Overview

Brief Summary

Description

 Thallus: pendent, flaccid except at the base, 20-40 (-80) cm long, with a persistent base; branching: mainly isotomic dichotomous, frequent from the base, axils acute or obtuse, often rounded; branches: terete often becoming compressed and angular to foveolate towards the base and at the axils, 0.5-2.0 (-2.5) mm diam.; surface: greenish gray to bright golden yellow, sometimes becoming striately blackened in parts; lateral spinules: absent; soredia: in irregularly tuberculate soralia, rare in North American material; pseudocyphellae: white, abundant, conspicuous, raised, elongate fusiform to ovoid and tuberculate, clearly delimited, usually c. 1 mm long; Apothecia: often abundant, lateral; thalline exciple: concolorous with thallus, usually persistent; disc: orange-yellow to dark brown or black, 2-3 (-5) mm in diam.,; asci: clavate-ovoid, 2-3 (-4)-spored; ascospores: ellipsoid, simple, 23-35 (-48) x (12-) 15-20 (-25) µm; Pycnidia: sometimes frequent, mainly apical, up to c. 2.0 mm diam., black and shining; conidia: not seen; Spot tests: cortex K-, C-, KC+ yellow, P-, UV- (sometimes K+ red, C+ green-black near the base); medulla K- (rarely K+ yellow), C- or slowly becoming yellow, KC+ red or KC-, P- (rarely P+ yellow), UV+ ice-blue or UV-; Secondary metabolites: cortex with usnic acid, and occasionally an unidentified K+ red, C+ green-black substance; medulla usually with alectoronic acid (major), thamnolic, squamatic and barbatic acids (all accessory) but a common chemotype lacks all secondary metabolites except usnic acid.; Substrate and ecology: on a variety of conifers, particularly in moist, lowland forests along the west coast, less often inland; World distribution: central and northern Europe, North America and South America (Patagonia); Sonoran distribution: probably extinct, reported from collections in the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California in 1929. 
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Source: Lichen Flora of the Greater Sonoran Desert Region

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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Global Range: Known from three continents: North America, Europe and South America. In North America, Alectoria sarmentosa is found along the northeastern and western portions of North America but absent through the central and southern portions of the continent. In the east, it ranges from Newfoundland and Labrador south to Vermont and New Hamphsire. In the west, it ranges from Alaska south along the coast to British Columbia, occuring throughout much of the province, and further south through the Cascade Mountains in the Pacific Northwest and into northern California (Brodo et al. 2001).

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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Alectoria sarmentosa is the most common of the tree-dwelling species, but another species A. vancouverensis, is coarser and somewhat grayer species from California to Vancouver Island. A. fallacina is known from the Appalachians and is knobby, mainly KC-, with a very thick cortex (Brodo et al. 2001).

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Alectoria sarmentosa is often found draping conifer branches and trunks in cool, coastal areas and some moist inland sites (Brodo et al. 2001). It is associated with older forests and those recognized as 'old-growth', and toward the eastern portion of its range in the Pacific Northwest, it is restricted to moist, old-growth forests (McCune and Geiser 2009). In terms of its placement in the forest canopy, and specifically in British Columbia, it can be found hanging in the lower canopy below other lichen species (Coxson and Coyle 2003).

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General Ecology

Alectoria sarmentosa is forage for deer, woodland caribou and flying squirrels. It is the major source of forage in the Blue River watershed in western Oregon, and is considered old-growth associated in this area (Berryman and McCune 2006).

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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Persistence: PERENNIAL, Long-lived

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Reproduction

Alectoria species reproduce via formation of apothecuia which are brown and found scattered throughout the loose and cottony medulla. The apothecia are the structures that contain and release the spores, which are dispersed via wind. Alectoria also reproduce vegetatively as well, and this occurs when portions of the lichen break off and reestablish in another location (Brodo et al. 2001).

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Known from three continents; occurs in North America, Patagonia in South America, and central and northern Europe (Brodo et al. 2001, Nash et al. 2002). Alectoria sarmentosa is reportedly common on trees in the boreal and mountainous regions of North America (Flenniken 1999). In western North America, it is more common in moist lowland forests along the coast and occurs less often inland (Nash et al. 2002).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Comments: Epiphytic lichens, such as Alectoria sarmentosa, are good indicators of air quality (Berryman and McCune 2006). In British Columbia, it has been reintroduced after timber harvest to improve deer habitat in second-growth forests, as it is a food source for deer. It is also used by the Bella Coola Indians of coastal British Columbia as artificial hair on dance masks. The Nitinaht, another tribal group on Vancouver Island, use it for making bandages and diapers (Brodo et al. 2001).

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