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Spanish Moss Tillandsia usneoides

Phonetic Spelling
til-LAND-see-uh us-nee-OY-deez
Description

Spanish moss is an 'air plant' in the bromeliad family.  It is noted for its weeping silver leaves that dangle down from old or dead trees.  It is often found near rivers, lakes, and ponds. It is native to the southeastern USA from NC to Texas along the coastal plain in high humidity areas.

The slender long stems attach themselves to trees and sometimes fences for support. The plant has no roots and the gray scales on stems and leaves are means of obtaining moisture and nutrition. It needs high humidity and pollution-free conditions to grow. It will need occasional pruning to prevent it from becoming too heavy and causing branch breakage or causing too much shading for the tree. It can be grown indoors with regular mistings and humid conditions.

It can be used as mulch, a packing material, insulation or for arts and crafts.

Quick ID

  • Dense, drooping, gray moss-like clump has no roots
  • Leaves are cylindrical & covered with gray scales
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#sun#partial shade#silver foliage#epiphytic#coastal#stream banks#swamps#house plant#fantz#air plant#humidity tolerant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#sun#partial shade#silver foliage#epiphytic#coastal#stream banks#swamps#house plant#fantz#air plant#humidity tolerant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Tillandsia
    Species:
    usneoides
    Family:
    Bromeliaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The fibers were woven into a coarse cloth that was used for bedding, floor mats and horse blankets. The fibers could be twisted into cordage that was used as rope. Many other uses for this plant.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    SE North America, South America
    Distribution:
    SE USA from NC to texas
    Wildlife Value:
    Several species of bats including the Seminole bat roost in clumps of Spanish moss. Yellow-throated warblers and northern parulas build their nests inside clumps of living Spanish moss. Several other species of birds gather the moss for nesting material. There is at least one species of spider that only occurs in Spanish moss. It has been used as fodder for cattle.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Epiphyte
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Weeping
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a, 11b, 11a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Type:
    Capsule
    Fruit Description:
    Small capsuled fruit with seeds that have hairy sails to float on the wind and stick to tree branches.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Blue
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Spike
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    2-3 rays/petals
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The inflorescence is a very short terminal spike. Flowers are solitary, terminal, fragrant, pale blue or green; petals <.5 inch; bracts gray, scale-like. Blooms for 3-4 months in summer to fall.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Linear
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are awl-shaped alternate, simple, linear, entire, cylindrical (terete), succulent, gray-green, densely covered with absorbent gray scales, to 1.5- 3 inches.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    The stem is wiry, flexuous, with widely spaced internodes to 2.5 inches. It can hang down up to 20 inches long.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Houseplants
    Pond
    Vertical Spaces
    Landscape Theme:
    Rain Garden