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TILLANDSIA usneoides

Image of Tillandsia usneoides

Mark A. Miller

Family

Bromeliaceae

Botanical Name

TILLANDSIA usneoides

Plant Common Name

Graybeard, Spanish Moss

General Description

Large trees draped with Spanish moss bring to mind beautiful landscapes of the American South. Often mistaken for a lichen, Spanish moss is in fact a tiny bromeliad. It is an epiphyte (tree dweller) that produces long, hanging strands of wavy, pale gray-green foliage that dangles from the branches of trees without doing them harm. Spanish moss is an evergreen, perennial that exists across a very broad geographic area, from the southeastern United States southward to Argentina.

The long, dangling leaves of this bromeliad are narrow, tubular and wiry. They have a felt-like surface and no roots. It obtains moisture from ambient humidity and rain and gains nutrients from runoff from the branches and leaves above it. In early summer it produces tiny, difficult to detect chartreuse flowers on its leaves. In winter, or the tropical dry season, the plants tend to become a more ghostly grayish white. Central American forms of Spanish moss have slightly larger leaves that are more ornate.

Grow Spanish moss in partial sun to partial shade. Air circulation is important to prevent rotting. Strands can be pulled away and relocated to new trees or hanging baskets. If humidity is high the plants can tolerate more direct sunlight. Protect it from harsh winter cold and drying winds and refrain from planting it where summers are arid.

Use Spanish moss as a decoration on tropical tree branches, orchid boxes or hanging baskets. It also looks great as topdressing for floral arrangements. It can become quite large and form heavy clumps on trees that can be easily thinned out to lessen the load. Trees covered in Spanish moss are usually old. When they begin to deteriorate, it is common for onlookers to mistakenly blame the Spanish moss.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    8 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Epiphyte

  • Sun Exposure

    Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer, Summer

  • Native To

    Southeastern United States, South-Central United States, Mexico, Caribbean, Central America, South America, Argentina

Growing Conditions

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Prostrate/Trailing

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Yellow Green, Chartreuse

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Gray Green, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Light Green, Gray Green, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Light Green, Gray Green, Silver

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Gray Green, Silver, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    No

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Dried Flower/Everlasting, Hanging Basket, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes