“Bungalower, you’re always writing about trees being cut down, but you never talk about Spanish moss. It’s killing all of our street trees and nobody is doing anything about it.” – Bungalower reader
Spanish moss, as mossy as it seems, is really a bromeliad – a perennial herb in the pineapple family. That’s right, it’s an air pineapple, and it’s not even from Spain. It’s an epiphyte, which means it may grow on other plants, but it doesn’t rely on them for the food it needs to live. They get all the nutrients they need from the air and from the rain.
Spanish moss doesn’t have any actual roots, and is really just a series of stems laying against other stems, its like the Barrel of Monkeys game of the Plant Kingdom, and it just drapes itself over branches in order to catch passing moisture. Trivia Note: A chain of the moss plants is called a “festoon.”
People think Spanish moss is harmful to trees, but its not parasitic, again, it’s just using the trees for support. Sometimes though, if the tree is in decline and not growing fast enough, the leaves can be covered by the plants and unable to get as much sun, which slows growth even further.
Another problem is that if the Spanish moss is dense enough, when it catches water it can become quite heavy, causing some weaker branches to break under the strain.
“Spanish moss is a member of the pineapple family and as such does not harm the the tree that supports it. It may on occasion get so heavy after a soaking rain that inferior and brittle trees like Chinese Elms might break because of the added weight, but nothing more.”