Spanish Moss Handbook – Everything You Need To Know

spanish moss

Spanish Moss (Latin name: Tillandsia Usneoides) is a beautiful hanging moss that grows upon large trees and is native to the south. Spanish moss doesn’t harm a tree but it can become very heavy which can break a strain.

In this article we’ll cover the following topics;

  1. What is Spanish Moss?
  2. Why is it called Spanish Moss?
  3. How does Spanish Moss grow?
  4. Is Spanish Moss bad for trees?
  5. Is Spanish Moss a parasite?
  6. How to get rid of Spanish Moss
  7. How to grow Spanish Moss
  8. How to take care for Spanish Moss
  9. How fast does Spanish Moss grow?
  10. How to water Spanish Moss.

Sit back and relax while we tell you everything you need to know about Spanish Moss.

1. What Is Spanish Moss?

Spanish Moss (Tillandsia Usneoides) is one of the most recognizable moss species and oldest living organism on earth. During humid weather the moss grows and hangs down from the tree.

Spanish moss mainly affects live oaks and yaupon trees. It is thought that Spanish moss grows on certain trees as a host to get nutrients and water from them. The other reason for Spanish Moss to grow on a tree is for shelter. Spanish Moss can grow up to 5 feet off the ground and this is why some species of trees have a very thick canopy.

Spanish moss grows in (sub)tropical climates and is found in Mexico, Bermuda, Central America, Sout America, the Southern United States and West Indies.

2. Why Is It Called Spanish Moss?

One of the most debated question is why is Spanish Moss called Spanish moss. Spanish moss is simply referred to as a ‘grandmother of the flora.’ The word moss itself means plant matter but it’s also a term for soft or delicate foliage. As Spanish Moss is such a majestic living plant, its leaf, like that of a Spanish grandma, has become grand and heavy with moss. Thus, it became Spanish Moss.

3. How Does Spanish Moss Grow?

The moss is primarily composed of stachy/hemiepiphytes and its seeds are usually carried on the wind. Moss typically grows at low densities (less than one millimeter in diameter) which means that even just one stem can have millions of tiny “leaves.” Spanish Moss is highly dependent on the environment.

Unlike most trees that undergo periods of dormancy, Spanish moss is highly susceptible to loss during its active period. This is because Spanish moss relies on old, deciduous trees. Spanish moss can be killed by excessive soil salinity and exposure to hot weather. Spanish moss isn’t as cold-hardy as it might appears after all.

4. Is Spanish Moss Bad For Trees?

No, absolutely not. Spanish Moss is not bad for the trees. In fact, it can protect a tree from bark beetles and fungus and it can help replenish the soil around the tree. Only when it’s too thick for sunlight to get through, you can consider cutting it down so the leaves can get more sunlight.

Spanish Moss can get thick and heavy causing branches to break. But if your tree is showing signs of weakness, it’s probably now the Spanish Moss that is to blame.

5. Is Spanish Moss A Parasite?

No! We get some Spanish moss even in tropical areas but it is mostly restricted to the south and southeast. In other words, there is not much danger of it becoming a pest because it is native to the natural habitat.

Be aware that Spanish Moss is (technically) a parasitic plant that lives in trees and attaches to a tree’s branches and leaves. It needs the tree to survive (therefor called a parasatic plant) but it doesn’t hurt the host tree. So it’s not a parasite in that sense.

You can cut the Spanish Moss off a tree if you want to, but it is generally not advisable to do so as a healthy tree needs Spanish moss in order to stay alive and strong.

6. How To Get Rid Of Spanish Moss

I’ll give you a couple of tips to get rid of Spanish Moss.

  • Dry it out: Spanish Moss is primarily a water-based plant so remove it from the water it’s growing in.
  • Cut it down: Once you’ve removed the excess moss and cleaned the roots, you can start cutting the branches.
  • Use oil: Use vegetable oil to remove moss from trees and bushes without damaging your plants.

7. How To Grow Spanish Moss?

Spanish moss can be grown in any type of container as long as it is placed in humid conditions. You can also collect Spanish Moss from local forests, the pond or from rain water. It should be placed inside a container using some small plastic pots, where you put a paper towel underneath to keep the moss hydrated. Place the container in a dark corner of the room. You can keep it moist by using a small saucer, a glass with water and a glass in which there is some lemon juice.

8. How To Care For Spanish Moss?

When you see a Spanish moss it is a good idea to know how to care for it. This is because Spanish moss is a maintenance issue. The right kind of moss on the right tree is extremely helpful. However, as a part of a houseplant, Spanish moss may look out of place. It looks rather out of place because the moss seems to be not as important.

When I talked to a Spanish moss grower he said that the amount of moss depends on the density of the tree. The older the tree is, the more moss it produces. Since Spanish moss hangs from the tree branches, the more moss it produces the more the tree can bear.

9. How Fast Does Spanish Moss Grow?

Tillandsia Usneoides has a quick growth rate of 6 to 8 weeks with any aerial part. It does slow down when it is in water, during the winter months, and growth is highest when the tree has just been cut down.

10. How To Water Spanish Moss?

Like all plants, Spanish moss needs water to survive. It is possible for it to survive long periods without rain, however, if not watered it will die. Only water Spanish Moss when the plant is completerly dried out. Pour some water over the plant until it’s soaked. Make sure you use rainwater, tap water (dechlorinated) or even aquarium or pond water.

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