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Bryoria fremontii (sometimes called "tree hair lichen", "black tree lichen", or "edible horsehair") on larch (Laryx) in eastern Washington.

This is the most widely used edible lichen in North America. In some traditional societies it was a delicacy, and in others it was a famine food.

The NLaka'pamux (Thompson Indians) and the Lillooet peoples in British Columbia made shoes and clothes from this rather impractical material. There is Bryoria clothing on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Field Museum in Chicago.

A few groups used this lichen medicinally: the Okanagan-Colville mixed dried lichen with grease and rubbed it on the navels of newborn babies; the Nez Perce used it to treat digestive troubles; and the Atsugewi (Pit River) applied it as a poultice to reduce swellings.

It is eaten in winter by large ungulates, from woodland caribou to deer, and, in the forests east of the Cascades, it is used by the northern flying squirrel for food and nesting material.

Photograph copyright Stephen/Sylvia Sharnoff next portrait or previous portrait