Scientific name: Usnea spp.
Common names: “Old man’s beard” “tree moss”
Plant Type: Lichen, not a plant but a fungus/algae
Zone:1-11, varies between spp.
Light: Dappled shade – deep shade
Soil: Grows on trees and rocks, doesn’t like air pollution
Moisture: Prefers well ventilated forest with regular rainfall
Plant Size: 2-4″ H & W, very slow growing
Leaf and Stem shape: Hair like filaments, tufted and hanging, each hair contains a tough thread-like central cord
Propagate: By spores and division
Comments: Should not be harvested from living branches, but from blown down branches on the ground, contains chemicals which are anti-inflammatory and has been used medicinally as an herb by Chinese, Egyptians and native Americans for over 3000 years, tends to grow on the moist side of the tree, not the North side, some species prefer certain trees while others will tolerate a wide range of hosts
Species: There are many different species of Usnea found all over the world except Australia, protected in Germany, one thing they all have in common is a white central cord in all the little hairs, the easiest way to identify U. is to break a string in half and see if there is a slightly elastic white thread within, there are 2 U. spp. native to B.C.
U. wirthii – “Blood splattered beard” – small tufts growing on conifers
U. longissima – “Methuselah’s beard” – longest lichen, grows from 1′-18′, requires old growth forest to thrive
U. aurantiaco-atra – Native to the Antarctic