Spanish moss flowers from spring to fall

April 14, 2020

Look closely and you will find tiny green flowers blooming in Spanish moss. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Did you know Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is a flowering plant?  Spanish moss is a native, perennial epiphytic herb. It is not Spanish, nor a moss, but a flowering plant. The slender, wiry, long, branching stems (reaching 8m or more) grow as suspended, bluish-gray streamers and garlands draping among tree branches and sometimes telephone lines and fences. Spanish moss grows on trees in areas of high humidity. It can be found on live oak and pines that border estuaries, rivers, swamps, and along the coastal plains of the Southeastern United States.

The plant is not parasitic, as is often thought, but attaches itself to trees for support. The plant has no roots but derives its nutrients from rainfall, detritus and airborne dust.

Several species of bats including the Seminole bat roost in clumps of Spanish moss. Yellow-throated warblers and northern parulas build their nests inside clumps of living Spanish moss. Several other species of birds gather the moss for nesting material. There is at least one species of spider that only occurs in Spanish moss.