Spanish Moss in the Beaufort Hilton Head Area
Moss laden Oak trees, gracefully blowing in the breeze is the traditional image of the deep south. Spanish moss grows in warm areas that maintain a high average humidity level. Moss is a common sight in the Beaufort & Hilton Head Island area.
About Spanish Moss
Spanish moss is not spanish nor a true moss. It is a epiphyte, which is plant that grows on another plant, using it as a mechanical support but not for nutrients. It is a member of the bromeliad family and is a cousin of the pineapple. Spanish moss absorbs nutrients and water from the air, dew and rainfall. Spanish moss has no traditional roots, instead has air roots and does not need contact with the soil. Spanish moss is not a parasite and does not harm the tree. Because it can absorb 8-times its weight in water, it can cause weak limbs to break during heavy rain. Large patches of moss can increase wind resistance for tree limbs, especially during hurricanes. Spanish moss propagates both by seed, located in tiny seed capsules, and vegetatively by fragments that blow on the wind and stick to tree limbs or when carried by birds for nesting material.
Spanish Moss and Bugs
Spanish moss on trees does not contain chiggers, but if on the ground, it often can. Moss can contain spiders, mites, frogs and insects. To safely keep and handle moss, check to make sure any frogs or other animals are not present, then microwave for about 15-20 seconds. This will kill anything else that may be present.
Uses for Spanish Moss
Today moss is used for garden mulch, potted flowers, arts & crafts and for ornamental decorations. If the gray covering is removed, or allowed to decay, the dark fiber inner core makes excellent cushion and bedding filling, which is what moss used to be used for.