Wild Florida Photo
Nature Photography by Paul Rebmann
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Old Man's Beard
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
This lichen usually grows attached to the branches of trees and shrubs, often on oaks and pines. These images are possibly Usnea strigosa - bushy beard lichen - although it could be one of the other many species in Florida and North America.
Some old man's beards look very similar to some of the airplants, such as Spanish moss, whose species name - Tillandsia usneoides - reflects that similarity. This genus can be differentiated from other similar lichens and plants by breaking one of the main branches or stems. Usnea will have a central white cord, like a stiff wick.
Old man's beard is very sensitive to air pollution, especially sulfur dioxide. Poor quality air results in greatly stunted growth, with the lichens only a few millimeters long that normally would grow much longer.
Used medicinally for at least a thousand years, most Usnea species exhibit antibiotic properties, and was used as a wound compress by Native Americans.
For a taxonomic tree and links to other fungi posted on Wild Florida Photo see the Fungi at Wild Florida Photo page.