Native to rain forests from Chile to the southernmost United States, Spanish Moss is an epiphytic plant that has no roots and thin, string-like stems. These frequently grow on Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum), oak (Quercus ssp.), Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), elm (Ulmus ssp.), pecan (Carya illinoinensis), and pine (Pinus ssp.) trees.
Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish Moss, Spanish Beard)
Hardiness Zones: 8-11, keep temperatures above 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit) in summer and 15 (60) in winter
Height: droops anywhere from 1-6 meters (3-20 feet) when mature
Diameter: extraordinarily thin, less than half a centimeter in diameter
Growth Rate: unspecified
Root System: none
Tolerates: some shade
Problems (major): Enormous colonies may take away light from their host tree or cause the branches to break under their weight when soaked.
Problems (minor): intolerant of urban pollution
Soil requirements: none
Air requirements: performs poorly in heavily polluted areas like cities
Watering requirement: moderate, enjoys occasional misting, especially when warm
Sun requirement: full sun or partial shade
Leaf size: to 8 centimeters (3 inches) long
Leaf shape: linear, covered by scales, gray-white
Stem length: up to 6 meters (20 feet) long
Stem width: roughly 1/14 centimeters (1/32 inch) in diameter, stringy or fibrous
Other stem qualities: gray, has scales to absorb water and nutrients from the air
Flowering structure: tiny, pale, blue-green, inconspicuous
Flowering frequency: extremely rare
Fruits: tiny, spherical, dispersed via wind or birds
Propagation methods: simply removing a single stem and placing it elsewhere, extremely easy to transplant
Spanish Moss is not considered a true moss; it is more closely related to Bromeliads. Some birds or bats nest inside of Spanish Moss clumps. Extremely large colonies may harm tree growth when wet.
Spanish Moss was commonly used as stuffing for car seats and other furnishings in the 1930’s. It is rarely used now due to synthetic material manufacturing, sometimes used in floral arrangements.
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