Observation 89904: Usnea Dill. ex Adans.

When: 2012-03-14

Collection location: State Game Lands No. 206, Luzerne Co., Pennsylvania, USA [Click for map]

Who: Dave W (Dave W)

No specimen available


Proposed Names

58% (1)
Recognized by sight
Used references: Lichens of NA
-29% (1)
Used references: Lichens of NA
28% (1)
Recognized by sight: bushy, on bark(?), branches not constricted, no red pigment, punctate isidiate soralia(?), blackened base

Please login to propose your own names and vote on existing names.

= Observer’s choice
= Current consensus


Add Comment
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2012-03-19 12:52:23 PDT (-0700)

By the way, I keyed this out the best I could in several floras. All led me to U. subfloridana or close to it. The species is recorded from PN (acc. to NYBG). I just don’t know that group yet, so would require spot test and careful study of specimens of related species before I could have anything resembling confidence.

Good excuse to build a page for Usnea
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2012-03-19 12:49:16 PDT (-0700)

See the new name description. Still would like to document a number of the characters a lot better, but there’s a photo of just about every character state somewhere on MO!

Wow, that’s a lot of good info, Jason.
By: Dave W (Dave W)
2012-03-19 09:41:21 PDT (-0700)

Thanks! I’m printing this page for future reference.

They all look the same!
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2012-03-19 09:03:03 PDT (-0700)

Even after years of study, I only recognize three basic types: long dangly ones, tangled bushy ones, and tangled bushy ones with lots of apothecia. :)

The characters to pay close attention to in Usnea are:

1) Is it pendant (“dangly”) or bushy? (See U. ceratina for dangly, U. lapponica for bushy, for example.)
2) Is there any red or orange coloration on the outside? (See U. pensylvanica, for example.)
3) Is there red or pink coloration inside? (See U. mutabilis and U. endochrysea, for example.)
4) Are there soredia or isidia? (U. hirta has abundant “isidia”, U. pensylvanica has more typical isidia, U. lapponica has just soredia and no isidia, U. strigosa and U. trichodea have neither.)
5) Do the soredia form tiny spots smaller than half the width of the branch, or large spots greater than half the branch? (But be careful to note small soralia which coallesce into a large mass or irregular soredia toward the branch tips, as in U. cornuta. U. pensylvanica is a good example of small soralia, U. lapponica has large soralia.)
6) Are the soralia raised or stipitate, are they flush with the surface, or are the concave and eroded? (Eroded soralia can leave a flap of cortical tissue around the margin, such as in U. lapponica. See U. ceratina for stipitate soralia, and U. pensylvanica for flush soralia.)
7) Are the branches, esp. the main branches, goose-bumpy with papillae? (Often variable for any given species, but it’s usually conspicuous in U. ceratina, for example.)
8) Is the base of the thallus jet-black? (This can be ambiguous. U. subfusca is a pretty safe example, though.)
9) Is the medulla loose and webby or dense and solid, and is the central axis narrow or very thick? (Loose medulla generally means the secondary branches are constricted like sausages where they attach to the main branches. The typical example is U. cornuta.)
10) Are there conspicuous cracks encircling the branches, making it look like it’s made of a string of bones? (See U. trichodea.)
11) Are the branches round in cross-section or angular or pitted or ridged? (U. cavernosa is pitted. U. hirta is typically angular. If you find one that is “winged” like the branches of a winged elm, be very excited, this species – U. angulata – is very rare these days!)
12) Are there white-topped warts? (There is a subtle variation called a fibercle which has a tiny dot at the tip formed by a secondary branch breaking off leaving a scar where the central axis used to be. The best example of tubercles is U. ceratina.)

Of course, different species grow on rock and trees. And spot tests on the medulla are extremely helpful for verification, especially when we’re still learning what all these 12 characters really mean: lye and bleach are all you need for Usnea.

Inside of sliced stem is
By: Dave W (Dave W)
2012-03-19 04:58:38 PDT (-0700)

whitish, pallid, or brownish. No sign of red. The specimen has been sitting on a tabletop in our home for over a week.

I see that you’ve just posted some Usnea observations, Jason. I’ll look them over when I get a chance. At a glance, they all kinda look like this one.

I know very little about lichens. My wife got the Big NA Book a bout a year ago, and she’s developing a little bit of an interest.

Thanks for the informative comment.

Inside branch
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2012-03-18 13:26:40 PDT (-0700)

Scratch or slice one open with a sharp razor (harder to do than it sounds!) U. mutabilis really is red, not some obscure “maybe that’s kind of sort of reddish” brown. :)

Wait… maybe I’m wrong: Clerc in the Sonoran Flora claims it has a “pink to wine-red pigment”. Not sure how obvious this “pink” is. The few I’ve seen were obvious, but maybe some are less so…

Jason, do you mean
By: Dave W (Dave W)
2012-03-18 12:48:31 PDT (-0700)

red inside the tangle, or within the context that make up individual branches?

Red inside?
By: Jason Hollinger (jason)
2012-03-18 10:41:16 PDT (-0700)

I don’t see any red, but it’s not necessarily visible in photos like this.