Lichens are often the first species to colonize an environment that is new or regenerating, known as a pioneer species, absorbing nitrogen from the atmosphere and breaking down rock to create nutrient-dense soil. Lichens are not plants, but a symbiosis of algae living upon a fungal structure.
The Florida perforate reindeer lichen occurs exclusively in Florida, characterized by its yellow-grey, complex branching pattern. In 1992 only 15 percent of C. perforata’s habitat remained due to degradation from residential and agricultural development and environmental disturbances such as fires and hurricanes. A hurricane in 1995 resulted in at least two of populations of C. perforata being destroyed.
C. perforata is now listed on the US Endangered Species List in 1993, the first species of lichen to be recognized in this way. 16 populations are currently on protected land and all federal landowners with C. perforata are legally responsible for its protection and conservation.