Oak Moss

This cosmopolitan genus consists of about ten species of lichens. Common in areas with an unpolluted atmosphere. Everni prunastri is an attractive, extremely slow-growing lichen that often occurs naturally in gardens but is difficult to cultivate. In ancient times, it was imported from Greece and Cyprus to Egypt for packing embalmed mummies. Centuries later, in Europe, it was in great demand for powdering wigs and was described in the Compendium Aromatorium by Saladin of Askalon (1137-93). Approximately 9000 tons of E. prunastri are collected annually, mainly from cork oak and fruit trees in France, the Balkans, and Morocco. Volatile oils in the plant are extracted in benzene and evaporated to a viscous solid. Evernia prunastriis often mixed with the related Pseudoevernia furfuracea, which is more aromatic but inferior when used as a perfume fixative. The related Usnea species (beard lichens) yield usnic acid., a yellow crystaline compound extracted by the pharmaceutical industry for use as an antibiotic.

Lichen with soft, pendent, antler-shaped branches, which are gray green above and have white, cottony undersurfaces. Pink-brown, spore producing disks are rare.

Common Name:
Oak Moss
Botanical Name:
Evernia prunastri
Grows mainly on trunks of deciduous trees, mainly oak, sycamore, maple, willow and alder; also on fences, walls, rocks, and soil. Prefers neutral substrate. Plants are damaged by sulphur levels above 0.021 p.p.m.
The ecology and reproductive biology of lichens are complex; little progress has been made in their propagation and cultivation.
6cm (2½in)
Parts Used:
Whole Plant, oil
An aromatic, antibiotic herb containing lichen acids that inhibit the tuberculosis bacillus.
Culinary Uses:
Traditionally used as a leavening agent for bread, and as a hops substitute in beer.
Economic Uses:
Mainly as a fixative in perfumes with a mossy note, such as chypre, ambre, and Fougère. Extracts are also used for flavoring int he food and beverage industries.
Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pg. 211