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Usnea longissima Ach.


Methuselah’s beard lichen, beard lichen

KingdomFungiMushrooms, lichens, gel fungi, yeasts, and molds; also called eukaryotes
DivisionAscomycotaSac fungi
SubdivisionPezizomycotinaSac fungi with filaments
ClassLecanoromycetes“Lichenized” fungi
OrderLecanoralesMostly lichen-forming fungi
FamilyParmeliaceaeIncludes many common lichens such as Xanthoparamelia, Usnea, Parmotrema, and Hypotrachyna
GenusUsneaFrom Arabic Ushnah, “lichen,” which was translated to Latin by Ebubekir Muhammed bin Zekeriya Razi
SpecieslongissimaVery long

About plant names...

Methuselah’s beard lichen, or another of the beard lichens, probably prompted J.R.R. Tolkein’s imagination when he created ents—ancient, slow-moving tree creatures in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Identification: All beard lichens are fruticose—that is, shaped like tiny branching shrubs. But only Methuselah’s beard lichen hangs in such long strips, pale yellowish-green in color, looking much like Spanish moss. Strands can reach lengths of almost 20' (6.1 m). The central chord is brownish or pinkish in color. Like many lichens, they are sensitive to pollution, especially to sulfur oxides released by some manufacturing processes, and populations are declining.

Online References:

Usnea longissima at Stephen and Sylvia Sharnoff's lichen.com site

Usnea longissima on the Environmental Protection Agency's Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants list

Usnea longissima on eseis.ut.ee


Walewski, Joe, Lichens of the North Woods, Kollath+Stensaas Publishing, 2007, p. 139

Usnea longissima description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 25 May 2020.

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Usnea longissima (Methuselah’s beard lichen, beard lichen)

1/1/2021 · Owl’s Head Lighthouse, Owl’s Head, Maine ID is uncertain

Usnea longissima (Methuselah’s beard lichen, beard lichen)

4/3/2010 · Owl’s Head Lighthouse, Owl’s Head, Maine
≈ 9 × 6" (23 × 15 cm) ID is uncertain

Usnea longissima (Methuselah’s beard lichen, beard lichen)

4/3/2010 · Birch Point Beach State Park, Owl’s Head, Maine
≈ 11 × 10" (28 × 24 cm) ID is uncertain