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Spanish moss

Tillandsia usneoides (usneoides="moss-like"; from usnea="beard lichen"), family Bromeliaceae
Other common names: Grey Beard , Florida moss, Long moss, Pele's hair (Hawaiian)
Classification Spanish moss is not a moss but a pineapple-related flowering plant. It is a perennial monocot in the bromeliad family.
Not a parasite Spanish moss wraps around tree branches but only uses them for mechanical support. It does not take nutrients from the host tree like a parasite (e.g. mistletoe) would.
A rootless epiphyte Spanish moss has no roots. It gets its moisture and nutrients from air and rainfall. There are scales (trichomes) on its leaves and stems which help it to capture and conserve water and nutrients from the air.
Reproduction Mainly propagates by vegetative reproduction through fragmentation.
Also reproduces by seeds. After flowering, a seed capsule will develop for six month before it releases tiny seeds that are dispersed either by wind or by birds.
Distribution Spanish moss likes warmth and humidity, it is distributed from southeastern US to Argentina.
Usage Many different uses: as packing material, in handicrafts, as mulch, and widely used in the floral industry.

Closeup of a flowering Spanish moss
showing: the silvery-grey scales on leaves and stems; pinkish bud; a greenish-yellow flower with trimerous (in sets of three) perianth. The flowers of Spanish moss usually last several days.

Spanish moss on a tree: it grows as a mass hanging down from the branches.


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