Share your observations

Share your observations of plants or non-game animals with the Natural Heritage Inventory

Rare animals
Find rare and non-game animals.
Rare plants
Learn about plants on the Natural Heritage Working List.
Rare lichens
Discover Wisconsin's lichens.
Natural communities
Explore Wisconsin's natural communities.
Other features
Discover unique resources.
Eagle license plate

Help care for rare plants and animals by ordering an Endangered Resources plate.

Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's rare plants, contact:
Kevin Doyle

Powdered Camouflage Lichen (Melanelia sorediata)

Life history

Species overview

Powdered Camouflage Lichen (Melanelia sorediata), a Wisconsin Special Concern lichen, is found on mainly on rocks but occasionally bark and often near water.

Synonyms: Montanelia sorediata, Parmelia sorediata, Parmelia sorediata f. arenisaxicola, Parmelia sorediata f. cultoides, Parmelia sorediata f. lignicola, Parmelia sorediata f. sorediata, Parmelia sorediata var. coralloidea, Parmelia sorediata var. pulvinata, Parmelia sorediata var. sorediata, Parmelia sorediosa


  • Distinguishing characteristics: Although there are many camouflage lichens in Wisconsin, powdered camouflage lichen is one of only two that is mainly found on rocks. It is most similar to the also rare mealy camouflage lichen (M. disjuncta). To distinguish the two examine the soralia. In mealy camouflage lichen the soralia are throughout the surface of the older parts of the upper surface while on powdered camouflage lichen the soralia are limited to the lobe margins.
  • Fruiting body characteristics: Apothecia are rare.
  • Thallus (vegetative body) characteristics: Thallus olive-brown to grey-black or black, appressed to substrate; branches up to 1.5mm wide and overlapping adjacent branches; lower surface dark and with numerous rhizines


  • Growth form: Foliose lichen
  • Vegetative reproduction: Soralia on lobe margins; soredia fine (vs coarse).
  • Comments:

General overview of lichen morphology

Lichens represent a unique symbiotic relationship between two or sometimes three organisms: a fungus; an alga; and/or a cyanobacterium. This figure provides a good overview of a generalized lichen. The main body of the lichen is called the thallus. The thallus is the vegetative part of the lichen (i.e., not including any reproductive structures like apothecia) and is often what we visually associate with a lichen. The figure above depicts a foliose thallus with the upper surface curled up in places to reveal the lower thallus surface. The magnified thallus cross section on the right shows a number of additional layers. In this example, the top layer is the upper cortex, which is made up of fungal filaments. Underneath that is the photobiont, either an alga or a cyanobacterium or both. Beneath the photobiont is a loose layer of fungal strands (hyphae) called the medulla, and below the medulla is the lower cortex.

Lichens can reproduce sexually via spores, which are associated with the fungal component of the lichen. However, these spores must again find an appropriate photobiont before a new lichen is formed. Lichens can also reproduce asexually. The two structures shown in the box on the left function in asexual reproduction. Both isidia and soredia are essentially photobionts wrapped in a fungal skin. These can be released from the thallus to form new lichens.

Please see the glossary below for descriptions of more lichen-related terms and photos that depict these features.

Glossary of common lichen terms [PDF]

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Powdered Camouflage Lichen (Melanelia sorediata). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Melanelia sorediata in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG5
Mapped in NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which certain rare lichen species are associated with a particular natural community or ecological landscape. This information is similar to that found in the Wildlife Action Plan for animals. As this is a work in progress, we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

General habitat information

Found on mainly on rocks but occasionally bark and often near water.

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Powdered Camouflage Lichen. Scores for natural community associations are: "significant" association (score=3), "moderate association" (score=2) or the species can be present but is only weakly associated with the community (score=1).

Natural communities score

Ecological landscapes

This table lists the ecological landscape association scores for Powdered Camouflage Lichen. The scores (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None) also correspond to the map.

Ecological landscape score

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for lichens on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback.

Avoidance measures

These are specific actions designed to avoid "take" (mortality) of this species.

  • No avoidance measures have been developed for this species.

Management guidance

Management guidelines are additional considerations that may help maintain or enhance habitat for this species

  • No guidance has been developed for this species.


Powdered Camouflage Lichen  Photo.

Despite this picture, powdered camouflage lichen is commonly found on rocks. Regardless of the substrate, the thallus is always tightly appressed to it.

Photo © Curtis Bjork.

Support for Wisconsin's rare lichen information has been provided by the Wisconsin Rare Plant Preservation Fund. To donate, visit the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin [exit DNR].

Last revised: Thursday, October 08, 2020
Southwest Savanna Southern Lake Michigan Coastal Western Coulees and Ridges Southeast Glacial Plains Central Sand Hills Central Lake Michigan Coastal Central Sand Plains Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northern Lake Michigan Coastal Northeast Sands Western Prairie North Central Forest Northern Highlands Northwest Lowlands Northwest Sands Northwest Lowlands Superior Coastal Plains Forest Transition