“Green Witch’s Hair”: {Alectoria ochroleuca}

Alectoria ochroleuca (aka “Green Witch’s Hair”)

Location Summary

Substrate: Grows on ground or– rarely– on shrubs.

Range: Strictly arctic-alpine.

Identification Characteristics

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.

Food Use

 In Russia during the 1930s, a method was developed for using A. ochroleuca to make a kind of molassesThe 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

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