When is Spanish Moss NOT Moss?

Driving through the southern route to the west coast, one of the more interesting sights is the furry, gray, and sometimes elegant web dangling from many of the trees overhanging the road.  Known as Spanish Moss it looks more like a spider web and parasitic growth rather than green moss.  It is neither.

Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is not really a moss at all.  It is also not a parasite as the Mistletoe ball is to many trees. It is a bromeliad and a blooming one at that! In fact, it is similar to a pineapple.  It loves the warmer moist areas of the Southern states.

Spanish moss was given its name from French explorers. The Native Americans told them the plant was called Itla-okla, which meant “tree hair.” The French supposedly were reminded of Spanish conquistadors with long beards, so they called the “moss”  Barbe Espagnol, or “Spanish Beard.” The Spaniards in turn called the plant Cabello Francés, or “French Hair.” Eventually the common usage became Spanish moss.


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