• Proposed
  • Under Assessment
  • CRPreliminary Assessed
  • 4Assessed
  • 5Published

Teloschistes peruensis (Ach.) J.W. Thomson

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Scientific name
Teloschistes peruensis
(Ach.) J.W. Thomson
Common names
Peruvian Orange-Bush Lichen
Liquen Anaranjado Arbustivo de la Atacama
Liquen Anaranjado Arbustivo de la Atacama
Liquen Amarillo
IUCN Specialist Group
Assessment status
Preliminary Assessed
Preliminary Category
CR A2c B1a,b B2bi,ii,iv, C1
Proposed by
Jessica Allen
Frank Bungartz
Frank Bungartz, María de los Angekes Herrera Campos, Christian Parrinello, Daniel Ramos, Reinaldo Vargas
Jessica Allen, Manuela Dal Forno

Assessment Notes

Dear Jessica, please confirm that we can use all the unpublished images from the Kew report…


A2c applies because of the documented reduction in population sized comparing the historic reports with recent surveys. The historic reports (Thompson & Iltis 1968) talk about a huge expanse of the species at three different sits in Peru; the authors collected huge amounts of herbarium specimens (more than 40 duplicates) from various sites. This suggests at least 80% reduction.

B1a,b & B2bi,ii,iv: EOO is large only because the two sites (Peru & Chile) are ca. 8,000 km apart from one another. The actual AOO of both sites in Chile and Peru is very small, less than 10km2 in total. The two subpopulations (Chile, Peru) are extremely widely disjunct and thus highly fragmented.

C1 also applies with an estimated small population size of less than 250 functional individuals and an observed/estimated ongoing decline of at more than 25% (at least 2 of 4 original locations already extirpated, the remainder much smaller than the extensive meadows originally documented).

Taxonomic notes

The species generally is very poorly known. Specimens from Chile were sent by Reinaldo Vargas to Patrick Frödén in Sweden (the specialist in the genus Teloschistes). Patrick confirmed that the taxon corresponds to a phylogenetically well defined lineage, which must be considered a well delimited species.
[A detailed description was published by Thomson & Iltis (1968) https://www.jstor.org/stable/3240649 ]

Why suggested for a Global Red List Assessment?

T. peruensis is endemic to the coastal areas of Chile and Peru (Atacama Desert). Historic reports suggest it used to be abundant vagrant species in this coastal fog desert [Thomson & Iltis (1968) report the species as dominant and that they collected more than 40 specimens to be distributed among herbaria]. Currently there are only two confirmed known populations left. The larger one at Lomas de Ica (Peru) is in an area highly threatened by urbanization, infrastructure development, mining, and agriculture. The very small one in Chile lies within the confines of a National Park (Pan de Azúcar). Although presently not threatened, it could be accidentally extirpated due to its extremely small size.

Geographic range

Original reports from 4 sites in Peru (one inland site doubtful) and 1 site in Chile.

Locations in Peru (see map by D. Ramos):
• Otuzco (La Libertad): exact locality unknown, reports doubtful.
[A specimen collected by Pennell (Pennell 14825, MIN 881527, see https://lichenportal.org/cnalh/collections/individual/index.php?occid=416403&clid=0) lacks detailed coordinate data, no specific geographical reference other than the the province Otuzco is cited; the habitat is given as “on sandy soil”. Otuzco is an inland province of Peru, it is not located near the coast, and the typical sandy soil habitat is not present in the area (pers. comm. D. Ramos).. Teloschistes peruensis is vagrant, occasionally epiphytic lichen adapted to coastal areas that are regularly inundated by an abundance of fog. It appears unlikely that the species would have been found so far inland. R. Vargas examined the specimen (Pennell 14825, MIN 881527) and confirmed it is correctly identified, but we consider the report from this site nevertheless doubtful. It seems likely that the collection site was erroneously reported by Pennell. There is, however,  also one recent report from La Libertad (Peru) published in Rodriguez et al. (2017); two specimens are cited: Rodríguez R. & S. Arroyo A. 2729a (HUT) & Rodríguez R., E. Alvítez I. & L. Pollack V. 4135 (HUT). The image included in the publication (Fig. 4D) shows a specimen with densely ciliate apothecia, most likely a misidentification of T. chrysophtalmus (the material needs confirmation; R. Vargas has asked for a loan to UMCE). We consider the original reports by Pennell (1948) and the recent ones by Rodriguez et al. (2017) as doubtful. No extant subpopulations could be confirmed. If the species ever existed in this area, its populations must now be considered extirpated. The Pennell specimens are most likely mislabeled.
• Callao (Lima), Population extirpated; extensive search by Daniel Ramos), original reports are based on specimens collected by Anderson (s.n., UPS:BOT:L-018824; ); the material were collected in 1852 at coastal sites where the habitat has since been replaced by airport and maritime port of Callao.
• Camaná (Arequipa): Population extirpated (extensive search by Daniel Ramos), original report by Iltis (1963).
• Lomas de Amara (Ica): The only extant population in Peru, recently intensively surveyed using aerial drones by a team of botanists from Kew Gardens (2018); these habitat sites were previously also confirmed in a search by D. Ramos.

D. Ramos visited all Peruvian sites and despite intensive search was able to confirm only the one extant subpopulation at Lomas Amara (southwest of Ica); all other Peruvian locations have been extirpated (or the reports are doubtful; see comments about La Libertad).

The Lomas Amara at Ica (Peru) currently harbor the biggest known subpopulation. Using aerial drones this subpopulation was surveyed by a team from Kew Gardens (Moat & Wilkinson 2018), who documented that the species inhabits two sites, which together cover less than 10km2 (see images from the unpublished report).

In Chile only confirmed extant subpopulation is located at a site at Pan de Azúcar (Chile). It is very small, with just 10 to 15 functional individuals, the total area inhabited by that subpopulation covering less than 100m2.

Population and Trends

The original reports by Thompson & Iltis (1968) show very extensive “meadows” of this vagrant species at the three sites in Peru. All these sites, but one, at the Lomas Amara (sothwest of Ica), have been extirpated (extensive searches done at the sites by D. Ramos).
That means there are two extant populations known: The population at Pan de Azúcar (Chile) is very small, 10 to 15 functional individuals, the total population covering less than 100m2.The Lomas at Ica (Peru) currently harbor the biggest known population, less than 10km2. There is one additional report published Rodriguez et al. (2017) from La Libertad (Peru) that needs confirmation. R. Vargas has asked for a loan of the specimens. The larger population at Lomas of Ica is mostly terrestrial, vagrant, whereas the much smaller one at Pan de Azúcar is epiphytic (on shrubs).

Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology

Teloschistes peruensis grows in open, arid, sandy habitats (lomas formation) in the coastal fog-desert of South-Central Peru and North-Central Chile. These coastal areas are most influenced by fog particularly during May-November. The dominant vascular plant species at the sites in Peru are in the genus Tillandsia (Bromeliaceae), all other vegetation is largely ephemeral, i.e., desert annuals that briefly appear only during extremely rare, sporadic rainfall events. Teloschistes peruensis is only known from this particular habitat. It is mostly a vagrant species growing loosely on its sandy substrate, but can also be found overgrowing vascular plants (shrubs) and other lichens. The very small population known from Chile is essentially only epiphytic, growing with the common Ramalina usnea on a different shrubs.

HotSea Cliffs and Rocky Offshore Islands


There are no populations included in any natural protected areas in Peru, the species was found in “Pan de Azúcar” National Park in Chile (Vargas, pers. com.), which is well protected, even the access road to the site has recently been closed. There are some discussions on infrastructure development, which in the future might affect this Chilean population. In Peru the last remaining population is directly threatened by air pollution, infrastructure development (human settlements, roads) and agriculture (goat & cow meadows).

Factors threatening the larger population at Lomas Armara (southwest of Ica, Perú):
• Air Pollution: air pollutants negatively affecting the area are derived from combustible engines (traffic), agrochemicals (pesticides) and chemicals (used for mining).
• Habitat fragmentation/destruction: Growth of human population centers (cities, towns, villages, unregulated settlements), change of soil use for agriculture and mining. Some mining sites are located in immediate vicinity to the area where the species is found (near the town of Marcona). The fishermen from the small town Marcona use the sites for access to the docks, building dirt roads through the population area inhabited by the vagrant lichen.
• Presence of exotic species: Goats and cows use the lomas along the southern coast of Peru as extensive grazing areas, artificial meadows created by irrigation result in displacement and destruction of the original habitat sites.

Housing & urban areasCommercial & industrial areasAgro-industry farmingNomadic grazingMining & quarryingRoads & railroadsRecreational activitiesType Unknown/UnrecordedHerbicides and pesticidesType Unknown/Unrecorded

Conservation Actions

The only known extant population sites at Lomas de Ica in Peru are in urgent need to be protected from further habitat destruction. They require conservation action. The population site known from Chile appears to be relatively well protected as part of the National Park, but by comparison with the Peruvian population the one in Chile is only very small and could be extirpated by accident unless the authorities are aware of the importance of this species. R. Vargas is working with the Chilean authorities to recognize the species as threatened on the national level (in Chile). In Peru the last national meeting to establish red-listing on a national level has been three years ago.

Site/area protectionResource & habitat protectionSite/area managementHabitat & natural process restorationAwareness & communicationsInternational levelNational levelPolicies and regulations

Research needed

The species generally is very poorly known. Specimens from Chile were sent by Reinaldo Vargas to Patrik Frödén in Sweden (the specialist in the genus Teloschistes). Patrik confirmed that the taxon corresponds to a phylogenetically well defined lineage, which must be considered a well delimited species. However, other than that very little is known and particularly research on population ecology, genetics and the life cycle of Teloschistes peruensis is urgently needed.

TaxonomyPopulation size, distribution & trendsLife history & ecologyThreatsSpecies Action/Recovery PlanPopulation trendsHabitat trends

Use and Trade

Does not apply.


Thomson J.W. and H.H. Iltis. (1968). A Fog-induced Lichen Community in the Coastal Desert of Southern Peru. The Bryologist 71(1): 31-34. doi:10.2307/3240649. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3240649
Trevisan,V. (1861). Synopsis generum Trypethelinarum. Flora 44:17-26.
Whaley, O.Q., Orellana-Garcia, A. & Pecho-Quispe, J.O. (2019). An Annotated Checklist to Vascular Flora of the Ica Region, Peru—with notes on endemic species, habitat, climate and agrobiodiversity. Phytotaxa 389(1): 001–125. https://doi.org/10.11646/phytotaxa.389.1.1
Moat, J. & Wilkinson, T. (2018). Lichen meadow, Lomas Amara, Peru. Unpublished Report (remote sensing by J. Moat & T. Wilkinson; botanical survey by O. Whalley, A. Orellana García, D. Trujillo et al.).
Rodríguez Rodríguez, E.F., Ramírez Ordaya, Á.M, Alvítez Izquierdo, E., Pollack Velásquez, L., Leiva González, S. & Aguirre Tocas, R. (2017) Catálogo de la liquenobiota de la región La Libertad, Perú. Arnaldoa 24(2): 497-522. http://doi.org/10.22497/arnaldoa.242.24205

Known distribution - countries

Regional Population and Trends

Country Trend Redlisted