If you’ve walked deep within a forest, somewhere like the Children’s Forest or Grandmother Grove, then I bet you’ve seen lots of this particular lichen called Old Man’s Beard. It prefers to grow in places with low levels of air pollution, so you can breathe easy (literally) when you see lots of this lichen growing within the forest!

It’s pretty easy to tell why Old Man’s Beard was given its name. This lichen hangs on massive conifer tree branches deep in the old forests, draping like ancient garlands or stuck on bark like a grizzled beard. It’s also known as Witches Hair, or more scientifically known as Usnea longissima or Usnea for short (pronounced ooze-ne-a).

Many birds actually use it for nests, and some animals love to eat it. Humans also like to utilize this lichen; we use it for its medicinal purposes such as dressing wounds or aiding in a sore throat or cough. If you’re ever foraging this lichen, keep in mind it’s extremely slow growing, so only take what you need!

Click these links to learn more about Old Man’s Beard and other lichens:

We would love to hear about and post your experiences with any of Cortes’ local flora and fauna! Please submit your short story and tell us something fun about your favourite species by reaching out to us at: friendsofcortesisland@gmail.com.

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