Spanish Moss is not a Moss

Infamous is heading south and you will see some pictures of that.  The first plant in this exciting journey is Spanish Moss.  As I recall, this is an epiphyte in the flowering plant family called Bromeliads.  Bromeliads are famous for pineapples and colorful houseplants.  Spanish moss is in the Genus Tillansia sp. 

It is not a parasite, as some folks claim.  An epiphyte simply hangs from a host tree for support. It’s photosynthesis works just fine.  Epiphytes usually grow in areas of high humidity since they have no roots in the soil.  They can catch rain, but mostly they just slowly absorb water from the air. 

Epiphytes do not directly harm their host trees as a parasite would.  However, they may become so thick and numerous that they block some sunlight to the host’s leaves.  They also can cause a problem from their weight hanging down the branches of the host.  They may also catch the wind and harm the host in that way.  Usually, though the host remains healthy and not affected by the epiphyte.

Spanish moss grows from mid Virginia into the deep south where the temperatures are mild.  It seems to prefer Live Oak trees because of the minerals exuded from thier leaves.  These serve as a source of nutrients for the plant.

Hanging tresses of Spanish Moss


1 Comment

  1. Theron said,

    February 4, 2010 at 3:19 AM

    Great photo

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