Meetings with Usnea, 2016


img_9535A friend and I are studying the Lichen family Usnea or Old Man’s Beard. There are many different species, and lucky for us many of them grow in Scotland, so my partner and I went in search of some to see it growing in it’s natural habitat. It has many uses herbally including being anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral and it is used as a tea, tincture or ointment. I have not used it myself for healing as yet, but have been having the odd drop of tincture and tea as part of this month’s study.

Here are some photos from my trip West to the Argyle Peninsula, walking in the Atlantic Pine and Broad-leaved Forests in search of the Old Man’s Beard.

It was not hard to find – these two were the first ones that I saw as we pulled up off the road by Benmore.


This Hawthorn was covered in Usnea, and the birds were enjoying the berries. I did not get too close as there was a young deer feeding nearby that had it’s eye on me and I did not want to disturb it.


It was lovely seeing the young lichens, so tiny. This one was quite small still and was on an old Sycamore in parkland, deer tracks led underneath it.


Lichen grow REALLY slowly, so it essential that they are not over harvested. Rather than taking each individual off the branch, I used scissors to cut off one or two ‘branches’ of the Usnea i.e. trimming the beard! This meant that the lichen could continue to grow for future use. Also you are not reducing the effect on the tree from having the lichen on it, as some people think that the lichen is helping to heal the tree/branch. It grows on old trees and is easily affected by air pollution.


In the cold, wintry afternoon light the lichen community grow on this old pine in a plantation that has been left alone for many years. Where trees have fallen and let the light in the lichens grow on nearby trees (I am not an expert but this is what seemed to be happening to our newbie lichenologist eyes)!


And finally this sunlit beauty.


I hope you enjoyed the photos and if you have any Usnea stories we’d love to hear them,

simone melanie, 2016.


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