British Soldier Moss

By William T. Hathaway

British Soldier Moss (Cladonia cristatella)

The British Soldier Moss (Cladonia cristatella) isn't a moss. It is best-named the Red Crest Lichen.

A lichen is an organism composed of an interrelated combination of an alga and a fungus, living together in what appears to be a mutual benefit to both the alga and fungus. This association develops into a unique form that is distinct from either the alga or fungus. Lichens can tolerate severe conditions that are unfavorable to most other plants. Because of air pollution, lichens are rarely found in large cities. High humidity, low light intensities and cool temperatures are favorable for their growth. Moisture is the most critical factor.

In the countryside I doubt if there is any grandma or grandpa who hasn't brought the soldier moss to the attention of their little “chaps.”