regiferina) Although it is commonly called a
moss, this is actually a lichen. The
"reindeer" part of its common name
comes from the fact that it makes up a
significant part of the reindeer's diet during
the months other food plants are buried under
Looking much like a tiny shrub,
reindeer moss grows to a height of 2-4 inches.
Its many intricate hollow branches, which oddly
enough look sort of like antlers, are grayish
white in color.
Reindeer moss often
dominates the ground in boreal pine forests and
open, low-alpine sites in a wide range of
habitats -- humid, open forests, lowland bogs,
arctic tundra, and even on rocks. It is found in
great abundance across the arctic and subarctic
regions of both Eurasia and Canada.
Reindeer moss grows so slowly
that it can take 10 years or more for a patch to
fully recover from reindeer feeding or other
disturbance. It is so widespread across its
range, however, that it is not uncommon to find
mature clumps that have been growing for 100
years or more.
In addition to being a staple
food for reindeer and other animals during the
winter, native peoples use reindeer moss in
medicinal teas to treat colds, arthritis, fevers,
etc., as well as in a poultice to relieve
arthritic pain. Reindeer moss is also often used
as a decorative mulch for potted plants, and
makes an excellent substitute for trees and
shrubs in model train layouts.
Genus & Species Cladina regiferina
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