Description: Primary thallus squamulose, ephemeral and rarely seen, the squamules to 1 mm long, white below. Podetia forming compact tufts, hollow inside, pale yellowish green, paler towards the base, often with brownish tips, esquamulose, mostly tri- to tetrachotomously branched, up to 6(-10) cm tall, c. 1.5(-2) mm thick, subcylindrical in section, cupless, with pointed apices and divergent terminal branchlets, the axils mostly perforate. Cortex smooth, maculate; surface of central canal not powdery. Apothecia rare, brown, convex, up to 2 mm across. 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, apical, with a colourless jelly. Conidia cylindrical. Photobiont chlorococcoid. Spot tests: K-, C-, KC+ yellow, P-, UV- (rarely UV+ white). Chemistry: usnic acid, rarely also squamatic acid.
Note: an arctic-alpine to northern boreal-montane, circumpolar species found on soil and amongst mosses in very open habitats with a long snow-lie near or above treeline, common only in the Alps. In the western part of the upper Padanian Plain there are some dealpine stations in the submediterranean belt. Some records could refer to subsp. biuncialis.
Growth form: Fruticose
Substrata: soil, terricolous mosses, and plant debris