Tillandsia usneoides--also called Spanish moss, long moss and graybeard--is an epiphytic plant. An epiphytic plant is one that hangs from the branches and trunks of a host plant but derives nutrients from the rain and air. It is not parasitic and requires its host for physical and mechanical support only. Tillandsia usneoides commonly grows on the bald cypress and southern live oak trees. The plant has been harvested for centuries and is used in numerous commercial applications--one of which was as stuffing for the seats of Ford Model T cars.
According to “Writings of the Lowcountry: Reflections on the South Carolina Coast,” Tillandsia usneoides is brewed into tea to alleviate ailments such as diabetes, rheumatism and gallbladder complaints. According to the book “Seashore Plants of South Florida and the Caribbean,” ingested Spanish moss has been experimentally proven to reduce blood glucose levels in rats.
Tillandsia usneoides is used in floral arrangements for green accents and as a filler. The floral industry uses both dyed and natural Spanish moss in artificial and fresh floral arrangements and at the base of plants and trees. They are also used to give wreaths a rustic, lodge look.
Bioindicators of Air Quality
Tillandsia usneoides is used to indicate air quality and the levels of pollution in the atmosphere. Bioindicator plants are sensitive to air pollutants and a reliable indicator of acid air damage and atmospheric metal pollutants due to factory emissions.
Upholstery and Packing Material
Tillandsia usneoides is used extensively in the furniture industry as upholstery stuffing material. It is used to stuff cushions, pillows, mattresses, chairs, couches and automobile seats. Spanish moss is also used in packaging to securely pad fragile items, such as glassware and antiques.
Natural Privacy Screens
An unusual use for Tillandsia usneoides is that of a natural privacy screen. Large clumps of Spanish moss can be hung on fences, gate posts and tree branches to form a thick foliage privacy screen.
- Photo Credit ibis in cypress image by Stacey Lynn Payne from Fotolia.com
- “Writings of the Lowcountry”; Suzannah Smith Miles; 2004
- “Seashore Plants of South Florida and the Caribbean”; David W. Nellis; 1994
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