Even in the middle of winter, an observant hiker can be rewarded with a spot of color while walking on one of the Attleboro Land Trust’s nature preserves. This is British Soldier lichen, Cladonia cristatella, photographed in February, 2007, at the Nickerson Walking Woods Preserve. The species gets its name because of the red caps that are a reminder of the red coats worn by British soldiers at the time of the American Revolution.
Like many lichen, this lichen is actually a combination of fungus and algae living in a symbiotic relationship. The fungus provides structure for the algae, while the algae turns sunlight into food which is shared with the fungus. The red caps contain reproductive spores.