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Trail Life: Value Your Usnea Moments!

Akwaba, to another one of our educational weekly randonee, part of our 2023 Fall-Winter Trail Life adventures.

Last week I was excited to share my " interesting discovery," how and what I learned about Lichen. ( See Trail Life: Lichen, fungi with benefits (

I mentioned then that ever since I first learned about it, I have encountered some Lichen daily.

I have had the pleasure of picking some Usnea every time I have been hiking and today I had my most remarkable "harvest!"

Sunday, September 3rd, 2023. Location: National Historic Trail of Tears at The Audubon Acres/Chattanooga Audubon Society.

Thursday, December 7, 2023. Everything on the right side of the table is my "Usnea harvest!" The body of water is the South Chickamauga Creek ( Make sure to read the story of "The Mermaid of South Chickamauga Creek" in The Art of Rooting and let me know how you enjoyed it.) Location: National Historic Trail of Tears at The Audubon Acres/Chattanooga Audubon Society.

Even though I shared some of the benefits of Usnea last week, I wanted to talk more about it because I keep learning some very interesting things and my harvest today left me with a life lesson and a testimonial that I would love to share.

As I mentioned last week, I did not know what Usnea was, let alone how beneficial it was.

Last week I learned that it was so potent that just holding it against your throat could ease a sore throat.

Being a mother of four, I have had the opportunity to test this "claim" with my sons and daughters and even on myself! One of my sons was recently complaining of a sore throat and was wearing a mask as a precaution.

I recommended that he try some Usnea, and apply it just like I was taught last week. (see video Foraging Fungi: The benefits of Lichen - YouTube)

First of all, let me just say that I appreciate that he listened and didn't make fun of my little " old man's beard" ( a nickname for Usnea).

Second, I was excited that it worked for him and I tested it for myself as soon as my throat started bothering me 2-3 days later.

In my book The Art of Rooting, I have a section " Trees Heal," dedicated to trees as healers, and I address the question of "Old Wives Tales" versus "real cures!"

When we are recommended to use an element in its natural form for medicinal purposes is it credible, or should we only rely on medicine from a pharmacy?

In the book, I shared how my mother had effectively used many plants for medicinal purposes when I was younger.

The Art of Rooting is inspired by both natural and metaphorical roots...many decades after being treated countless times with my mother's "natural cures," I found myself trusting a Lichen to ease and treat my son's and my own sore throat...I may live " an ocean away from home" as I pointed out in my poem "Growth" but I have not veered far from my mother's belief in nature medicinal's benefits.

My positive experience with Usnea has led me to research a lot more about it (something I suggest that you do) but it also had me reflect on a very important life lesson today.

A lesson about values

As I mentioned earlier, today I had quite a remarkable harvest foraging Usnea. I was hiking with my youngest daughter, and Usnea was on my path from the start to the end of my hike.

I did not have to get out of my way to find any, they were "right at my feet."

Each time I spotted some, I would bend and pick the loose Usnea or the branches I saw it attached to.

Now that I know how valuable it is, I could not waste the opportunity to collect some for my new "medicine bag," ( a Ziploc bag, "medicine bag" sounds cooler.)

Realizing that I would be hiking with my hands full, and a few sticks, I reflected on the difference that it now made to know the value of Usnea.

Up until last week, I would spot some Usnea and keep walking.

Now that I know its value, not only I do not waste the opportunity to collect some but I feel highly privileged to enter the forest empty and leave it "loaded with benefits."

Thursday, December 7, 2023. Location: National Historic Trail of Tears at The Audubon Acres/Chattanooga Audubon Society.

It made me think about all those relationships we are in where people take us for granted, not seeing our true value, and how amazing it is when someone we love is finally aware of what we have to offer, and they treat us with great consideration. (This applies too to professional settings and work environments where we would love our capabilities to be valued)

  • It made me reflect on the " foolishness" of being in the forest and passing on the opportunity of foraging some Usnea...

  • It made me reflect on the cost of "being ignorant" of the good things ( and people) in our environment...

  • We are all guilty of not "seeing" and not "appreciating the true value" of something or someone that we are fortunate to have (had) in our lives. We can not always send long expressive notes to our loved ones but a simple " Thank You" a " I was just thinking of you" message or phone call can make quite a difference.

I shared in The Art of Rooting that one of my favorite lines is to "never lose your sense of wonders." The forest is truly a magical place for me.

Today I appreciate once again

  • the benefits of environmental psychology

  • that there is always something new to see and learn

  • that there is always a life lesson

I think that I will think often of this lesson as " My Usnea Harvest" or " An Usnea Moment!"

  • Did you recently have a comparable lesson?

  • How do you show "value" to those in your life?

  • Just curious: How do you even value your gifts, skills, talents, and things that make you so unique? I am asking because sometimes we may fail to value ourselves, and "cast our pearls to swine."

Ah! If you are surprised that I started reflecting on all this tonight just from harvesting some Usnea, you won't be surprised once you get used to how hiking and my time outdoors always spark my mind and awaken ideas and thoughts...

My books invite you into my " safe green universe."

At the start of all my hikes, I feel like I am about to cross a threshold...I always look forward to the new wonderful things that this practice of forest bathing, as I refer to my hikes in the book, may spark..

It still amuses me to think of how starring at roots during my hikes led to an intensive journey of writing The Art of Rooting in just three months and creating a theme coloring book in just 5 days.

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Before we part:

Akwaba is the "Welcome" greeting in my hometown in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.

If you are new to this BLOG read the following posts for more context about my book and about this Trail Life Series.Trail Life (

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