Garibaldi Park Whistler A to Z: UsneaThe pale green shub-like growths hanging from trees in the forests around Whistler is called usnea.  These bushy, coral-like fruticose lichens anchor to bark and branches on trees and hang like tinsel on a Christmas tree.  known as old man’s beard, usnea tends to thrive on dead and dying trees and is can appear to be harming their hosts.  They actually do no harm to trees and prefer dying ones for their lack of sunlight blocking canopy growth. 

Whistler & Garibaldi Hiking

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Usnea need sunlight for photosynthesis and clean, unpolluted air to grow well.  Air pollution significantly hinders their growth, especially sulfur dioxide. In heavily polluted environments growth is measured in millimetres, in good environments like Whistler and Garibaldi Park, they tend to grow 10 to 20 centimetres long. When you encounter forests with plentiful usnea draped over branches, you have found a bioindicator that the region has high quality, clean air.  Many of Whistler area hiking trails pass through sections of forest with astounding amounts of usnea hanging from branches.  Usnea is slow growing and is able to endure long periods of hot dry weather.  Sections of the Brew Lake and Newt Lake trails, for example, have rocky, exposed ridges with very little soil covering the bedrock.  These areas are frequently starved of water and the hardy trees that survive are desiccated and sickly looking.  These are great environments for usnea to grow and give these sections of brutalized trees a strangely haunting appearance.  Usnea has antibiotic properties and is effective to treat skin infections.  When applied to wounds, usnea appears to fight infection and speed up the healing process.  It is simply pulled from a tree, moistened with water and held against the wound.  The active component is usnic acid and according to Paul Bergner, in his book Medical Herbalism, its antibacterial properties have shown to be effective against staphylococcus bacteria, streptococcus bacteria and even a bacterium that commonly causes pneumonia.

Usnea at Green Lake in Whistler

Usnea on the Wedgemount Lake Trail in Whistler

Usnea on the Panorama Ridge Trail

More Whistler & Garibaldi Park Hiking A to Z!

Every unusual phenomenon in the forest seems to have a name, but one natural work of art seems to be without a commonly used name.  Big trees with ...
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The Rubble Creek trailhead is the main access point for many of the best hikes and sights in Garibaldi Provincial Park.  Rubble Creek is located midway ...
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Hoary Marmots are the cute, pudgy, twenty plus pound ground squirrels that have evolved to live quite happily in the hostile alpine areas around Whistler.  ...
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Western hemlock (tsuga heterophylla) is a large evergreen coniferous tree that is native to the west coast of North America. Unlike many other trees in ...
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The Best Whistler & Garibaldi Park Hiking Trails!

Whistler has an absurd number of wonderful and free hiking trails and Parkhurst Ghost Town certainly ranks as the most unusual and interesting. Parkhurst was a little logging town perched on the edge of Green ...
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Wedgemount Lake itself is a magnificent destination for a day hike or spectacular overnight beneath the dazzling mountain peaks and stars above Garibaldi Provincial Park. Many sleep under the stars on one of ...
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Alexander Falls is a very impressive 43 metre/141 foot waterfall just 30 to 40 minutes south of Whistler in the Callaghan Valley. Open year-round and located just before Whistler Olympic Park where several ...
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Whistler & Garibaldi Park Best Hiking by Month!

In the(usually) deep March snow of Whistler you have an amazing array of snowshoeing options.  If you have not been to the Whistler Train Wreck, you have ...
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April in Whistler is a wonderful time of year.  The winter deep freeze ends and T-shirt weather erupts.  The village comes alive with overflowing patios and ...
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June is a pretty amazing month to hike in Whistler and Garibaldi Park.  The average low and high temperatures in Whistler range from 9c to 21c(48f/70f).  ...
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Free Camping Gear Delivery to Garibaldi Park

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