Bristly Beard Lichen

(Usnea hirta)

Conservation Status
Bristly Beard Lichen
Photo by Luciearl
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNR - Unranked


not listed


Bristly Beard Lichen is a very common shrubby (fruticose) lichen, It occurs throughout Europe and the Americas. It is common in northeast and north-central Minnesota, very common in the Arrowhead region, but completely absent from the remaining two-thirds of the state. It is found in coniferous and mixed forests growing on the bark and twigs of sick or dying coniferous trees, rarely also on birch trees, very rarely also on rock.

The vegetative body (thallus) is pale, grayish-green, yellowish-green, or blackish-gray, and is variable in shape. It may appear as a few long drooping strands; an erect, densely branched, shrub-like tuft; or a combination of the two. The main branches are unequal in length and have numerous short side branches. They are usually short, erect, 2 to 3 (5 to 8 cm) long, up to 1 32 (1 mm) in diameter, and stiff when dry, limp when wet. Drooping branches, if present, are up to 5 (13 cm) long. All branches are angular, not round, in cross section, are swollen at the base, and are often broadly forked. The base of each branch is the same color as the rest of the branch, not blackened. The surface is dull to shiny and never cracked. It does not have either minute, rounded, pimple-like processes (papillae) or small, wart-like processes (tubercles). It has a sometimes inconspicuous network of ridges and furrows, each of which cross two or more other ridges and furrows (transversal). It is also covered with abundant scattered or densely clustered shiny granules (isidia), and may have a few 1 265 to 1 32 (0.1 to 0.5 mm) long spine-like structures (fibrils). On each fibril there are a few to numerous minute pits (soralia) where powdery reproductive granules (soredia) are produced.

Raised, disk-like, reproductive structures (apothecia) are very rarely produced.


Similar Species






Growth Form






Coniferous and mixed forests




Sick or dying coniferous trees, rarely birch trees, very rarely rock


Distribution Map



4, 7, 24, 26, 29, 30, 77, 81.




Very common

  Kingdom Fungi (fungi)  
  Subkingdom Dikarya  
  Phylum Ascomycota (sac fungi)  
  Subphylum Pezizomycotina  
  Class Lecanoromycetes (common lichens)  
  Subclass Lecanoromycetidae (shield lichens, sunburst lichens, rosette lichens, and allies)  


Lecanorales (shield lichens, rim lichens, and allies)  




Parmeliaceae (shield lichens and allies)  
  Subfamily Parmelioideae (typical shield lichens)  


Usnea (beard lichens)  
  Mycobiont Usnea hirta  



Lichen hirtus

Usnea barbata var. hirta


Common Names


Bristly Beard Lichen










Shrubby: referring to the growh form of lichens that may be tufted, draped, or stalked.



An asexual reproductive structure of a lichen consisting of a cluster of algal cells (the photobiont) wrapped in fungal filaments (the mycobiont) and enclosed within a layer of protective tissue (cortex). Plural: insidia.



On plants: A tiny, rounded, nipple-like projection on the surface of a leaf or petal. On mushrooms: A small, raised, sharply pointed projection on the cap above the point of attachment with the stalk.



An asexual reproductive structure of a lichen in the form of a tiny dull granule on the thallus surface that can be easily brushed off. It consists of a cluster of algal cells (the photobiont) wrapped in fungal filaments (the mycobiont), but without an outer layer of protective tissue (cortex). Plural: soredia.



The vegetative body of a lichen composed of both the alga and the fungus. Plural: thalli.



On plants and animals: a small, rounded, raised projection on the surface. On slugs: raised areas of skin between grooves covering the body.

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Bristle beard lichen(hanging), also pom pom shadow lichen, powder tipped-shadow lichen?

  Bristly Beard Lichen  
    Bristly Beard Lichen      








Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  USNEA... Old Man's Beard Medicine | w. Yarrow Willard | Harmonic Arts
Herbal Jedi

Oct 24, 2016

Join Herbalist Yarrow Willard in exploring the harvesting, preparing and many uses this powerful healing lichen has to offer.

Lichens are a symbiotic relationship between fungi, algae, and bacteria that live on the trees.

The most well known and medicinally active of the lichens is Usnea, and as such has gained much acknowledgement for its use in gram positive bacterial infections such as streptococcus and staphylococcus. Learn about this and much more in the newest addition to the Herbal Jedi video series...

  Common Plants: Usnea (Old Man's Beard)
Survival Dispatch

Jul 19, 2019

Joel Graves from American Survival Co. and Chris Weatherman chat about Usnea or Old Man's Beard and how it might be vital as an edible in a survival situation.




Visitor Sightings

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March 2023

Location: Lake Shore, MN

Bristle beard lichen (hanging), also pom pom shadow lichen, powder tipped-shadow lichen?

Bristly Beard Lichen  

Location: Superior Hiking Trail, Cook County

Bristly Beard Lichen  




Created: 1/10/2020

Last Updated:

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