Species Profile

Ghost Antler Lichen

Scientific Name: Pseudevernia cladonia
Other/Previous Names: Ghost Antler
Taxonomy Group: Lichens
Range: Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2011
Last COSEWIC Designation: Not at Risk
SARA Status: No schedule, No Status

Individuals of this species may be protected under Schedule 1 under another name; for more information see Schedule 1, the A-Z Species List, or if applicable, the Related Species table below.

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Image of Ghost Antler Lichen


The Ghost Antler is a large, finely branched lichen that grows on trees, mainly on the twigs and branches of young conifers. As its name suggests, it resembles the branches of a deer’s antlers and is therefore conspicuous. The thallus (the main part of the lichen) is evenly and repeatedly branched from the base. Chalky white and matte-textured, this luxuriant lichen can attain a diameter of 12 cm and a thickness of 4 cm. In the largest specimens (which are also the oldest), the branches may be up to 2.5 mm wide at the base. Their channelled lower surfaces become grey (or locally brown) to black-mottled to entirely black, although these dark-pigmented areas sometimes develop a thin, waxy, ash-white, fine-textured “bloom.” Generally, the thallus resembles a small bush. It only very rarely forms apothecia, the small fruiting bodies that produce spores used in reproduction.


Distribution and Population

The Ghost Antler occurs primarily in high-elevation spruce-fir forests in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern North America, from the Great Smoky Mountains, in Tennessee and North Carolina, north to Mount Katahdin, in Maine. In the northernmost regions, it is also present at low elevations, along or near the coast of the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic Ocean as far as Nova Scotia. A widely disjunct population also occurs in the high mountains of the Dominican Republic. In Canada, the Ghost Antler is known from a small area of the Appalachian Mountains in southeastern Quebec and from scattered localities along the coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. At least 20 locations are currently known in Canada: three in Quebec, ten in New Brunswick and seven in Nova Scotia. At most of the locations in the Maritime provinces, fewer than 50 thalli have been found. A notable exception is one site in New Brunswick where more than 2000 thalli are present. Three of five Maritime populations first found before 1990 could not be relocated in 2003-2004. Two of these populations have apparently been lost to housing development, and the other was apparently eliminated following a spruce budworm outbreak. In 2004, the discovery of more than 3 000 000 thalli at two locations in Quebec resulted in a dramatic increase in the known population in that province, where the population previously consisted of an unknown number of individuals at one small site, last documented in 1959. It is likely that other high-elevation occurrences will be found in a small mountainous area of southeastern Quebec near the United States border that has not yet been intensively searched. The number of individuals in Quebec is estimated to be more than 10 000 000 and the number of individuals in the Maritime provinces more than 2600. The total Canadian population of the Ghost Antler is probably stable.



In Canada, the Ghost Antler occurs in cool, humid montane or coastal coniferous forests dominated by red spruce and/or balsam fir. Where it occurs near the coast, the Ghost Antler is a species of humid forest interiors. It does not occur on headlands exposed to the wind. A key feature shared by these coastal and high-elevation stands is their frequent and often prolonged immersion in fog or clouds. This lichen has been found growing on balsam fir, red spruce and, in some poorly drained sites, black spruce. It occurs mainly on twigs and branches (less frequently on the trunks) of these tree species or on woody debris on the forest floor. The presence of the Ghost Antler, as well as its relative abundance (at least in Quebec), is clearly a function of stand age and humid conditions. Its restriction to foggy coastal and montane forests suggests a requirement for cool, humid climates. With increasing distance from cool coastal areas, it becomes progressively more restricted, at non-montane elevations, to humid old-growth stands. Overall, the habitat of the Ghost Antler in Canada appears to be stable. Succession and maturation of montane fir forests in areas in southeastern Quebec that were previously logged but are now protected may result in a gradual increase in the population within these areas. However, such gains could be offset by losses resulting from logging of montane forests and from additional telecommunications towers or the further development of alpine skiing at mountaintop sites. In the Maritime provinces, the extent of potential habitats is probably stable.



Like all lichens, the Ghost Antler is not composed of a single organism, but rather two organisms coexisting in a symbiotic relationship (that benefits both). The filaments of a fungus comprise the largest part of the lichen, but green algae cells live among these filaments. Once established in a forest stand, the Ghost Antler appears to be incapable of dispersing quickly or over long distances. This trait can be explained by the fact that this lichen lacks vegetative propagules and only very rarely forms apothecia, small fruiting bodies that produce spores for sexual reproduction. Pycnidia, structures bearing the asexual spores of the fungus, are also rare. This species therefore reproduces mainly by fragmentation. However, its thallus is not particularly brittle, so it appears to have a limited capacity for long-distance dispersal or even for dispersal within a stand. Wind and animals, particularly birds, are the main potential vectors for the dispersal of the Ghost Antler. Since the conifer branches where it grows are acidic, this lichen is probably less affected by acidifying pollutants, particularly sulphur dioxide, than other lichens.


Logging of mature moist spruce-fir forests will likely eliminate the sites most likely to harbour populations. The occurrence making up more than 75% of the known population in the Maritime provinces is in an old-growth stand currently threatened by logging and housing development. In addition, because of its limited capacity for long-distance dispersal, the Ghost Antler is poorly adapted to recover from these types of major disturbances. The natural disturbance dynamics of spruce-fir forests, including periodic outbreaks of spruce budworm, cause populations of the Ghost Antler to fluctuate on a local scale. Novel forest pathogens, such as the introduced brown spruce longhorn beetle, could pose a greater threat. A potential long-term threat to the large population in mountainous southeastern Quebec is ongoing change in the mean height of the cloud base. Research indicates that this elevation has been increasing by approximately 4 m per year over the past 30 years, possibly due to climate warming. If continued, these changes could result in a gradual reduction in the area of moist (cloud-influenced) montane fir forest suitable for the Ghost Antler. In Quebec, the population in Mont-Orford provincial park is threatened by an alpine skiing development. The size of this population may also have been reduced by the erection of several large telecommunications towers.




PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Ghost Antler Lichen Pseudevernia cladonia in Canada (2012)

    The Ghost Antler Lichen (Pseudevernia cladonia) is a chalky white, tree-inhabiting macrolichen with narrow bifurcating lobes. The thallus has a shrubby habit superficially resembling that of a reindeer lichen. It lacks vegetative propagules and only very rarely produces sexual reproductive structures (apothecia). It is restricted, globally, to montane and coastal cloud/fog forests in eastern North America and the Caribbean region. No other lichen is known to have this unusual distribution pattern. The coastal occurrences of Ghost Antler are largely within Canada. At montane locations, it may prove to be a sensitive indicator of climate and vegetation change.
  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the ghost antler Pseudevernia cladonia in Canada (2006)

    Pseudevernia cladonia is a chalky white to pale grey tree-inhabiting macrolichen with evenly bifurcating, narrow lobes. Although the lobes are flattened in cross-section, and have a channeled, black-mottled, lower surface, the thallus overall has a fruticose habit superficially resembling that of a caribou lichen. It lacks soredia, isidia or other specialized vegetative propagules and forms apothecia only very rarely.

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Ghost Antler (2006)

    The species is a chalky white, finely branched macrolichen occurring on twigs of conifers in cool montane and coastal spruce-fir forests in eastern North America. It is very patchily distributed in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, probably owing to dispersal limitations, and in southeastern Quebec, it is restricted to scattered mountaintops >800 m in elevation and to the height-of-land along the border with the United States. In its montane locations, the construction of communication towers, alpine ski development, and logging have caused some reductions in the area and quality of habitat. In the Maritimes, some population losses are attributable to logging and housing development. The severity of the threats is offset by the abundance of the species over a broad area and potential discovery of large populations on some mountain tops in Quebec.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2007) (2007)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of 40 species done pursuant to paragraph 15(1)(a) and in accordance with subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2007)

    Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to section 27 of the Species at Risk Act, hereby makes the annexed Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2006 (2006)

    2006 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2011-2012 (2012)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (September 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) from November 21 to 25, 2011 and from April 29 to May 4, 2012. On February 3, 2012, an Emergency Assessment Subcommittee of COSEWIC also assessed the status of the Tri-colored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus), the Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus), and the Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis). During the current reporting period COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 67 wildlife species. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2011-2012 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 1 Extirpated: 4 Endangered: 29 Threatened: 10 Special Concern: 15 Data Deficient: 2 Not at Risk: 6 Total: 67 Of the 67 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 49 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment (see Table 1a).

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act Terrestrial Species: December 2006 (2006)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list. Please submit your comments by March 16, 2007 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 14, 2008 for species undergoing extended consultations.