San Diego, CA
Pure Florida - Spanish Moss
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© Christine Till
Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is a native, perennial epiphytic herb. It is not Spanish, nor a moss, but a flowering plant. The slender, wiry, long, branching stems (reaching 8m or more) grow as suspended, bluish-gray streamers and garlands draping among tree branches and sometimes telephone lines and fences.
Many homeowners think that Spanish moss kills their trees. This is not the case because the moss is not parasitic. As an epiphyte, an air plant that lives upon other plants, it absorbs nutrients and water from the air and rainfall. It is not a biological parasite in the same sense as some other epiphytes that sap nutrients from the tree. It attaches itself to trees only for support. However, the moss can weigh down and sometimes break branches. Spanish moss can grow strands up to 20 feet long especially on Live Oak and Cypress tree branches. It is greenish silver after a rain, and grayish-silver at other times. Songbirds build nests with the moss, and many other species use moss clumps for shelter, including bats, reptiles, and amphibians.
Spanish Moss, sometimes called Graybeard, long moss, air-plant, Florida moss, con rape moss, wool crape, old man's beard, and grandfather's whiskers, is soft, graceful, eerie and beautiful all at the same time. A romantic symbol of the South.
May 15th, 2013
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