Gifts of the Forest

The forest has always felt like home to me. I didn’t grow up in the desert, and although I have adapted, there is still something that calls to me up in the Arizona forests. Maybe it’s the comparative silence, the sound of the soft breeze becomes enveloping as it rustles through the branches of tall grandmother pines. Maybe it’s the smell, the crispness of the air that is filled with countless layers or various leaves and pine needles and fungi and the alluring mixture of it all. Maybe it is the constant discovery, the endless wonder of beautiful rocks and new and old plant friends, and scenic views that are breathtaking in their limitless beauty. It is always calling to me.

In a recent trip to the woods, I was gifted some Usnea from a tree in the forest after a rain storm. It was sprinkled all around this one tree we were camping next to. Each time I walked by, I would see another piece laying there, freshly fallen from the tree tops, as if just for me. When I looked up, I could see this one tree had a whole colony of Usnea growing along its upper branches.

Usnea is a lichen, so part fungi, part algae. It is 2 organisms, in a symbiotic relationship, where each part benefits from the other. This is such a beautiful idea to me, as it creates something that beneficial the trees and the forest by purifying the air.

Robert Rogers quotes Stephen Harrod Buhner in his incredible book Fungal Pharmacy in speaking about Usnea, “Its healing qualities are specif