Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Ball moss with colorful background

with 20 comments

Ball Moss by Rusty Blackhaw 6243

Click for greater clarity.

Here the rusty blackhaw, Viburnum rufidulum, served only as a background for this ball moss, Tillandsia recurvata, that I photographed clinging to a lichen-coated tree branch on a wet morning in December. If you’d like to learn more about ball moss and get a closer and more textured look at one, you can visit a post from 2012. To see the places in the southern United States where ball moss grows, you can check the state-clickable map at the USDA website. And if you’re interested in photography as a craft, I’ll add that points 2, 5 and 6 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

So ends our baker’s week (i.e. eight days) of photographs from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on December 6, 2013.

© 2104 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 14, 2014 at 6:03 AM

20 Responses

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  1. This reminds me so much of air plants sold in stores to attach to bark, love nature’s version way better!

    Cathy Testa

    February 14, 2014 at 6:40 AM

    • Ball moss is indeed an epiphyte, or air plant, and it’s quite common in central Texas. It’s not a parasite, so you’ll sometimes find it growing even on inanimate objects.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 14, 2014 at 7:43 AM

  2. A beautiful photo of a beautiful plant

    Talking Trees Gallery

    February 14, 2014 at 7:32 AM

  3. I really enjoy how your work calls attention to the beauty of things I may see daily but fail to appreciate, or even notice.

    Alex Autin

    February 14, 2014 at 8:46 AM

    • I’ve been at this for years but I still keep noticing new things about familiar species. For each one I see I suspect that there are many more I don’t, but it’s enough to be thankful for the ones I do. That’s why I keep going out, never knowing what new things might come my way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 14, 2014 at 10:48 AM

  4. How cool! I love peering at lichens and mosses, but I’ve never come across this one, and I love how you’ve captured it.


    February 14, 2014 at 10:50 AM

    • These are very common in central Texas, even occasionally to the point of smothering a tree (not through parasitism, because they’re not parasites, but by blocking light.) In the interests of truth-telling, I’ll mention that in spite of its name, ball mass isn’t a moss. It’s a bromeliad, a group that includes the pineapple:


      Steve Schwartzman

      February 14, 2014 at 11:09 AM

  5. An entrancing mix of textures here, Steve. Very pleasing to my eye.

    The World Is My Cuttlefish

    February 14, 2014 at 10:52 AM

  6. This is very interesting. The colors are beautiful at the same time that this moss has an alien-esque look to it.
    Thanks for sharing. Nature is truly amazing; isn’t it interesting how so much of our own imaginations can only mimic what lives in nature somewhere on this planet?

    Thank you for sharing!


    February 14, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    • You’re welcome, and you’re correct that the human imagination has been inspired by nature for millennia. Relatively close to us in time came the movement known as Art Nouveau (no longer new, however), which paid explicit homage to forms from nature.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 14, 2014 at 1:59 PM

  7. how beautiful.


    February 14, 2014 at 9:58 PM

  8. C’est amusant de voir que la vie se met dans le plus petit interstice.. et en plus cela fait un superbe cliché!


    February 15, 2014 at 5:21 AM

  9. Roses are red,
    but this epiphyte’s green —
    as a Valentine post
    this really was keen!

    Don’t you know that, somewhere in the world, a botanist offered a bouquet of ball moss to someone who was delighted to receive it? I’m sure of it!


    February 15, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    • Definitely not your grandmother’s Valentine’s post picture. (Grandmothers are posting now, but they weren’t way back when.)

      You may be right about a botanist offering a bouquet of ball moss; it takes all kinds, doesn’t it? I didn’t turn up any instances of bouquets of ball moss on the Internet, but various people give instructions for making a moss ball by starting with a styrofoam ball and gluing moss to it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 15, 2014 at 6:34 PM

  10. Perfect timing. We were just down for our annual dash to SA for the TMEA conference/melee and I was once again admiring these wonderful powder-puffs of growth and wondering if they were indeed Tillandsias. There you go answering my questions before I even ask them!


    February 16, 2014 at 11:12 PM

    • You looked up at the ball moss and I looked up TMEA, which I found stands for Texas Music Educators Association. There’s another Tillandsia, Spanish moss, that you may not have seen, but it also exists in San Antonio and Austin, even if it’s much less common than ball moss. I remember seeing a bunch of it hanging from a large tree in Government Canyon State Natural Area when that preserve in the outskirts of San Antonio opened some years ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 17, 2014 at 4:00 AM

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