Spanish moss

Tillandsia usneoides

Spanish moss is a flowering plant that grows upon larger trees, commonly the Southern Live Oak or Bald Cypress in the southeastern United States.

The plant's specific name ''usneoides'' means "resembling ''Usnea''", and it indeed closely resembles its namesake ''Usnea'', also known as beard lichen, but in fact Spanish moss is not biologically related to either mosses or lichens. Instead, it is an angiosperm in the family Bromeliaceae that grows hanging from tree branches in full sun or partial shade. Formerly this plant has been placed in the genera ''Anoplophytum'', ''Caraguata'', and ''Renealmia''. Its natural range is from Northampton County, Virginia in the southeastern United States to Argentina, growing wherever the climate is warm enough and has a relatively high average humidity. It has been introduced to similar locations around the world, including Hawaii and Australia.

The plant consists of a slender stem bearing alternate thin, curved or curly, heavily scaled leaves 2–6 cm long and 1 mm broad, that grow vegetatively in chain-like fashion to form hanging structures up to 6 m in length. The plant has no aerial roots and its 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 are carried by birds as nesting material.

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