Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Spanish moss seen differently

with 4 comments

Click for greater clarity.

It’s probably safe to say that when we think of Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides, our minds emphasize the vertical dimension of this Southern plant as it hangs in long strands from the trees. Vertical our Spanish moss certainly is, but a closer look reveals that its strands can be quite dense, and in sections like this one not at all vertical. Notice the bits of green that wouldn’t be apparent from a distance. All in all, this reminds me of the flowering swirls of the unrelated Clematis drummondii that I enjoy photographing so much. (If you weren’t coming to this blog in its early days, you may want to compare the photograph that appeared last July).

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 1, 2012 at 1:26 PM

4 Responses

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  1. Such a wonderful photo, as was the previous one. Spanish Moss evokes so many memories for me – all from Louisiana.

    When I was a child, my great-aunt and her husband lived on the east side of Baton Rouge.They had a wonderful home with plenty of screened porches, pecan trees, Meyer lemons, and huge live oaks dripping with moss. More than once I slept on a mattress filled with moss – just as nice and comfortable as could be, and much cooler in the summertime.

    The old CIty Hotel in Breaux Bridge, where I stayed at Christmas, has bousillage construction for the walls – the cavities between the timbers are filled with a mixture of mud and moss. There’s a cut-out section of wall so a visitor can see the actual construction. I can’t find my photo – I’ll get another the next time I go.

    Oh – and regarding the insects, a swamp and bayou dweller told me the trick is to pull moss from the trees if you want it to be insect free. If you pick up any that’s had the slightest contact with the ground, you’ll meet some creepy-crawlies.


    March 4, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    • You know more about, and have experienced more with, Spanish moss than anyone I’ve ever met. Imagine having slept on a mattress stuffed with the stuff, and being able to confirm that it provides coolness in hot weather. Thanks so much for adding all these anecdotes,

      Thanks also for the word bousillage. I looked up its origin: it’s based on bouse ‘cow dung, cow patty,’ which may incorporate the same root found in boue ‘mud.’

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 4, 2012 at 9:51 PM

  2. Ah, the complexity in the moss. Spanish moss is one of my favorite subjects. Of course I live in Louisiana and can’t walk a quarter mile in any direction and not run into some. In fact, I posted some tonight. There is just something languid and warm. My favorite phrase in regards to the stuff comes from a William Faulkner novel where a character called it “the garland of the south.”

    Brandon Brasseaux

    March 7, 2012 at 8:46 PM

    • Your photograph certainly emphasizes the vertical dimension of Spanish moss, which is probably how most people perceive it. Central Texas is at the western edge of this plant’s range, but eastern Texas is a lot more like Louisiana, with Spanish moss very thick in places. Thanks for the Faulkner quotation about it being “the garland of the South,” which I hadn’t heard before.

      Steve Schwartzman

      March 7, 2012 at 8:56 PM

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