Friday, February 15, 2008

Spanish Moss

Spanish Moss

Spanish moss is an epiphyte (a plant that lives upon other plants; from Greek "epi"=upon "phyte"=plant), which absorbs nutrients (especially calcium) and water from the air and rainfall. Spanish moss is colloquially known as "air plant". It is not a biological parasite in the same sense as another epiphyte, mistletoe (it does not burrow into the tree and suck out nutrients)- however this is using a technical meaning of "parasite" of the biological community. By using a tree's structure it blocks out sunlight that would otherwise fall on the host tree's own leaves. The amount of sunlight it blocks is proportional to the amount it reduces tree growth depending on the tree type. On some trees only smaller or lower branches will die but the tree will grow at a slower rate.

It can grow so thickly on tree limbs that it gives a somewhat "gothic" appearance to the landscape, and while it rarely kills the trees it lowers their growth rate by reducing the amount of light to a tree's own leaves. It also increases wind resistance, which can prove fatal to a tree in hurricanes.

In the southern U.S., the plant seems to show a distinct preference of growth on southern live oak and bald cypress, but it can colonize in other tree species such as sweetgum, crape-myrtle, other oaks, or even pine.

Spanish Moss shelters a number of creatures, including chiggers, rat snakes and three species of bats.

Due to its propensity for growing in humid southern locales like Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama, the plant is often associated with Southern Gothic imagery.


In Charleston,South Carolina; the following tale is told:

A Cuban came to the area with his Spanish fiancée in the 1700s to start a plantation near the city. The most striking feature of the bride-to-be was her beautiful, flowing raven hair. As the couple was walking through the forest to reach the location of their future plantation, they were attacked and killed by an army of the Cherokee tribe, who were not happy to have these strangers on their land. As a final warning to stay away from the Cherokee nation, they cut off the long, dark hair of the bride-to-be and threw it up into an oak tree. As they came back day after day, week after week, they noticed that the hair had shriveled and turned grey and had also spread throughout the tree. Wherever the Cherokees went, the moss followed them and would eventually chase them out of their homeland of South Carolina. To this day, if one will stand under a live oak tree, one will hear the moaning of the woman and will see the moss jump from tree to tree, defending itself with a large army of beetles.[1]

10 comments:

Barbara said...

This picture is absolutely beautiful!!!

Susanne49 said...

Thank you Barbara,
to visit my blog and for this nice compliment.I'm happy, you like this picture.

K M F said...

very nice

Susanne49 said...

Thank you very much KMF,

for this nice comment.

Steve Buser said...

They actually had a professor at LSU dozens of years ago that studied how you can tell air pollution from the health of Spanish Moss.

--steve buser
New Orleans Daily Photo

Susanne49 said...

Hi Steve,

that sounds very interesting!
Thanks for stopping by and writing a comment.

Bob Johnson said...

Wow Susanne, very beautiful image, and again the story adds volumes to it as well, very nice!

Susanne49 said...

Thanks Bob,

for visiting my blog. I'm glad you like my posts. :-)

Anna said...

Susanne, one word, stunning! Anna :)

Susanne49 said...

Thanks Anna!

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