Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides)

Educational Story

Spanish Moss, Tillandsia usneoides, is most often seen hanging gracefully from Live Oak branches.  Its subtle blue-green strands swaying in the breeze are characteristic of many distinctive southern landscapes.  Not requiring soil, it collects its nutrients from the air and rain water.  The plant forms one or more slender stems that bear thin, alternate, curved leaves with heavy scales that link together to form a dense hanging clump that can be up to 20 feet long.  The dense cluster can host many animals, including insects, spiders, snakes and even bats.  Spanish moss historically was harvested for a variety of purposes including insulation, padding and packing material, and has been used to manufacture the surface of some evaporative cooling systems.

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Gardening Facts

Scientific Name: Tillandsia usneoides
Common Name: Spanish Moss
Description of facts and concepts: Air plant, not a parasite.
Seed or division information: Seeds and windblown vegetative pieces
Date of flower’s bloom (Month and week): 3-4 months from Spring to Fall
Ecoregion: Xeric Hammock to mesic woodlands throughout the southeastern coastal plain.  Also native to Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Color of Flower: Blue-green
Height: 3 – 20 feet
Spread: 1-3 feet
Family: Bromeliaceae (bromeliad family)
Soil Type: Base to Acidic N/A
Soil: Dry to Wet N/A
Light: Sun to Shade Full to Part Shade
Zone 8A-11B