This pale green and hairy clump of lichen was sitting under the big tree outside the kitchen. I’d never seen it before but Matt quickly identified it online as Usnea florida. It is part of a group of lichens that have been used for at least 1000 years for their medicinal properties.
This one is a potent broad spectrum antibiotic and antifungal. It is also edible and very high in vitamin C. It grows all over the world, but is very sensitive to air pollution and it’s disappearing from the UK. It is thriving here in Mahone Bay. The tree has many clumps still attached to its branches.
Usnea has many names including Old Man’s Beard. Witches whiskers was a name chosen by Guardian readers. The story of the naming competition is here. Coincidentally, Evie came home from school yesterday with a pocketful of it found in the woods behind school. Her teacher’s mother-in-law brews it for tea.
Here’s a link to the Guardian article on Usnea florida with more information about its edible and medicinal properties.