Various Native American tribes, including the Houma and the Seminole, have used Spanish moss for a variety of purposes. These strong fibers were useful in many ways. The fibers were woven into a course cloth that was used for bedding, floor mats and horse blankets. The fibers could be twisted into cordage that was used as rope. The ropes were used to lash together the poles that composed the framework of housing. Dry Spanish moss was used for fire arrows. The moss was also an ingredient in the clay that was used to plaster the insides of houses. Fresh Spanish moss was gathered, soaked in water and stuffed into dugout canoes to keep them from drying out and splitting. The plant was boiled to make a tea for chills and fever. Spanish moss is still used today by many Native American tribes. For example, the Houma and the Koasati use Spanish moss in the construction and decoration of small dolls.
Pineapple Family (Bromeliaceae). 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. The plant and 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. The stems and leaves are covered with overlapping silver-gray scales, which are important for absorbing water and trapping dust and nutrient particles.
Spanish moss is native to the Southeastern United States and Tropical America.
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.
Spanish moss may be propagated by seed or by division. The plants are very easy to grow, as they need no soil or transplanting, requiring only warmth and moisture. They are grown in greenhouses or outside in warm climates. The plants need temperature of 70 degrees or warmer in the summer and not less than 60 degrees in the winter. The plants grow well in full sunlight to partial shade. To propagate by division, place divided plantlets on bark slabs in areas with plenty of light and moisture. Mist plants regularly with lukewarm water. Spanish moss rarely blooms in cultivation.
Although Spanish moss does not take nutrients from the host tree, it should be thinned if it becomes too thick. This is because it may either shade the tree’s leaves or, when it is wet it can become very heavy and the branches may break under its weight.
© J.R. Manhart
@ Texas A&M University
When I read that the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden Tour was happening May 5 and 6 — and that our friends Guida and Danny Quon’s home would be part of it — we had to go! One of my fave RR commenters, Guida and husband Danny came to visit us during last year’s garden tour and sales, and as with most RR readers I’ve met in person, we found them to be warm and enthusiastic … we also found they’d left a bright-hued umbrella behind after that rainy day sale. We tried returning it unsuccessfully several times since that visit a year ago, so this would be our chance to finally fulfill that errand. Little did I know then that a colorful brolly was a Quon garden signature.
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First impression: Parking in front of G&D’s home in Santa Ana’s historic West Floral…
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