This little lichen (Usnea Florida) hung from the limb of a eastern red cedar (Juniperus Virginiana – not to be confused with the live oak (Quercus Virginiana)) dithering ever so slightly in the wind that had been left over from the storm the day prior. I chronicled the Sunday walks I take through the swamp in Nocatee Preserve in an earlier post, and this day was no different, save for a different lens. Instead of capturing the hidden beauty of the swamp in a macroscopic, wide angle tilt, I opted to only bring along my macro lens and lighting apparatus, which makes for a very serious looking photography setup to the uninitiated. Few people passed me this day, on bike or foot, as the paths were still muddy from the day before. The epiphytes, like this lichen, were bright and renewed from the downpour. This particular varietal reminded me of the microscopic pictures of neural pathways and ganglia in the brain. The common pattern, I am certain, is no coincidence of nature.
Interestingly, I later found out that usnea lichen contain potent antibiotics which can halt infection and are broad spectrum and effective against even tuberculosis. Usnic acid (C18H16O7), a potent antibiotic and antifungal agent, is found in most species, including this Usnea Florida. This, combined with the hairlike structure of the lichen, means that Usnea lent itself well to treating surface wounds before sterile gauze and modern antibiotics. It is also edible and very high in vitamin C. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am not confident enough in my sight identification of mushrooms or lichen to test the medicinal properties of either, though there are no lichens nicknamed “Death Angel” or anything so nefarious, so I might be more willing to nibble on the ganglia of this lichen than an anonymous mushroom–if push came to absolute shove.
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