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Spanish Moss

Tillandsia usneoides (L.) L.

Brief Summary

provided by Armchair Taxonomists

Tillandsia usneoides (commonly called Spanish moss, although it is neither Spanish nor moss) is an atypical angiosperm, a primitive and xerophytic member of the Bromeliaceae. It is native to the coastal plain of the United States from Virginia to Texas and to tropical America as far south as Argentina and Chile. Its distribution may be correlated with major storm paths (Garth 1964). The blue-gray plant consists of a slender stem, up to 25 feet long, with alternating leaves growing chain-like to produce “festoons” (Billings 1904). The leaves are needle-shaped and covered with silver-gray scales. The inconspicuous fragrant flowers, which appear from April to June, are blue or pale green and have three petals. Spanish moss is dependent upon a host species or object upon which to grow. It is typically found on the branches of sparsely foliated or dead deciduous trees in high-humidity environments with soils rich in calcium carbonate (Garth 1964).

Spanish moss can grow from seeds but is typically spread by windblown fragments or from fragments incorporated in birds’ nests. This epiphyte has no roots; it captures all its water and nutrients from rain and dust in the atmosphere. Its vascular system is degenerate: Spanish moss has no functional xylem or phloem, water is absorbed by scales over the entire surface of the plant and every cell of the plant either photosynthesizes on its own or is proximal to a cell that shares resources (Billings 1904). It fixes carbon by Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), an adaptation to arid conditions in which carbon dioxide enters the stomata at night to reduce loss of water in its cells.

Native American tribes traditionally used fibers derived from Spanish moss to weave into coarse cloth for bedding, to cord into rope, and to produce fire-tempered pottery (USDA NRCS 2013). Because the plant accumulates heavy metals, including mercury, it has proven useful in monitoring mercury pollution in urban areas (Malm et al. 1998; Fonesca et al. 2007).

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Description

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Plants pendent in long festoons, flowering to 300 cm. Stems elongate. Leaves 4--8, 2-ranked, often twisted or contorted, gray to silver-gray, 1.5--3 ´ 0.1--0.2 cm, densely grayish-scaly; sheath pale, narrowly elliptic, not inflated, not forming pseudobulb, 0.2--0.4 cm wide; blade filiform, succulent, margins involute to nearly tubular, apex acute. Inflorescences: scape concealed within leaf sheath, appearing scapeless, pendent with shoot, ± 1 mm diam. Floral bracts enveloping flower, erect, green, broad (covering all or most of rachis, rachis not visible at anthesis), ovate, not keeled, 0.4--0.5 cm, thin-leathery, apex acute, surfaces densely grayish-scaly, venation even to slight. Flowers 1, inconspicuous, apparently sessile; sepals free, ovate, not keeled, 0.6--0.7 cm, thin, veined, apex acute, surfaces glabrous; corolla spreading, petals spreading, yellow-green, elliptic, to 1 cm; stamens included; stigma included, simple-erect. Fruits to 2.5 cm.
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Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA
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Flora of North America Vol. 22 in eFloras.org, Missouri Botanical Garden. Accessed Nov 12, 2008.
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Distribution

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Ala., Ark., Fla., Ga., La., Miss., N.C., S.C., Tex., Va.; Mexico; West Indies; Central America; South America.
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Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA
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Flora of North America Vol. 22 in eFloras.org, Missouri Botanical Garden. Accessed Nov 12, 2008.
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Flowering/Fruiting

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Flowering summer.
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Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA
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Flora of North America Vol. 22 in eFloras.org, Missouri Botanical Garden. Accessed Nov 12, 2008.
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Habitat

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Epiphytic, occasionally on fences, telephone lines; 0--300m.
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Flora of North America Vol. 22 in eFloras.org, Missouri Botanical Garden. Accessed Nov 12, 2008.
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Synonym

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Renealmia usneoides Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 1: 287. 1753; Dendropogon usneoides (Linnaeus) Rafinesque
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Flora of North America Vol. 22 in eFloras.org, Missouri Botanical Garden. Accessed Nov 12, 2008.
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Comprehensive Description

provided by North American Flora
Tillandsia usneoides L. Sp. PI. cd. 2. 41 1. 1762
Renealmia umeoijes I-. Sp. PI. 287. 1753. TiUandsia trichoides H. B. K. Nov. Gen. & Sp. 1: 290. 1816. Dendropogon usneoides Raf. Fl. Tell. 4: 25. 1838. Strepsia usneoides Steud. Nom. Bot. ed. 2. 2: 645. 1841. TiUandsia crinita Willd.; Beer, Bromel. 152. 1857.
Plant growing pendent from trees in branching strands up to 8 m. long; roots absent ; stem sympodial, less than 1 mm. in diameter, the internodes 3-6 cm. long with only the extreme base covered by the leaf-sheath, strongly curved; pseudo-axillary branches, actually a continuation of the main axis, very short and concealed by the ba.sal leaf-sheath, bearing 2-3 leaves; leaves distichous-ranked, 25-50 mm. long, densely cinercous-lepidote or ferruginous-lcpidote; sheaths elliptic, involute, up to 8 mm. long; blades filiform, less than I mm. in diameter; scape practically none; inflorescence reduced to a single pseudo-terminal flower; floral bract ovate, apiculate or caudate, densely lepidote, shorter than the sepals; flower subsessile; sepals narrowly ovate, acute, up to 7 mm, long, thin, strongly nerved, glabrous, equally short-connate; petals narrow, acute or obtuse, 9-11 nun. long, pale-green or blue; stamens deeply included, exceeding the pistil; capsule up to 25 mm. long, cylindric, abruptly short-beaked.
Type locality: Virginia, Jamaica.
Distribution: Virginia to Texas along the coast, and southward to central Argentina and Chile.
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Lyman Bradford Smith. 1938. (XYRIDALES); BROMELIACEAE. North American flora. vol 19(2). New York Botanical Garden, New York, NY
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Spanish moss

provided by wikipedia EN

Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is an epiphytic flowering plant that often grows upon large trees in tropical and subtropical climates. It is native to much of Mexico, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Central America, South America, the Southern United States, West Indies. It has been naturalized in Queensland (Australia). It is known as "grandpas beard" in French Polynesia.[2]

Most known in the United States, it commonly is found on the southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) in the lowlands, swamps, and marshes of the mid-Atlantic and southeastern states, from the coast of southeastern Virginia to Florida and west to southern Arkansas and Texas.[3][4]

The specific name of the plant, usneoides, means "resembling Usnea", a lichen.[5] While it superficially resembles its namesake, it is neither a lichen such as Usnea nor a moss, and it is not native to Spain.

It is a flowering plant (angiosperm) in the family Bromeliaceae (the bromeliads) that grows hanging from tree branches in full sun through partial shade. Formerly, it was placed in the genera Anoplophytum, Caraguata, and Renealmia.[6] The northern limit of its natural range is Northampton County,[7] Virginia, with colonial-era reports of it in southern Maryland[8][9][10][11] where no populations are now known to exist.[11] Its primary range is in the southeastern United States (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) through Argentina, where the climate is warm enough and a relatively high average humidity occurs.

It has been introduced to locations around the world with similar conditions, including Hawaii and Australia.

Description

Spanish moss consists of one or more slender stems, bearing alternate thin, curved or curly, and heavily scaled leaves 2–6 cm (0.8–2.4 inches) long and 1 mm (0.04 inches) broad, that grow vegetatively in a chain-like fashion (pendant), forming hanging structures of up to 6 m (20 feet).[12] The plant has no aerial roots,[12] and its brown, green, yellow, or grey flowers are tiny and inconspicuous. It propagates both by seed and vegetatively by fragments that blow on the wind and stick to tree limbs or that are carried to other locations by birds as nesting material.

Ecology

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Close-up of Spanish moss

Spanish moss is not parasitic, it is an epiphyte that absorbs nutrients and water through its own leaves from the air and rainfall. While its presence rarely kills the trees on which it grows, it occasionally becomes so thick that, by shading the leaves of the tree, it lowers the growth rate of the tree.[12]

In the southern U.S., the plant seems to show preferences for southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) because of their high rates of foliar mineral leaching (calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus), which provides an abundant supply of nutrients to the epiphytic plant.[13] It can also colonize other tree species such as sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), crepe-myrtles (Lagerstroemia spp.), other oaks, and even pines.

Spanish moss shelters a number of creatures, including rat snakes and three species of bats. One species of jumping spider, Pelegrina tillandsiae, has been found only on Spanish moss.[14] Although widely presumed to infest Spanish moss, chiggers were not present among thousands of other arthropods identified on the plant in one study of the ecology of the plant.[15]

Culture and folklore

Spanish moss often is associated with Southern Gothic imagery and Deep South culture, due to its propensity for growing in subtropical humid southern locales such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, east and south Texas, and extreme southern Virginia.

One anecdote about the origin of Spanish moss is called "The Meanest Man Who Ever Lived", where the man's white hair grew very long and got caught on trees.[16]

Spanish moss was introduced to Hawaii in the nineteenth century. It became a popular ornamental and lei plant.[17] On Hawaii it often is called "Pele's hair" after Pele the Hawaiian goddess. ("Pele's hair" also refers to a type of filamentous volcanic glass.)

Human uses

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Spanish-moss under 20x magnification, showing scale-like trichomes

Spanish moss has been used for various purposes, including building insulation, mulch, packing material, mattress stuffing, and fiber. In the early 1900s it was used commercially in the padding of car seats.[18] More than 10,000 tons of processed Spanish-moss was produced in 1939.[19] Today, it is collected in smaller quantities for use in arts and crafts, as bedding for flower gardens, and as an ingredient in the traditional wall covering material bousillage. In some parts of Latin America and Louisiana, it is used in Nativity scenes.

In the desert regions of southwestern United States, dried Spanish moss is sometimes used in the manufacture of evaporative coolers, colloquially known as "swamp coolers" (and in some areas as "desert coolers"), which are used to cool homes and offices much less expensively than air conditioners. The cooling technology uses a pump that squirts water onto a pad made of Spanish moss plants; a fan then pulls air through the pad, and into the building. Evaporation of the water on the pads serves to reduce air temperature, cooling the building.[20]

Cultivars

Hybrids

References

  1. ^ "Tillandsia usneoides". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2009-12-08.
  2. ^ a b Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Tillandsia usneoides
  3. ^ Luther, Harry E.; Brown, Gregory K. (2000). "Tillandsia usneoides". In Flora of North America Editorial Committee (ed.). Flora of North America North of Mexico (FNA). 22. New York and Oxford – via eFloras.org, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
  4. ^ "Tillandsia usneoides". County-level distribution map from the North American Plant Atlas (NAPA). Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2014.
  5. ^ Damrosch, B.; Neal, B. (2003). Gardener's Latin: A Lexicon. Chapel Hill, N.C: Algonquin Books. p. 129. ISBN 978-1-56512-743-2. OCLC 856021571. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  6. ^ "Tillandsia". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  7. ^ Times-Dispatch, REX SPRINGSTON Richmond. "Virginia scientists search for northernmost realm of Spanish moss". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  8. ^ John Ray 1688
  9. ^ "Plants profile for Tillandsia usneoides". USDA.
  10. ^ "Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Plants of Maryland" (PDF).
  11. ^ a b Brown, M.L., and R.G. Brown (1984). Herbaceous plants of Maryland. Baltimore: Port City Press, Inc.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  12. ^ a b c "Tillandsia usneoides". Floridata Plant Encyclopedia.
  13. ^ Schlesinger, William H.; Marks, P. L. (1977). "Mineral Cycling and the Niche of Spanish Moss, Tillandsia usneoides L.". American Journal of Botany. 64 (10): 1254–1262. doi:10.2307/2442489. JSTOR 2442489.
  14. ^ Wildlife, State of Texas, Parks and. "Flora Fact:| Spanish Moss Serves as Nature's Draperies". www.tpwmagazine.com. Retrieved 2017-10-26.
  15. ^ Whitaker Jr., J; Ruckdeschel, C. (2010). "Spanish Moss, the Unfinished Chigger Story". Southeastern Naturalist. 9 (1): 85–94. doi:10.1656/058.009.0107. S2CID 86228838.
  16. ^ Friedman, Amy; Johnson, Meredith (May 28, 2017). "The Meanest Man Who Ever Lived (An American Folktale)". Uexpress. Retrieved May 31, 2017.
  17. ^ "Nā Lei o Hawai'i – Types of Lei". Archived from the original on 2013-01-03.
  18. ^ "Hair From Trees....Spanish-moss is new upholstering material". Popular Science. June 1937.
  19. ^ Adams, Dennis. Spanish Moss: Its Nature, History and Uses. Beaufort County Library, SC.
  20. ^ Gutenberg, Arthur William (1955). The Economics of the Evaporative Cooler Industry in the Southwestern United States. Stanford University Graduate School of Business. p. 167.
  21. ^ Bromeliad Cultivar Registry: Tillandsia 'Maurice's Robusta'
  22. ^ Bromeliad Cultivar Registry: Tillandsia 'Munro's Filiformis'
  23. ^ Bromeliad Cultivar Registry: Tillandsia 'Odin's Genuina'
  24. ^ Bromeliad Cultivar Registry: Tillandsia 'Spanish Gold'
  25. ^ Bromeliad Cultivar Registry: Tillandsia 'Tight and Curly'
  26. ^ Bromeliad Cultivar Registry: Tillandsia 'Nezley'
  27. ^ Bromeliad Cultivar Registry: Tillandsia 'Kimberly'
  28. ^ Bromeliad Cultivar Registry: Tillandsia 'Old Man's Gold'
  • Mabberley, D.J. 1987. The Plant Book. A Portable Dictionary of the Higher Plants. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-34060-8.

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Spanish moss: Brief Summary

provided by wikipedia EN

Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is an epiphytic flowering plant that often grows upon large trees in tropical and subtropical climates. It is native to much of Mexico, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Central America, South America, the Southern United States, West Indies. It has been naturalized in Queensland (Australia). It is known as "grandpas beard" in French Polynesia.

Most known in the United States, it commonly is found on the southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) in the lowlands, swamps, and marshes of the mid-Atlantic and southeastern states, from the coast of southeastern Virginia to Florida and west to southern Arkansas and Texas.

The specific name of the plant, usneoides, means "resembling Usnea", a lichen. While it superficially resembles its namesake, it is neither a lichen such as Usnea nor a moss, and it is not native to Spain.

It is a flowering plant (angiosperm) in the family Bromeliaceae (the bromeliads) that grows hanging from tree branches in full sun through partial shade. Formerly, it was placed in the genera Anoplophytum, Caraguata, and Renealmia. The northern limit of its natural range is Northampton County, Virginia, with colonial-era reports of it in southern Maryland where no populations are now known to exist. Its primary range is in the southeastern United States (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) through Argentina, where the climate is warm enough and a relatively high average humidity occurs.

It has been introduced to locations around the world with similar conditions, including Hawaii and Australia.

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