Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Coastal BC Plants: Methuselah's Beard Lichen

Methuselah's Beard Lichen

In our moist climate, mosses and lichens grow in profusion. You see many trees encased and draped with these non-vascular plants. One impressive lichen is called Methuselah's Beard (Usnea longissima). As with all lichens, it is a composite organism with both plant and fungus characteristics.

It hangs from trees in long masses that make you think of the Old Testament patriarch who was reported in the bible to have lived 969 years. These beards aren't that old, but look like they've grown for a very long time.

Methuselah's Beard (click here for a fact sheet) used to have a much wider distribution around the world, but it has been declining due to habitat and environmental changes. It is still common along the Pacific region from Northern California to Alaska. Even where it remains, it has a spotty distribution, possibly related to its asexual reproduction through fragmentation of the thallus base.

It's most frequently found on old growth and mature conifer and hardwood trees in forests with high humidity such as coastal ranges. As these trees are harvested, the habitat is reduced.

The colour ranges from pale green to a yellowish-silver tint. This closeup with flash made it turn white.

First Nations people and herbalists have used it for purported antiseptic and antibiotic properties, but because of its tenuous status, harvesting or damage should be avoided. -- Margy


  1. Well now I know what they are. Thanks for sharing that interesting info. Great shots!

  2. Great pix and information. I've seen this a few times and wondered just what it was - thanks.

  3. That's interesting, haven't see this in the UK! I like the name!

    Best wishes,
    ABCW team.

  4. I was fascinated to see all the moss and lichen when we first visited BC. It is good to now be able to identify one of them.

  5. I could never grow MY beard that long!


  6. Wow that is an amazing lichen. I find the species fascinating despite only being able to identify a handful, nothing as luxurious as Methuselah's Beard on trees here.

  7. I had no idea that's what they are called. I just thought of them as very mystical.
    The View from the Top of the Ladder


We welcome your comments and questions. - Wayne and Margy