Thallus to 4 (-10) cm, erect, rarely decumbent, forming densely branched, dark cushions; branches 0.2-0.7 mm diam., terete, occasionally compressed towards base; branching isotomic- to anisotomic-dichotomous; basal branches black or brownish black, the apices olive-grey to pale brown, shiny, blunt; lateral spinules 1.5-5 mm, numerous, with constricted bases, arising at right angles from main stems, often bow-like, usually simple; pseudocyphellae absent; soralia absent; soredia occasionally present at ends of broken branches.
Teleomorph: apothecia unknown in British material.
Chemistry: medulla C–, K–, KC–, Pd+ red (often patchy) (fumarprotocetraric acid).
Assessed by Woods & Coppins as of Least Concern, but listed as Nationally Scarce. Rare and decreasing, at least in SW England, and probably in need of reassessment.
Distinguished from Bryoria smithii by the lack of soralia and associated clusters of spinules, and the Pd+ red medullary reaction, and from Alectoria nigricans by the smaller size, absence of conspicuous pseudocyphellae,
presence of short, lateral, perpendicular, spinulose branches and by being C– and K–.
N & W British Isles.
Amongst mosses, sometimes on soil or rock in hilly areas. Reported from tree bark in Dartmoor, but those populations appear no longer to be extant.