Forage Friday #89 Beard Lichen

Hello Friends! Tonight’s Feature Image is titled “Beard Lichen 10521” and is available for purchase by clicking the thumbnail and reaching out to me on the contact page.

Please remember that Forage Friday is presented as trivia and not to be mistaken for medical advice.

The young hunter held his atlatl dart in the ready position just as his father taught him. The dense forest was broken only by a huge oak tree that had recently fallen leaving a perfect spot for the boar to wander through. It was open and should give him clear view of his quarry. A few bits of rotting fruit that had been placed out for bait lay on the giant fallen tree. His plan was to launch his dart while the pig was trying to figure out how to reach the bait. His muscles tensed when he heard the grunts coming down the narrow path. The plan was working perfectly! He started to shake a little. This was his first solo hunt and he he was eager to prove his value to the rest of his clan. With one sweeping motion he sent the dart with it’s heavy stone tip towards the pig’s heart. But something was wrong! The whistle noise made by his atlatl had alerted his game and with surprising dexterity the boar ducked the dart and turned on him. He watched with horror as the beast came crashing through the underbrush thrashing its long tusks and tearing small plants from their roots. He came to himself in time to leap onto a nearby tree and began to climb but the boar caught his left leg with a slashing motion and gave him a deep gash. Ignoring the pain and in fear of his life he manged to climb out of reach but when he looked down the pig was bloody and dead. His father stepped from a nearby bush holding a stone tipped lance and even though the pig seemed to be slain he swiftly pierced it’s heart and lungs with a thrust. The father carefully retrieved his son from the lower branch. He was disappointed that his son’s first hunt didn’t go well but he didn’t let on. He spoke softly and lovingly to the 10 year old boy and as soon as he could get him on the ground he began to treat the wound. He reached up into the same tree that had provided the boy sanctuary and pulled off both moss and lichens. He stripped the bark from a nearby fir tree and used the inner bark to bind on the moss before carrying him home…

The lichens in tonight’s Feature Image goes by a few common names. We always called it old man’s beard but it’s also known as Methuselah’s beard and some refer to it as Spanish moss. Spanish moss is a separate species but the 2 are related. It’s actually found worldwide and was once a common sight in damp woods. But now it’s listed as a rare plant. Being a lichen it’s a symbiotic organism that’s part fungus and part algae.

It’s got a huge range of medicinal uses. Online sources say that an alcoholic tincture is best for bioavailability. Herbalists prescribed it for digestive problems and it seemed to be particularly useful for Tuberculosis. It’s antimicrobial effect is said to be good for all staphylococcus infections. It’s used against fungal infections too and seems to given for asthma and allergies as well.

I envisioned tonight’s story as taking place in Neolithic Europe. Primitive people at that time had a surprising amount of herbal medicine. They may not have been able to place a plant in a laboratory and break down the chemical components but they would have noticed it’s antimicrobial powers and used it to prevent infections.

Lastly, Old Man’s Beard is an indicator of air quality. It grows best in environments with no chemical pollution. So the more of it we see, the easier we can breathe.

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