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Spanish moss

Spanish moss

larger image, this plant in closeup
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Bromeliales
Family: Bromeliaceae
Genus: Tillandsia
Species
Tillandsia usneoides
Ref: ITIS 42371 (http://www.itis.usda.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=42371) 2002-08-25

Spanish moss is not a moss, but a light grey bromeliad which grows in trees in full sun or part shade from the Southern United States through Argentina. It is typically thin and curly, hangs from the trees' limbs, and can grow several feet in length. Spanish moss is sometimes bought for use in arts and crafts or for beddings for flower gardens, but the plant in its natural habitat can contain chiggers (which burrow under humans' skin and cause considerable itching). The plant is susceptible to air pollution.

Spanish moss is not a parasite, but an epiphyte, which absorbs nutrients and water from the air. It grows so thickly on tree limbs that it gives a mysterious Gothic appearance to the landscape, but it rarely harms the trees. It propagates by tiny seeds which blow on the wind and stick to tree limbs; its flowers are small and inconspicuous.



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