Alectoria ochroleuca (aka “Green Witch’s Hair”)
Substrate: Grows on ground or– rarely– on shrubs.
Range: Strictly arctic-alpine.
Description: Thallus shrubby, erect, main branches greenish yellow, with the tips darkened greenish to black.
Chemistry: Cortex PD-, K-, KC+ yellow, C-; medulla PD-, K-, KC- or yellow, CK+ gold, C- (diffractaic acid).
Lookalikes: The chemical reactions distinguish this species from unusually dark specimens of A. nigricans. The prostrate, soil-dwelling A. sarmentosa ssp. vexillifera has flattened main branches, never becomes erect, & reacts KC+ red in the medulla.
In Russia during the 1930s, a method was developed for using A. ochroleuca to make a kind of molasses. The process was important because, during World War II, beet sugar was scarce, & potatoes & grain were sent to the military. The lichen reportedly yielded 82% of its dry weight in glucose, producing a light yellow syrup.
Bibliography: Lichens of North America, by Brodo, Sharnoff, & Sharnoff
Database Entry: Distance Everheart 12-27-13