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Gold-eye Lichen (Teloschistes chrysophthalmus)

Life history

Species overview

Gold-eye Lichen (Teloschistes chrysophthalmus), a Wisconsin Special Concern plant, is found on trees in a variety of habitats in southern Wisconsin, including dry ridges, old fields and floodplain forests. . This species can be identified year-round.



  • Distinguishing characteristics: Gold-eye lichen is the only species in the Teloschistes genus found in Wisconsin. Lichens in the genus Xanthoria can look like gold-eye but are more foliose, with a thallus that has clearly defined upper and lower surfaces and is less tufted.
  • Flower characteristics:
  • Fruit characteristics: Apothecia (cup- or disc-like fruiting structures) bright orange, 1-4mm wide, ciliate on margins and common on branch ends.
  • Leaf characteristics: Thallus bright orange above and gray below, branched; branches flat with ridges paralleling margins, tipped with cilia.


  • Blooming phenology:
  • Fruiting phenology:
  • Optimum time to identify: This species can be identified year-round


  • Growth form: Fruticose lichen
  • Vegetative reproduction: Isidia and soredia, two types of vegetative propagules, are usually lacking. If present, these propagules are powdery or granular and may be found on the thallus middle, margins or tips of lobes.
  • Life cycle:
  • Comments: Associated species: Bur oak, black locust and trembling aspen. This lichen is sensitive to air pollution.

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 Gold-eye Lichen (Teloschistes chrysophthalmus). 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 Teloschistes chrysophthalmus in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusSC
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS1
Global RankG4G5
Tracked by NHIY

Habitats and landscapes

The Natural Heritage Inventory has developed scores indicating the degree to which each of Wisconsin's rare plant species is 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

  • Habitat description: Found on trees in a variety of habitats in southern Wisconsin, including dry ridges, old fields and floodplain forests.
  • Soils:

Natural communities

This table lists the natural communities that are associated with Gold-eye 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).

Ecological landscapes

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

Map of the Ecological Landscapes of Wisconsin.

Ecological landscape score
Southeast Glacial Plains 3
Western Coulee and Ridges 2

Species guidance

The Endangered Resources Program has developed avoidance measures and management guidelines for plants on the Natural Heritage Working List. These are a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions and feedback. Sources used in developing this information can be found here.

Avoidance measures

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

  • Avoid known individual plant locations and conduct operations elsewhere when they are least likely to cause damage. Ideally, this would involve frozen, snow-covered ground. However, in areas of the state where frozen conditions are unreliable, very dry soils late in the growing season might be the best available alternative. Consult with a biologist, if needed.

Management guidance

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

  • Species is extremely rare in the state and is of the highest priority for conservation; please consult with your District Ecologist or NHI staff to determine if the species is present on your site and for specific recommendations.


Gold-eye Lichen Photo.

This photo, showing the small orange lichen growing on the tree knob, highlights how small gold-eye is and how easily it may be overlooked.

Photo © Terri Beth Peters.

Gold-eye Lichen Photo.

A closer view of the disc-shaped fruiting structures called apothecia. Also note the tufted habit of this lichen. There is not a clearly defined upper and lower surface.

Photo © Samuel Brinker.

Gold-eye Lichen Photo.

Photo © Troy McMullin.

Gold-eye Lichen Photo.

Photo © Troy McMullin.

Gold-eye Lichen Photo.

This photo, showing the small orange lichen growing on the tree knob, highlights how small gold-eye is and how easily it may be overlooked.

Photo © James P. Bennett.

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

Last revised: Wednesday, May 05, 2021
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