Sign of the South - Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides)

August 2017

Neither Spanish nor a moss, this epiphyte is often associated with Southern Gothic imagery and Deep South culture.

- An epiphyte is a plant that grows on another plant but is not parasitic, like ferns and air plants. These plants absorb water and nutrients through their own leaves from the air and rainfall.

- Shows a preference for Southern live oaks and bald cypress, but also grows on sweet gum, crepe myrtles, other oaks and even pines. Preferred habitat is a healthy tree in tropical swampland. - Prefers warm climates with high humidity. Humidity and rain are essential to growth.

- When tissues plump up after a rain, Spanish moss appears greener. As the water is used, it returns to a gray hue.

- While it rarely kills trees, it can occasionally become so thick that it shades the tree’s leaves and lowers its growth rate.

- Propagates by seed and vegetatively by fragments blown in the wind that stick to tree limbs or are carried by birds as nesting material.