AppearanceThe thalli, or body, of ''Alectoria sarmentosa'' are fruticose, stringy, and extensively branched. Each branch usually divides into two to four sections. The thicker branches are typically greater than 2.5 mm in diameter. This Lichen is an epiphyte which means it has no roots. It depends on deriving its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain.
Color varies between species of ''Alectoria''. ''A. sarmentosa'' has been recorded varying in color from grayish green to yellowish green, occasionally blackening towards the ends, with small white raised ridges on surface.The thalli of ''A. sarmentosa'' form extensive mats up to 10–30 cm long. These mats hang down in a pendulous fashion. Some mats can form dense collections that create curtain like formations. ''A. sarmentosa'' are prone to fragmentation by wind.
NamingSpecies of ''Alectoria'' include ''Alectoria fallacina'', ''Alectoria imshaugii'', ''Alectoria lata''; ''Alectoria nigricans'', ''Alectoria ochroleuca'' and ''Alectoria vancouvernsis''. The common name Witch’s Hair Lichen also applies to these ''Alectoria'' species.
Another species that is superficially similar and mistaken as ''A. sarmentosa'' is various Usnea. ''Usnea longissima'' differs as it has a central chord which ''A. sarmentosa'' lacks
Habitat''Alectoria sarmentosa'' ranges throughout northern hemisphere temperate rainforests. These rainforests are located in the temperate zone and receive high rainfall. They receive 846mm to 5,600mm annual precipitation. Alectoria Ach. species and subspecies have a global range and are found in Pacific Northwest Coast forests, including Alaska, Coastal British Columbia, Oregon, Washington, and northern California, west of Alberta and Montana. It also has been identified in the Appalachian Mountains temperate rainforest of Eastern U.S. and Boreal rainforests of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Canada, as well as Scandinavian coastal conifer forests. It is common in boreal or taiga forests and prehumid rainforests. Usually found at transitions between valley and mountain forests, low to mid elevations. Avoiding the immediate coast.
''Alectoria sarmentosa'' is commonly associated with old growth forests in these regions. This lichen is very dependent on forest structure , edge characteristics and climate. It dominates canopy gaps edges, where sunlight reaches the lower to mid levels of the forest canopy. In these areas of old growth ''A. sarmentosa'' grows on bark and wood; found pendulously draped over branches of conifer trees, hardwood trees and deciduous shrubs. It is rarely found growing on rock or mosses over rock. It is sSometimes seen on ground due to fragmentation by wind.
ReproductionReproduction in most other lichens is usually by tiny saucer-like fruiting bodies called apothecia. These bodies are relatively not seen in ''Alectoria'' species. ''Alectoria'' means ‘unmarried,’ referring to this lack of these apothecia reproduction fruiting bodies. Since it lacks these reproduction fruiting bodies, ''A. sarmentosa'' uses asexual plant propagation, when bits of it are blown off a branch and land on another branch or the same or near by conifer or shrub.
Uses''Alectoria sarmentosa'' and similar species provide reasonably good nutrition to animals and are important winter browsing vegetation. Sitka black tailed deer and Caribou eat the lichen reachable, low branches or off of the ground when it is blown down onto the snow during winter storms. Flying squirrels are also known to make use of Alectoria Sarmentosa and other lichens in their diet and as nest material.
Many indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast and the Nuxalk people of Canada used the fibers of ''Alectoria'' lichens. These fibers were especially useful for making baby diapers and bandages. They used the fibers as aesthetic false whiskers and hair for decorating dance masks. Some interior Alaskan and Canadian people wove ponchos and footwear using fibers of ''Alectoria sarmentosa''. This type of clothing was inferior to hides.
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