichen”; syn. Cladonia arbuscula, Cladonia sylvatica]

FOLK NAMES: Jaegel [Name also applied to other lichens reindeer eat, Cladina spp., Cetraria islandica, Cetraria ericetorum, Cetrariella delisei, and Stereocaulon spp.] (Saami: northern; Scandinavia); Gros [lit. “Lichen”; name generally applied to Cladina spp. or Cetraria spp.] (Iceland)


USES: Perfume (Europe?), Food (Iceland, Scandinavia), Forage (Saami), Animal Feed (Saami, Scandinavians, Iceland, prehistoric Switzerland), Molasses (northern Russia)


Uphof (1959) lists Cladina arbuscula as a source of essential oil for perfumery.

The Saami also recognized this lichen as one of the preferred foods of free range reindeer and called it Jaegel along with the other lichens that were commonly eaten by reindeer. Cladina spp. are also collected as fodder for domestic livestock in Scandinavia by the Scandinavians and the Saami. Cladina spp. are common food of reindeer, caribou, and other arctic animals and thus is utilized by other northern peoples as well. Cladina arbuscula, along with some other Cladina species and Cetraria spp., has been used as a famine food in Scandinavia. Cladina species have also been used to produce molasses in northern Russia. SEE: Cladina spp. for further notes on these uses.

Cladina arbuscula contains fumarprotocetraric and usnic acids (Brodo et al. 2001).


Cladina mitis

[“Green reindeer lichen”]

FOLK NAMES: Jaegel [Name also applied to other lichens reindeer eat, Cladina spp., Cetraria islandica, Cetraria ericetorum, Cetrariella delisei, and Stereocaulon spp.] (Saami: northern Scandinavia); Gros [lit. “Lichen”; name generally applied to Cladina spp. or Cetraria spp.] (Iceland)


USES: Food (Iceland, Scandinavia), Forage (Saami), Animal Feed (Saami, Scandinavians, Iceland, prehistoric Switzerland), Molasses (northern Russia)


Cladina spp. are collected as fodder for domestic livestock in Scandinavia by the Scandinavians and the Saami. Cladina mitis and other Cladina spp. are common food of reindeer, caribou, and other arctic animals and thus is utilized by other northern peoples as well. Cladina spp. and Cetraria spp. have been used as a famine food in Scandinavia. Cladina spp. have also been used to produce molasses in northern Russia. SEE: Cladina spp. for further notes on these uses.

Cladina mitis contains usnic acid, and often rangiformic acid (Brodo et al. 2001).


==Cladina rangiferina== (L.) Nyl. [“Gray reindeer lichen”; syn. Cladonia rangiferina (L.) F. H. Wigg., Lichen rangiferus L. (em. Ach.)]

FOLK NAMES: Tuntutnuukaik [lit. “Reindeer food”] (Yuqpik Inuit: Alaska); Niqagasak (Ungava-Labrador Inuit); Jaegel [Name also applied to other lichens reindeer eat, Cladina spp., Cetraria islandica, Cetraria ericetorum, Cetrariella delisei, and Stereocaulon spp.] (Saami: northern Scandinavia); Gros [lit. “Lichen”; name generally applied to Cladina spp. or Cetraria spp.] (Iceland)


USES: Food (Ojibwa, Iceland, Scandinavia, Ingalik and other groups from Alaska to Baffin Island), Alcohol (Sweden, Northern Europe, Northern Russia), Forage (Saami), Animal Feed (Saami, Scandinavians, Iceland, prehistoric Switzerland), Molasses (northern Russia)


Cladina rangiferina is used by the Ojibwa as food (Reagan 1928: pg 246 cited in Arnason et al. 1981 and in Yarnall 1964). Brodo et al. (2001) also records that Canadian First Peoples used this lichen as food. Lindley (1838) recorded Cladina rangiferina as one of the most nutritious lichens, nearly free from bitterness.

Besides eating it, the Ojibwa use Cladina rangiferina as a medicine. They call the lichen Asa’gunink and boil it, and then use the water in a bath to wash newborn babies (Smith 1932: pg 373; cited in Arnason 1981 and in Vogel 1970). Cladina rangiferina is also used as a medicine by the Aleut (Alaska). It is taken as a tea for chest pains, and hunters who are climbing hills eat it to maintain their wind (Smith 1973). Brodo et al. reports that Canadian woodsmen used this lichen as a stimulating tea.

González-Tejero et al. (1995) reports that Cladina rangiferina was used commercially in Europe and the Soviet Union until recently for the production of the sodium salt of usnic acid for a mild antibiotic. Production was stopped because of the depletion of the lichen and the discovery of more active substances. It is interesting to note, however, that Cladina rangiferina is the one Cladina spp. that does not contain usnic acid. They were probably referring to Cladina stellaris.

Cladina rangiferina was used by the Belcher Island Inuit as fuel. It burned with an intense, short lived flame (Freeman 1967). This lichen was called Tuntutnuukaik [“Reindeer food”] by the Yuqpik Inuit of southwest Alaska, but wasn’t used for anything (Wilson 1979). The Ungava-Labrador Inuit called it Niqagasak (Wilson 1979).

Cladina rangiferina has been used in some parts of Europe for a iron-red dye for wool (Uphof 1959). Uphof (1959) also reports that it contains essential oil and suggests the lichen for use in perfumery.

Cladina rangiferina is one of the preferred lichens to collect as fodder for domestic livestock in Scandinavia by the Scandinavians and the Saami. The Saami also recognized it as one of the preferred foods of free range reindeer and called it Jaegel along with the other lichens that were commonly eaten by reindeer. Cladina rangiferina is a common food of reindeer, caribou, and other arctic animals and thus is utilized by other northern peoples as well. It has also been used as a famine food in Scandinavian, and to produce molasses in northern Russia. SEE: Cladina spp. for further notes on these uses.

Cladina rangiferina contains fumarprotocetraric acid and atranorin. Unlike most Cladina, this lichen does not contain usnic acid (Brodo et al. 2001). Usnic acid is known to be a slight feeding deterrent and an antibiotic. Barberie (1946; cited in Arnason 1981) found that Cladina rangiferina contains 1.4% ash, 5.4% protein, 32.9% fiber, 2.1% fat, and 0.501% niacin (dry weight). An unknown lichen species that was probably Cladina rangiferina was analyzed by Beeson et al. (1972) and found to have 20.7% ash, 13.2% crude fiber, 4.8% ether extract, 54.9% N-free extract, 6.4% protein (roughly 3% digestible by livestock), 3.7% calcium, and 0.09% phosphorus (dry weight). The Cladina species generally have lower protein percentages than other lichens.

Making brandy from lichen

Several lichens have been used extensively for short periods of time in northern Europe and Russia to produce brandy. Cladina rangiferina was the most commonly used lichen for this purpose. The process to manufacture alcohol from lichen was discovered early in the 19th century by Roy of Tonnerre, and was described by Léorier (1825; cited in Smith 1921). Roy had originally used mainly the lichens Physcia ciliaris, Ramalina fraxinea, Ramalina fastigiata, Ramalina farinacea, and Usnea florida.

The process was further improved by Sten Stenburg, a professor of chemistry in Stockholm. Stenberg worked more with the lichens Cladina rangiferina, Cetraria islandica, and Bryoria spp. [Alectoria jubata], and researched how to best use them to produce alcohol. Stenberg made use of his research by starting a distillery near Stockholm. He published papers in 1868 that contained full instructions for the collection and preparation of the lichens (Stenberg 1868a, Stenberg 1868b; both cited in Smith 1921; Llano 1944b). In 1870 it was recommended that lichens be used for production of alcohol in order to save grain (Stahlschmidt 1870). After Stenberg started his distillery, other distilleries were started northern Europe using the same lichens and process as Stenberg (Richard 1877).

The industry of making alcohol from lichens was exported from Sweden to the northern provinces (Archangel, Pskow, Nowgorod, etc.) of Russia. Arendt (1872) reported that there was brandy made from lichens that was exhibited by various distillers at the Russian Industrial Exhibition. According to Arendt the brandy was of high quality and especially liked by the English and French visitors. The production of alcohol from lichens grew to a booming industry in Sweden. In Sweden in 1871 a total of 115,000 kilograms of reindeer lichen were used to make 5500 L of spirits (Airaksinen et al. 1986). Henneguy wrote in 1883 (cited in Smith 1921) that it was a large and increasing industry. However, the industry must have been short lived because in 1884 Hellbom (cited in Smith 1921) wrote that the various lichen distilleries had all closed down, because of the exhaustion of lichens in the neighborhood, and the impossibility of obtaining sufficient supplies of such slow growing plants.

Stenburg (1868a; 1868b) used weak sulfuric or nitric acid to transform the lichenin of the lichen thallus into glucose which was readily fermented. Stenberg found that 68% of the weight in Cladina rangiferina was a sugar that could make good brandy. Using his method he claimed one kilogram of lichen produced 0.5 liters of alcohol.

Stahlschmidt (1870) also described the process of fermenting lichen. First the polysaccharides in the lichen were converted into glucose. This was done by boiling the lichen with hydrochloric acid (7 to 10 percent by mass) and by using steam. The solution was then saturated with chalk, and fermented. Using this process he claimed that one kilogram of lichen produced 0.28 liters of alcohol.

Llano (1944b) further describes the process. According to Llano, Cladina rangiferina and Cetraria islandica have been found to yield up to 66% polysaccharides which are readily hydrolyzed to glucose and then almost completely fermented to alcohol. Cladina rangiferina can yield 54.5% sugar which ferments to produce. Maximum returns are obtained by steaming lichens for one hour under 3 atmospheres pressure, adding 2.5% of 25% hydrochloric acid, resteaming for the same period of time and pressure, and finally neutralizing the product. Lichen acids (like cetraric acid) may be present up to 11% of the dry weight, along with sodium chloride, and these may retard the process. Adding H3PO4 to the solution can accelerate fermentation. According to Llano, using this process one kilogram of lichen produced 0.176 to 0.282 liters of alcohol.


==Cladina stellaris== (Opiz) Brodo [“Star-tipped reindeer lichen”; syn. Cenomyce stellaris Opiz, Cladonia alpestris (L.) Rabenh., Cladonia stellaris (Opiz) Pouzar & Vezda; syn. with Cladina stellaris var. aberrans (Abbayes) Ahti are: Cladina aberrans (Abbayes) Hale & W. L. Culb., Cladonia aberrans (Abbayes) Stuckenb., Cladonia alpestris f. aberrans Abbayes]

FOLK NAMES: Jaegel [Name also applied to other lichens reindeer eat, Cladina spp., Cetraria islandica, Cetraria ericetorum, Cetrariella delisei, and Stereocaulon spp.] (Saami: northern Scandinavian); Gros [lit. “Lichen”; name generally applied to Cladina spp. or Cetraria spp.] (Iceland)

USES: Decoration (Scandinavian and Europe), Medicine (Europe), Food (Iceland, Scandinavian, Ingalik and other groups from Alaska to Baffin Island), Forage (Saami), Animal Feed (Saami, Scandinavians, Iceland, prehistoric Switzerland), Molasses (northern Russia)


According to Brodo et al. (2001) tons of this lichen are used in the pharmaceutical industry in Europe as a source of usnic acid. Usnic acid is effective against gram-negative bacteria and is used in topical ointments for products such as Usno (Brodo et al. 2001). In 1979 Kauppi recorded that this lichen was previously used as a source of usnic acid, but wasn’t being used any more.

González-Tejero et al. (1995) reports that Cladina rangiferina [probably referring to Cladina stellaris] was used commercially in Europe and the Soviet Union until recently for the production of the sodium salt of usnic acid for a mild antibiotic. Production was stopped because of the depletion of the lichen and the discovery of more active substances. Because Cladina rangiferina is the one Cladina species that does not contain usnic acid, they were probably referring to Cladina stellaris.

Cladina stellaris is used ornamentally in wreaths, floral decorations, and architect’s models and this use is described by Kauppi (1979). Cladina stellaris was used because it is abundant, durable, uniform in colour, and looks pretty. It is used to construct wreaths that are often placed on the graves of relatives on All Saints Day. Because of the durability of the lichen, these wreaths will last in good condition all winter. The lichen is also commonly used in floral decorations, especially at Christmas.

Export of this lichen began in 1910. A quality control act was introduced in 1931, and when Kauppi reported on this in 1979 it was being enforced by specially trained inspectors.

Between 1970 and 1975 about 17,900 tonnes of Cladina stellaris were exported from Scandinavian. The total value of the lichen export in this six year period was over £ 8 million. Of the amount exported, 83% was used in West Germany, but Denmark (10%), Austria (3%), Netherlands (1%), Switzerland (1%), U. S. A. (0.8%), Sweden (0.6%), France (0.4%), Italy (0.2%), Belgium (0.2%), and some other countries (0.5%) also imported the lichen. As well, a substantial quantity of the lichen is consumed domestically in Scandinavian.

In good lichen forests, the returns from lichen can be many times that of the returns from the standing timber. In the 1970’s, each year the lichen business in Finland would employ about 500 people full time, and about 1000 - 2000 people would get some income from it. On the island of Hailuoto, about one third of the total income was from lichen. Usually, about 50% of the income went to the landowner, 25% went to wages, and 25% went for packaging, warehouse, transport, and administration.

The lichen must be picked wet, so if it is dry when it is to be harvested the field is watered first. It is hand picked and the better lichens are placed in trays, dried, and then put into boxes to be shipped. If too much lichen is removed the production deteriorates. Lichen is also being destroyed from other sources, such as clear cutting, gravel quarrying, trampling, etc. To maintain high production, Kauppi recommends that only about 20% of the lichen should be removed at any one time, and sites should only be picked over 5-6 year intervals. According to Kauppi, systematic management of lichen resources can maintain and even increase production.

Cladina spp. are collected as fodder for domestic livestock in Scandinavian by the Scandinavians and the Saami. The Saami recognized Cladina stellaris as one of the preferred foods of free range reindeer and called it Jaegel along with the other lichens that were commonly eaten by reindeer. Cladina stellaris is a common food of reindeer, caribou, and other arctic animals and thus is utilized by other northern peoples as well. Because Cladina stellaris is preferred as forage it is recognized as a decreaser under grazing pressure. Cladina species have also been used as a famine food in Scandinavian. Cladina stellaris, along with some other lichens, has also been used to produce molasses in northern Russia. It was noted that when Cladina stellaris was used to make the molasses it was particularly bitter. SEE: Cladina spp. for further notes on these uses.

Cladina stellaris contains usnic acid and perlatolic acid, and occasionally psoromic acid (Brodo et al. 2001).

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