Cladonia furcata

Cladonia furcata
Cladonia furcata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Ascomycota
Class: Lecanoromycetes
Order: Lecanorales
Family: Cladoniaceae
Genus: Cladonia
Species: C. furcata
Binomial name
Cladonia furcata
(Huds.) Schrad.

Cladonia furcata is a lichenized species of fungi in the Cladoniaceae family. It has an intermediate to tolerant air pollution sensitivity.[1] Extracts from this species have been shown to kill leukemia cells in vitro, and may have possible value in the treatment of cancer.



Like other lichens in the genus Cladonia, the fruiting body of C. furcata is made of a flattened primary thallus and a secondary upright stalk that forms the secondary thallus. The secondary thallus – the podetium – is extensively branched, and may reach up to 10 centimetres (3.9 in) tall. The podetia ranges in color from grayish or pale green to brown. The axil, the inner junction of a branchlet with a branch or with another branchlet, is open, with inrolled branches, and frequently with a longitudinal groove that extends down the podetium from the axil. The fertile (reproductive) branches of this lichen are more or less flattened, and often grooved. C. furcata does not have the vegetative reproductive structures soredia and isidia, but instead has apothecia—cup-like ascocarps that contain asci on which ascospores are borne. The apothecia are brown, small, and borne at the end of the branches.[1]

Habitat and distribution

C. furcata is most commonly found in forests near coastlines, at low to mid elevations. It may be found growing on moss, humus, and soil, more rarely on rotten wood or at the base of trees.[1] In North America, it is found from Alaska[2] to California, and is very common in the west Cascade range.

Sensitivity to agrochemicals

A field experiment on the effects of various common agrochemicals (mineral fertilizer, lime and calcium cyanamide) as well as organic fertilizer (manure) on C. furcata revealed that mineral fertilizer had no direct effect on lichen growth, manure promoted the length of the podetia, and calcium cyanamide proved to be lethal to C. furcata.[3] Another study showed that application of fertilizers containing either a combination of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, or solely potassium had a significant stimulatory effect on the growth of C. furcata.[4]

Bioactive compounds

Polysaccharides isolated from C. furcata were shown to induce cell death (apoptosis) in human leukemia K562 cells.[5] Furthermore, C. furcata polysaccharides decreased the activity of telomerase, an enzyme that helps some cancer cells avoid death; this activity suggests possible therapeutic potential in the treatment of cancer.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Geiser L, McCune B. (1997). Macrolichens of the Pacific Northwest. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press. p. 88. ISBN 0-87071-394-9. 
  2. ^ Stenroos S (1993). "Taxonomy and distribution of the lichen family Cladoniaceae in the Antarctic and peri-Antarctic regions". Cryptogamic Botany 3 (4): 310–44. 
  3. ^ Vagts I, Kinder M, Müller J. (1994). "The effect of agrochemicals on the growth of Cladonia furcata". Lichenologist (1): 73–82. 
  4. ^ Vagts I, Kinder M. (1999). "The response of different Cladonia species after treatment with fertilizer or lime in Heathland". Lichenologist 31 (1): 75–83. 
  5. ^ Lin X, Cai YJ, Li ZX, Liu ZL, Yin SF, Zhao JC (2001). "Cladonia furcata polysaccharide induced apoptosis in human leukemia K562 cells". Acta Pharmacologica Sinica 22 (8): 716–20. PMID 11749844. 
  6. ^ Lin X, Cai YJ, Li ZX, Chen Q, Liu ZL, Wang R (2003). "Structure determination, apoptosis induction, and telomerase inhibition of CFP-2, a novel lichenin from Cladonia furcata". Biochimica Biophysica Acta 1622 (2): 99–108. doi:10.1016/S0304-4165(03)00131-4. PMID 12880947. 

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