The resemblance of the spermatia and spermogonia to those of Uredineae should be pointed out, where also there is considerable evidence for their original sexual nature, though they appear in that group to be functionless in all cases.
M, Medullary layer of the C, Cladonia novae Angliae, B, Portion of a very thin Delise; sterigmata section from the base with spermatia from of the spermogonium.
In Collema and a form like Xanthoria parietina it is probable that actual fertilization takes place, and possibly also in some of the other forms. It is probable, however, that in the majority of cases the ascogonia develop without normal fertilization, as is necessarily the case where the ascogonia have no trichogynes or the spermatia are absent.
These three elements - trichogyne, trichophoric cell, and carpogenic cell - are regarded as the procarp. The spermatia have been shown by Thaxter to fuse with the trichogyne, after which the axial cell below (carpogenic cell) undergoes divisions, and ultimately forms asci containing ascospores, while cells investing this form a perithecium, the whole structure reminding us essentially of the fructification of a Pyrenomycete.
Fertilization by means of non-motile spermatia and a trichogyne are known among the Fungi in the families Collemaceae and Laboulbeniaceae.
In relation to the view that the spermatia are sexual cells, or at least were primitively so, it must be pointed out that although the actual fusion of the spermatial nucleus with a female nucleus has not been observed, yet in a few cases the spermatia have been seen to fuse with a projecting portion (trichogyne) of the ascogonium, as in Collema and Physcia, and there is very strong circumstantial evidence that fertilization takes place (see later in section on development of ascocarp).
In favour of the conidial view is the fact that in the case of Collema and a few other forms the spermatia have been made to germinate in artificial cultures, and in the case of Calicium parietinum Moller succeeded in producing a spermogonia bearing thallus from a spermatium.
For the germination of the spermatia in nature there is only the observation of Hedlund, that in Catillaria denigrata and C. prasena a thallus may be derived from the spermatia under natural conditions.
As the remarks on the nature of the spermatia show, the question of the sexuality of the lichens has been hotly disputed in common with that of the rest of the Ascomycetes.