Another thing I photographed at the Spring Lake Natural Area in San Marcos on November 15th, though admittedly less dramatic than a bird with a frog dangling from its beak, is this ball moss, Tillandsia recurvata, on a dead branch. Ball moss isn’t a moss, and only vaguely could this cluster be called a ball: so much for truth in advertising. It’s also the case that ball moss isn’t a parasite but an epiphyte, a plant that grows on another for support but not for nutrients: so much for appearances.
While this isn’t ball moss’s first appearance in this blog, it’s its* first starring role. The one other time it appeared in these pages was in a barely visible bit part, overshadowed figuratively and literally by lots of bright red possumhaw fruits. Ball moss grows in Mexico and in parts of the southern United States, as you can confirm on the state-clickable USDA map. This species is very common in and around Austin.
* Can I get extra credit for using the much-confused it’s and its as consecutive words?
© 2012 Steven Schwartzman