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  • Under Assessment
  • LCPreliminary Assessed
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Chrysothrix chamaecyparicola Lendemer

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Scientific name
Chrysothrix chamaecyparicola
Common names
Moonglow Lichen
IUCN Specialist Group
Assessment status
Preliminary Assessed
Preliminary Category
Proposed by
Rebecca Yahr
James Lendemer
Comments etc.
Rebecca Yahr

Assessment Notes


Chrysothrix chamaecyparicola is a conspicuous, light yellow crustose lichen that is widely distributed in temperate eastern North America where it the primary constituent of lichen communities in certain conifer dominated forest habitats. The species is not considered to be under significant threat as it tolerates at least some forms of disturbance, and the population is suspected to be stable. For these reasons it is assessed as Least Concern.

Taxonomic notes

Chrysothrix chamaecyparicola was described more than a decade ago and has been consistently recognized with the same taxonomic concept since that time. It is an easily recognized dust lichen with a unique combination of ecology, morphology and chemistry (Lendemer & Elix 2010). Prior to its description the species was rarely collected, however when it was collected and studied by researchers specimens were typically left undetermined to species, or assigned to C. candelaris (L.) J.R. Laundon. Chrysothrix candelaris is a European species and the name was widely misapplied to many different members of the genus until they were studied in modern times (Harris & Ladd 2008, Laundon 1981, Thor 1988).

Why suggested for a Global Red List Assessment?

Geographic range

This species occurs throughout temperate eastern North America and is especially widely distributed in the southeastern United States. It is common and widespread across multiple biogeographic provinces including the Atlantic Coastal Plain, Piedmont and Appalachian Mountains. While the southern areas of its range extend considerably inland and upland, the species is mostly restricted to areas closer to the coast in the northern portions of its range.

Population and Trends

Detailed population data are not available for this species. Based the known occurrences, the majority of which have been collected since 2000, the population is suspected to be stable as the species is widely distributed and often locally abundant where it occurs. Moreover, it often occurs in habitats that have been subjected to some degree of past disturbance and pollution that have extirpated other more-sensitive species such as fruticose lichens and cyanolichens.

Population Trend: Stable

Habitat and Ecology

Chrysothrix chamaecyparicola occurs in a wide array of forested habitat types across its range but is typically associated with humid conifer-dominated forests such as riparian corridors and swamps (Lendemer & Noell 2018). It often forms extensive colonies that cover the bases and boles of conifer trees in the habitats where it occurs. When the species is the dominant member of the lichen community at a site, as is the case in many Atlantic White Cedar swamps in the Mid-Atlantic region of eastern North America, it also grows on the bark of hardwood trees in the same habitats (Lendemer & Elix 2010).

Temperate ForestSubtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland ForestPermanent Rivers, Streams, Creeks [includes waterfalls]Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands [generally over 8 ha]


Although the population is believed to be stable, and the species is tolerant of some disturbance, it does face several threats. Habitats where the species occurs, especially in the Coastal Plain of southeastern North America and the Mid-Atlantic are decreasing in extent and increasingly fragmented by residential and industrial development and infrastructure (roads and electricity corridors) (Lendemer et al. 2016). The low-lying swamps and forested wetlands where it is particularly common are also being degrade and reduced in extent by sea-level rise and coastal erosion (Allen & Lendemer 2016). Since the species occurs primarily on conifer substrates, there are also multiple insect pathogens that are causing widespread mortality of specific host trees. These include Hemlock Wooly Adelgid (Adelges tsugae) on American Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and Southern Pine Bark Beetle (Dendroctonus frontalis) on various species of pine (Pinus) (Eilson et al. 2018, Fettig et al. 2020). Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides), a particularly important substrate for the species in the Mid-Atlantic, was subjected to significant resource extracting (timbering) historically and is now considered threatened (Doyle et al. 2021, Roman et al. 1990).

Housing & urban areasCommercial & industrial areasRoads & railroadsUtility & service linesNamed speciesNamed speciesOther impacts

Conservation Actions

Detailed demographic and fine-scale modern occurrence data from comprehensive systematic surveys would fill in knowledge gaps for this species and facilitate a more accurate population assessment. Although it is assessed as Least Concern, long-term monitoring of populations would be beneficial for detecting potential declines or extirpations that may result from ongoing sea-level rise and climate change related impacts to low-lying coastal swamp habitats where it occurs (Allen & Lendemer 2016). Many sites where this species occurs are located on public lands and in protected areas where it is incidentally protected. Overall the species would also benefit from education programs aimed at raising awareness of its existence and the threats both it and its habitats.

Formal educationTrainingAwareness & communications

Research needed

Population size, distribution & trendsPopulation trendsHabitat trends

Use and Trade

This species is collected by researchers for scientific study. Other uses have not been documented to date.



Country occurrence

Regional Population and Trends

Country Trend Redlisted