Curled snow lichen is a distinctive foliose species of the forest floor and tundra. It is ground dwelling, found mixed with mosses or in large clumps. Individual thalli are 2-8 cm tall, growing upright. The notable features of this lichen are its pale yellow color (the source of the genus name 'flavo-' means yellow) and its narrowly inrolled and ruffled thallus, 2-6 mm wide, often partially fused into a tube. The thallus is unbranched to sparsely and irregularly branched. The base is often reddish (pull out from the ground to see). Apothecia, when present, are large, round and brown. Black pycnidia are produced on the tips. Similar species include the less common Flavocetraria nivalis, but that species is wider, not tightly inrolled, and has a crinkled appearance. The uncommon Flavocetraria miniscula has an near identical appearance, but is much smaller (2-3 cm tall and 1-2 mm wide). Vulpicida species are the only other yellow, ruffled lichens in Alaska, but they are a bright saffron orange color, and the most common species (V. pinastri) is found on twigs and bark, not on the ground.
This species is almost never found fertile, and spreads asexually through fragmentation and asexual spores. The fruiting bodies are brown apothecia.
Circumboreal, with scattered locations in the southern hemisphere.