HabitatSpanish moss is an epiphyte which absorbs nutrients and water from the air and rainfall. Spanish moss is colloquially known as "air plant".
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 the host tree in a hurricane.
In the southern U.S., the plant seems to show a preference of growth on Southern Live Oak or Bald Cypress because of these trees' high rates of foliar mineral leaching providing an abundant supply of nutrients to the plant, but it can also colonize other tree species such as Sweetgum , crepe-myrtles , 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.
UsesSpanish 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. In 1939 over 10,000 tons of processed Spanish moss was produced. It is still collected today in smaller quantities for use in arts and crafts, or for beddings for flower gardens, and as an ingredient in the traditional wall covering material bousillage.
Spanish moss is also known to have been worn by the women of the Timucua Indian tribe.
It is also used by some as the filling for traditional voodoo dolls.
CulturalDue to its propensity for growing in humid southern locales like Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Eastern North Carolina, southeastern Virginia, South Carolina, east and south Texas, and Alabama, the plant is often associated with Southern Gothic imagery.
It was introduced to Hawaii in the 19th century, and became a popular ornamental and lei plant. It is often called "Pele's hair" after Pele the Hawaiian goddess. The term "Pele's hair" is also used to refer to a type of filamentous volcanic glass.
Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot wrote a ballad entitled "Spanish Moss".
American Punk Rock band Against Me! has a song titled "Spanish Moss" on their 2010 album White Crosses.
"Look into the Spanish moss. Let your mind conjure up old ghosts. Ride your bike through lost Florida streets. Everything we’ve said and done, can be so easily forgotten. You can always change who you are."
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