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

The Green Lake Loop is the original trail that runs around the back side of Green Lake.  Before the Sea to Sky Highway was cut through the valley in 1964, ...
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Whistler spruce is a hybrid of the Sitka spruce and the interior Engelmann spruce. Sitka spruce trees thrive in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest ...
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Neal Carter (14 Dec 1902 - 15 Mar 1978) was an early explorer of the Coast Mountains around what would eventually be called Whistler Valley.  In the summer ...
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Erratic or glacier erratic is a piece of rock that has been carried by glacial ice, often hundreds of kilometres.  Characteristic of their massive size and ...
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Charles Townsend climbed and explored several mountains around Whistler back in 1923, when much of the area remained unexplored.  Along with his friend Neal ...
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Overlord Mountain is the highest peak in the Fitzsimmons Range.  Overlord is surrounded by several mountains that collectively are named the Overlord ...
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Columnar Jointing: bizarre looking columns of oddly angular rock formations that can be found in many places around Whistler and worldwide.  Generally ...
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The Garibaldi Volcanic Belt is a line of mostly dormant stratovolcanoes and subglacial volcanoes largely centred around Whistler and extending through much ...
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There are plenty of beautiful and free snowshoe trails in Whistler and Garibaldi Provincial Park.  From the surreal paintings of Whistler Train Wreck to ...
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February is a great month for snowshoeing in Whistler and Garibaldi Park.  The days slowly get longer, but the temperatures stay consistently cold.  Expect ...
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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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Whistler and Garibaldi Park Hiking Gear Rental

The Sea to Sky Trail is a 180 kilometre multi-use trail that runs from Squamish to D'Arcy. The trail is still under construction in many parts, however, the amazing route through Whistler is finally in ...
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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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Panorama Ridge is easily one of the most amazing hikes in Garibaldi Provincial Park.  The 15 kilometre(9.3 mile) hike from the trailhead at Rubble Creek to Panorama Ridge takes you through beautiful and deep ...
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Cheakamus Lake is a wonderfully relaxing way to get in the wilderness easily and quickly from Whistler Village. The trail begins on the far side of Whistler Mountain, 8 kilometres from the Sea to Sky Highway ...
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