Spanish Moss

September 18, 2011

Spanish moss
: Michelle J. Williams
Summary Authors: Michelle J. Williams; Stu Witmer

Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is neither Spanish nor a true moss. It's actually a member of the pineapple family, found in southern North America, the West Indies, and Central and South America. It often hangs in large, beard-like, silvery-gray masses from trees and other plants and even on utility poles, but it's not parasitic nor structurally intertwined with its host. An air-feeding plant or epiphyte, it takes in carbon dioxide and rainwater or dew for photosynthesis through tiny, hairy scales that cover its slender leaves and long, delicate stems. It absorbs nutrients from dust and solvents in rainwater, or from decaying organic matter around its aerial roots. Spanish moss was used by Henry Ford to fill the upholstery in his Model T's. Allegedly, the word Spanish in the name got started because early French settlers in Louisiana thought the moss looked like the beards of the earlier Spanish explorers. Photo taken near Monroe, Louisiana on May 5, 2011.

Photo details: Camera: OLYMPUS SP600UZ; Focal Length: 16mm (35mm equivalent: 89mm); Aperture: f/4.5; Exposure Time: 0.017 s (1/60); ISO equiv: 100.