Description: Primary thallus ephemeral and rarely seen, of small, crenate to incised, up to 1.5 mm broad and long squamules. Podetia hollow inside, yellowish green to yellowish grey, non-squamulose, to 12(-15) cm tall and up to 1.5(-3) mm thick, not melanotic at base, more or less anisotomic dichotomously branched, often forming large tufts, the tips of branchelets often brownish, pointed or terminating in narrow cups which flare rapidly, the cups perforate or closed, often with thorn-like brownish lateral projections. Axils mostly closed, more rarely slightly perforated; internal surface of podetia striated. Apothecia rare, brown to yellowish brown, convex. Asci 8-spored, clavate, thickened at apex, with a K/I+ blue tholus and a K/I+ strongly blue outer gelatinous sheath, Cladonia-type. Ascospores 1-celled, hyaline, ellipsoid. Pycnidia dark, semi-immersed in the tips of podetia or along the margins of cups; pycnidial jelly colourless. Conidia cylindrical. Photobiont chlorococcoid. Spot tests: K-, C-, KC+ yellowish, P-, UV-. Chemistry: usnic, barbatic and 4-0-demethylbarbatic acids.
Note: a circumpolar, boreal-subarctic-subalpine lichen found on acid soil and bryophytes in open habitats, mostly in sites with a long snow lie near and above treeline, probably restricted to the Alps in Italy, where it is generally not common.
Growth form: Fruticose
Substrata: soil, terricolous mosses, and plant debris