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PlantFiles: Spanish Moss
Tillandsia usneoides

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Family: Bromeliaceae (bro-mee-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Tillandsia (til-LAND-see-uh) (Info)
Species: usneoides (us-nee-OY-deez) (Info)

41 members have or want this plant for trade.

Category:
Tropicals and Tender Perennials
Epiphytes

Height:
8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)

Spacing:
3-6 in. (7-15 cm)

Hardiness:
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade

Danger:
N/A

Bloom Color:
Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)
Inconspicuous/none

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer

Foliage:
Grown for foliage

Other details:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Soil pH requirements:
Unknown - Tell us

Patent Information:
Non-patented

Propagation Methods:
From leaf cuttings
From seed; germinate in a damp paper towel

Seed Collecting:
Bag seedheads to capture ripening seed

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There are a total of 35 photos.
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Profile:

13 positives
4 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

RatingAuthorContent
Positive sandiegojames On Nov 24, 2007, sandiegojames from San Diego, CA wrote:

I have several chunks of this that I've hung around the yard, some of them stuck into other plants in hanging baskets, others draped over the trunks of plants like a tree fern. It's almost more like a decorative accessory than a plant, something that you can put anywhere you want a swampy bayou look. After several years of doing this, I haven't noticed any ill effects unless the "moss" grows faster than what it's draped over. If that's a problem I just pull the plant off and move it somewhere else.

I have several chunks draped over a pond, and the location has proven a magnet for hummingbird nests.

Positive BayAreaTropics On Aug 15, 2006, BayAreaTropics from Hayward, CA wrote:

Here in California, the difficulty is trying to grow it fast enough to keep up with birds who steal it to make nests out of it.

Positive greyyhawkk On Jan 2, 2006, greyyhawkk from Seattle, WA wrote:

A source I have found states that it takes up nutrients leached out (not used) by trees -Foliar Leaching, which is not harmful. It is Epiphytic not parasitic. Spanish Moss being a bromeliad and sometimes called an air plant, I would have intuited that it simply took nutrients from the air. Perhaps it does both? Oaks leach the most and pines leach the least. Which is why it is more common on Oaks and not common on pines. I noticed a comment about being more common on pines... I think that must be localized. If you research for scientific information on Tillandsia Usneoides or maybe traveled enough... it is most common on Oaks, Cypress, but not as common on Pines:

PS: I just received 3 bunches of Spanish Moss, ranging from 27 to 31 1/4 inches and will try to grow it indoors. Perhaps hang it outdoors under an eve of the house during the misty season here in Seattle. Wonder if that will work? Will mist it with 1/4 strenth organic Raingrow that I happen to have on hand. Its the only organic I know of that doesn't stink. Anyone who has any info on growing it indoors and how often to feed, please share!

Let me add that the ALL OF THE RESEARCH I have read DEBUNKS THE MYTH that Spanish Moss is harmful or can kill trees. It is a coincidence to find a tree or group of trees that have died and happens to have Spanish Moss on it. In addition, various forms of Cypress have branches that are naturally bare except for the latter half or tips of the branches... the trees with Tillandsia usneoides may seem to be "taken over" by it. They're not.

Positive SudieGoodman On Dec 4, 2005, SudieGoodman from Broaddus, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Zone 8b, shore of Lake Sam Rayburn, southeast, TX
Henry, wind blows my moss from tree before it starts spreading. You gave me an idea to hang it over fish tanks where the wind is not blowing so strongly.
I will use it in my pot plants, as mulch under azalea shrubs, etc.
We have a lot of Spanish Moss in our area.
Read how the name "Spanish Moss" derived. Very interesting. (It did not come from Spain) Go to Google for an interesting story on how it got it's name.

Best regards and happy mossing

Neutral zsnp On May 13, 2005, zsnp from Pensacola, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

It is interesting that some oak trees in Florida are full of Spanish moss, yet others don't have it at all. I wish this thing would be invasive. I love the way it hangs on trees. :)

Positive JaxFlaGardener On May 9, 2005, JaxFlaGardener from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

I grew up in NE Florida where the Spanish Moss hangs in great flowing "beards" from nearly every hardwood tree and I consider myself fairly observant of details. However, I had never noticed flowers on T. usneoides until yesterday when using Spanish Moss to stuff a new wire basket planter for my Staghorn Fern (Platycerium bifurcatum). I've uploaded some photos of the two small (approx. 1/4 inch), chartreuse green, waxy, tube-shaped flowers that I found on one sprig of the Spanish Moss that I was using to stuff the wire basket.

Positive DawnRain On Mar 31, 2005, DawnRain from Bartow, FL wrote:

I totally disagree with the last two comments. Trees are dying, that is true, but it has nothing to do with the Spanish moss. Likely, it's another environmental issue caused by modern times. When I grew up in the 50's, our trees were always heavily draped in Spanish moss. There was so much more of it in those days.

Then there was a die off, likely due to pollution from the phosphate mines, and I find it very sad that it does not grow as it used to. The diseases killing trees are because of introduced pests or pollution. The Spanish moss is not causing the harm. In fact it is just as often victim too. And that is sad for the creatures that had been dependent on it. DR

Negative jasonc On Mar 30, 2005, jasonc from Parrish, FL (Zone 9a) wrote:

I agree with Obi_wan for the most part. I've been told before if you leave it on the trees sooner or later it will take over and kill the tree. Now that doesn't mean it will literally kill the tree but it does get to the point where it is EVERYWHERE on the tree. I've seen alot of perfectly fine trees get it and become really dead looking from the lack of light....

Negative Obi_Wan On Mar 30, 2005, Obi_Wan from Lake City, FL wrote:

I have witnessed many trees sucked dry of their life due to Spanish Moss. But it's strange, the trees in Northern Florida seem to have a negative reaction to it while the Southern Florida trees seem to do OK. Whether the Spanish Moss is directly or in-directly responsible I have no idea but the evidence is abundant. If you have it (in North Fl.) your tree will die.

Positive TREEHUGR On Nov 9, 2004, TREEHUGR from Now in Orlando, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

There are several posts here that apparently aren't sure if Spanish moss can kill a tree or not. The fact is, Spanish moss is an epiphyte. It does not feed off the tree like a parasite or pest; it feeds from nutrients in the air. It likes to call trees home because they provide a shady spot where they won't dry out and will catch a lot of delicious nutrients, but it does not harm the tree one bit. It just so happens, you can find Spanish moss easily in Florida on older or mature trees. Kind of makes the tree look like it's got hairy armpits :) Spanish moss is useful for making beautiful wigs and toupees.

Neutral punaheledp On Jul 15, 2004, punaheledp from Kailua, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

See quite a bit in the neighborhood, usually in plumeria trees. My son brought a small piece home from a friend's and hung it in our plumeria, but it was not getting enough water there, so have moved it to a branch in our crown flower. Is it very slow growing, or does it just not like where it is? It's still alive after a year but not much bigger. I don't find it all that attractive when large, but it is interesting.

Positive aviator8188 On Jul 14, 2004, aviator8188 from Murphysboro, IL (Zone 7a) wrote:

I live in zone 7a extreme southern Illinois and I have always been fascinated by the specimen during my trips through the south...I just wonder if it would grow here? Does anyone know where I could purchase some seed?

**Update** (Revised June 10, 2005):

I recently received some Tillandsia usneoides courtesy of a gentleman from southern Georgia. I have it growing in my Nandina domestica (since T. usneoides prefers to grow on evergreens). I'm going to see if it will grow in my zone 7a climate, that occasionaly experiences zone 6b winters. I will have reports in the spring of 2006.

Spanish Moss is an epiphyte, thus it doesn't feed of it's host plant (e.g. Quercus virginia, Pinus, Nandina, Lagerstroemia, Magnolia, etc.). Those Genuses are the most common plants that one will find T. usneoides particularly fond of growing on. It's not from Spain, nor is it a moss. It's a bromeliad! There is a plethra of species belonging to bromeliads--Spanish Moss just happens to be one of them. However, some species of Tillandsia are considered a parasite. Ball Moss is a good example of a parasitic plant. Ball Moss is more common in drier area's of the South, native to Texas, particularly the San Antonio area.

Positive henryr10 On May 16, 2004, henryr10 from Cincinnati, OH (Zone 6b) wrote:

I am actually growing it here in Cincinnati. A gift from a friend in GA, it spent the winter in the greenhouse and actually grew about 6" this Winter. Now I have draped it over the ponds and water features outside and so far it is thriving. Great for a 'tropical' look in the garden.

In response to aviator:
It did very well outside here this summer in Cincinnati and, in fact, grew about 2' in length. I'm sure it would do well in your area. I just draped it over plants and tomato cages.
It is now wintering indoors.

Positive Monocromatico On May 11, 2004, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

I see that people associate the death of trees with the bromeliad. Well, there's no relation between the presence of Spanish Moss and dead trees. It just happens that the tree dies, but the moss just stays there as long as it can.

The Spanish Moss can indeed form a heavy cover on the tree branches, but it usually doesn't cover the leaves and leaf buds, so there's little competition between the epiphyte and the hoster. If a tree dies covered with Spanish Moss it's most likely because of some disease than the influence of the epiphyte.

The only bad thing this plant can cause is making the trees look ugly or sad, which is a matter of opinion. I recommend keeping this plant whenever you can. As said before, lots of birds use it to build their nests, not to mention that it can be used to cover the medium of orchid pots, stuff things, and as medicinal. It is said to be great against skin diseases.

Neutral foodiesleuth On May 11, 2004, foodiesleuth from Honomu, HI (Zone 11) wrote:

When I lived on the banks of the South Edisto River in SC there was a lot of Spanish Moss growing on the trees...they don't only live on oaks, they also liked to drape on pines, cypress and cedar.

I have seen some dead trees so covered with the moss that it could have been caused by it, but do not know for sure.

Believe it or not, at the end of the strands, if you look closely, you will see a tiny little star shaped bloom about once a year.

I loved using Spanish Moss to cover wreaths at Christmas and for many other projects.

Positive Kelli On Aug 11, 2003, Kelli from L.A. (Canoga Park), CA (Zone 10a) wrote:

I am rather surprised that I am able to grow this plant outside in California. It hangs in a tree, which is a relatively humid location, and I soak it in water several times a week during hot and dry weather. The original clump had got big enough that I could divide it, so it is growing. It blooms, too.

Positive smiln32 On Aug 10, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Spanish moss, is indeed not a moss. It's actually a relative of the pineapple. Odd, but true. In years past, it was used as stuffing for mattresses and automobile seats. Also, in the past, doctors prescribed medicines extracted from Spanish moss to treat diabetes. Currently, it's mostly used in arts and crafts, by people, that is. It's used in the wild by many of God's creatures.

Positive PippiPat On Aug 10, 2002, PippiPat wrote:

Spainish moss is beneficial for many reasons. There are little Warblers, Northern Parula, a delighful little bird, that nests in the Spainiah moss. Here in Texas I have seen other very small birds nestle into the moss for protection from rainy nights. When lived in Va. we would mulch potted plants with the moss. It only grows in swampy damp areas and is really abundant in La. It will not grow in full afternoon sun, prefers morning sun and some partical shade, but creeks, swamps, party shady rivers is where it will be found. It also prefers oak trees, but if a healthy growth, beginning with an oak, may spread to underbrush etc.

Neutral Floridian On Sep 24, 2001, Floridian from Lutz, FL (Zone 9b) wrote:

Not a moss at all, this plant is native in coastal areas from Virginia south to Argentina and Chile. Thought to have evolved in the Peruvian Andes it has the broadest natural geographic range of any bromeliad. Its strands are often many feet long, with gray, very slender stems and foliage. It hangs from trees and sometimes shrubs, taking moisture and nutrients from the air.

Regional...

This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Fairhope, Alabama
Brea, California
Canoga Park, California
Hayward, California
Reseda, California
San Diego, California (2 reports)
San Pedro, California
Simi Valley, California
Spring Valley, California
Upland, California
Bartow, Florida
Big Pine Key, Florida
Boca Raton, Florida
Bradley, Florida
Daytona Beach, Florida
Deland, Florida
Deltona, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fountain, Florida
Green Cove Springs, Florida
Hollywood, Florida
Homosassa, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida (4 reports)
Keystone Heights, Florida
Lake City, Florida (2 reports)
Lakeland, Florida
Loxahatchee, Florida
Lutz, Florida (2 reports)
Naples, Florida
New Port Richey, Florida
Ocala, Florida
Ocoee, Florida
Oldsmar, Florida (2 reports)
Orange Park, Florida
Parrish, Florida
Pompano Beach, Florida (2 reports)
Port Saint Lucie, Florida
Saint Petersburg, Florida
Sarasota, Florida (2 reports)
Tallahassee, Florida
Wauchula, Florida
West Palm Beach, Florida
Winter Garden, Florida
Dallas, Georgia
Hinesville, Georgia (2 reports)
Honomu, Hawaii
Kailua, Hawaii
Kailua Kona, Hawaii
Village Park, Hawaii
Paulina, Louisiana
Moss Point, Mississippi
Natchez, Mississippi
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Gatesville, North Carolina
Newton Grove, North Carolina
Cincinnati, Ohio
Conway, South Carolina
Edisto Island, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Saint Helena Island, South Carolina
Summerville, South Carolina (2 reports)
Broaddus, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Suffolk, Virginia
Virginia Beach, Virginia (2 reports)



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