Usnea antarctica

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Usnea antarctica

Usnea antarctica is a shrub lichen found throughout the continent of Antarctica as well as on Subantarctic islands.

This species of lichen is the national plant of Westarctica.

Distribution and age

It predominantly grows on exposed rock and can even be found growing on different sides of individual pebbles. U. antarctica has an extremely slow growth period and are among some of the longest-lived species on planet earth. An age of 200 years is typical for most specimens, however, the record age for U. antarctica is an estimated 4,500 years.

In the Antarctic, its tendrils grow to a width of a few millimeters, while in the Subantarctic, they can grow to be over a foot in length.

Specimens are plentiful at the abandoned Russkaya Station on the Ruppert Coast and have been studied as part of a research effort surrounding the soils of Marie Byrd Land.