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"Oak moss" Usnea, Evernia, Pseudevernia: Perfume Lichens

"Oakmoss." A staple note in perfumery, if not an ingredient. What is oakmoss? Well, it's not a moss for one, and it's not a single species, nor is it a plant. It's a lichen, or rather, it's many lichens. And it is found growing on lots of trees besides oak: fir, spruce, cedar, and pine, for example. See list below for a less than comprehensive index of the numerous species of lichens that can provide this iconic note. Bushy, foliose, and fruticose, as lichen, the sources of oakmoss rely upon mutualism-- which is defined as mutually beneficial symbiosis-- to create the composite organism that each one is, namely, "algae or cyanobacteria living among filaments of multiple fungi species" ("Lichen," Wikipedia). Usnea, Evernia, and Pseudevernia are the primary genuses of oakmoss. Around here, they are often found growing on dead or dying boreal trees like balsam fir and red, black, white, and Norway spruces. I usually find them on spruce trees, for whatever reason. Their whimsical appearance is reflected in their names: Old Man's Beard, Antler Lichen, Blood-spattered Beard Lichen (Vicente Aranda's oakmoss?). But they keep their perfume a secret, having practically no fragrance until they are unlocked via solvent. After being immersed, both the menstruum and the marc transform, coming out of the experience perfumed with "oakmoss."
     Oakmoss, if it grows on oak trees, may produce an extract with traces of the cough suppressant elixir scent of oak wood. But if it grows on fir or spruce, the product may have jammy notes. Pine lichen can yield an oakmoss with turpentine, gasoline, and mineral spirits attributes. On Northern White Cedar (Thuja occidentalis), it will take on characteristics of this tree, which smells more like white sage than true cedar (Cedrus). If you want an ocean brine note cleansed of seaweed, sand fleas, ambergris, and fish, then "oakmoss" is your friend. For me, oakmoss is a cliff forest by the sea. It is windy, brown, but warm. It's a velvet dress, old books, and a banquet. It's the aroma of the sconces in Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête and the dry, shadowless odor of topiary in L'Année dernière à Marienbad (dir. Alain Resnais).
Photo: Usnea tufts on black spruce, March 11, 2021.
Evernia genus: bushy lichens. Oak Moss, Oakmoss.
Some of the many species:
Evernia prunastri. Valley Oakmoss Lichen.
Evernia divaricata. Mountain Oakmoss Lichen.
Evernia mesomorpha. Boreal Oakmoss Lichen.
Evernia perfragilis. Arctic Oakmoss Lichen.
Pseudevernia genus: foliose lichens. Antler Lichen.
Pseudevernia furfuracea. Tree moss.
Pseudevernia cladonia. Light-and-dark Lichen.
Pseudevernia consocians. Common Antler Lichen.
Pseudevernia intensa. Western Antler Lichen.
Usnea genus: fruticose lichens. Old Man's Beard, Beard Lichen.
Usnea aculeata. Beard lichen.
Usnea affinis. Beard lichen.
Usnea alpina. Subalpine Beard Lichen.
Usnea amabilis. Beard lichen.
Usnea amblyoclada. Beard lichen.
Usnea angulata. Angular Beard Lichen.
Usnea australis. Beard lichen.
Usnea baileyi. Hollow Beard Lichen.
Usnea brasiliensis. Beard lichen.
Usnea brattiae. Bratt's Beard Lichen.
Usnea californica. California Beard Lichen.
Usnea capillaris. Beard lichen.
Usnea catenulata. Beard lichen.
Usnea cavernosa. Pitted Beard Lichen.
Usnea ceratina. Warty Beard Lichen.
Usnea chaetophora. Articulated Beard Lichen.
Usnea cirrosa. Sundew Beard Lichen.
Usnea condensata. Beard lichen.
Usnea cornuta. Inflated Beard Lichen.
Usnea cristatula. Beard lichen.
Usnea cylindrica. Beard lichen.
Usnea dasaea. Beard lichen.
Usnea dasopoga. Fishbone Beard Lichen.
Usnea deformis. Beard lichen.
Usnea diffracta. Beard lichen.
Usnea dimorpha. Powder-tipped Beard Lichen.
Usnea diplotypus. Ragged Beard Lichen.
Usnea endochrysea. Beard lichen.
Usnea entoviolata. Beard lichen.
Usnea erinacea. Beard lichen.
Usnea esperantiana. Seaside Beard Lichen.
Usnea evansii. Evans' Beard Lichen.
Usnea fibrillosa. Beard lichen.
Usnea flammea. Coastal Bushy Beard Lichen.
Usnea flavocardia. Blood-splattered Beard Lichen.
Usnea florida. Eyed Beard Lichen.
Usnea fragilescens. Inflated Beard Lichen.
Usnea freyi. Frey's Beard Lichen.
Usnea fulvoreagens. Yellowing Beard Lichen.
Usnea furfurosula. Beard lichen.
Usnea glabrata. Lustrous Beard Lichen.
Usnea glabrescens. Spotted Beard Lichen.
Usnea graciosa. Beard lichen.
Usnea halei. Hale's Beard Lichen.
Usnea hirta. Bristly Beard Lichen.
Usnea intermedia. Intermediate Beard Lichen.
Usnea lambii. Beard lichen.
Usnea leucosticta. Beard lichen.
Usnea longissima. Methuselah's Beard Lichen.
Usnea macaronesica. Beard lichen.
Usnea meridionalis. Beard lichen.
Usnea merrillii. Beaded Beard Lichen.
Usnea mexicana. Mexican Beard Lichen.
Usnea mirabilis. Beard lichen.
Usnea monstruosa. Beard lichen.
Usnea mutabilis. Bloody Beard Lichen
Usnea myrmaiacaina. Beard lichen.
Usnea nidulans. Nested Beard Lichen.
Usnea occidentalis. Western Beard Lichen.
Usnea pacificana. Pacific Beard Lichen.
Usnea parafloridana. Beard lichen.
Usnea parvula. Beard lichen.
Usnea perhispidella. Beard lichen.
Usnea perplexans. Powdered Beard Lichen.
Usnea poliotrix. Beard lichen.
Usnea praetervisa. Beard lichen.
Usnea quasirigida. Beard lichen.
Usnea ramillosa. Beard lichen.
Usnea roseola. Beard lichen.
Usnea rubicunda. Red Beard Lichen.
Usnea scabrata. Straw Beard Lichen.
Usnea scholanderi. Scholander's Beard Lichen.
Usnea silesiaca. Blackened Beard Lichen.
Usnea silvatica. Beard lichen.
Usnea sphacelata. Zebra Beard Lichen.
Usnea strigosa. Bushy Beard Lichen.
Usnea subcornuta. Beard lichen.
Usnea subdasaea. Beard lichen.
Usnea subfloridana. Nit Beard Lichen.
Usnea subfusca. Bushy Beard Lichen.
Usnea subgracilis. Silken Beard Lichen.
Usnea subrubicunda. Beard lichen.
Usnea subscabrosa. Horny Beard Lichen.
Usnea transitoria. Beard lichen.
Usnea trichodea. Bony Beard Lichen.
Usnea tristis. Beard lichen.
Usnea vainioi. Beard lichen.
Usnea variegata. Beard lichen.
Usnea wasmuthii. Wasmuth's Beard Lichen.
Usnea xanthopoga. Beard lichen.
© 2021, Abby Hinsman for Wild Veil Perfume.