Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Closer looks at Spanish moss

with 20 comments

You’ve seen how Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) festooned the trees at Palmetto State Park on January 29th. Now here are two closer looks. In the top one the Spanish moss was still hanging from a tree, while in the bottom picture some had fallen onto a dry palmetto leaf (Sabal minor).

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” — Leslie Poles Hartley, The Go-Between, 1953. (Wikipedia notes that the opening sentence “had first been used by Hartley’s friend Lord David Cecil in his inaugural lecture as Goldsmiths’ Professor in 1949.”)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 12, 2021 at 4:38 AM

20 Responses

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  1. The texture of the Spanish moss appears soft and fluffy. It may have been used by the indigenous people for primitive mattresses and pillows. I am just wildly guessing, Steve.

    Peter Klopp

    February 12, 2021 at 8:46 AM

    • You seem to be on to something. Here’s an article about the uses to which Spanish moss has been put:


      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2021 at 9:24 AM

    • My aunt who lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, always provided us kids with mattresses and pillows stuffed with Spanish moss from her trees when we visited. We set up in a screened sleeping porch, and loved our exotic bedding. That was the 1950s.


      February 12, 2021 at 10:40 AM

      • There’s nothing like personal experience. Little did you know then that you’d take an interest in native plants decades later.

        Steve Schwartzman

        February 12, 2021 at 3:24 PM

      • That is very interesting. What was a mere guess of mine turned out to be a fact. Thank you for the comment!

        Peter Klopp

        February 13, 2021 at 8:49 AM

  2. We do not have Spanish moss here, but I always marvel at it when we’ve visited Louisiana. Choosing the word “festooned” was perfect! It isn’t a word I run across very often.


    February 12, 2021 at 8:53 AM

    • Then you’ll have to festoon your speech and writing with festoon to make up for its scarcity in your life. Who knows: you may become Oklahoma’s Festoon Queen.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2021 at 9:23 AM

  3. That is a most impressive tree beard of Spanish moss, and an artistic display of it in the palmetto leaf.

    Hope it is bright and sunny down your way today. It is down around 32 degrees this morning in my area, and increasingly foggy.

    Lavinia Ross

    February 12, 2021 at 9:30 AM

    • As soon as I saw these bits of Spanish moss fallen onto the palmetto I knew some pictures were in the offing.

      Not only isn’t it bright and sunny here, but we had an ice storm yesterday that brought down tree limbs all over town, including in our yard. We were without power for seven hours with the outside temperature right at freezing. Austin had a 26-car pileup on a highway, and in Ft. Worth there was one with 133 cars that killed six people. This Sunday the temperature in Austin is predicted to go well below freezing and stay there for a day or two, bringing us the coldest weather in at least a decade and maybe several decades. Hard to remember that we had 80° here just a week ago. In any case, I hope you’re enjoying your cool fog.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2021 at 10:25 AM

      • There was a bad ice storm an hour north of us with downed trees and power lines. We got rain, and I am grateful..

        Lavinia Ross

        February 13, 2021 at 7:43 PM

        • Yes, the falling tree limbs keep taking out power lines, and with them electricity for heating and cooking and light.

          Steve Schwartzman

          February 14, 2021 at 5:00 AM

  4. It seems as though the moss in the second photo has picked up some of the golden tones from the leaf. It’s very pretty. I’ve seen palmetto fronds that have browned nicely, but never this kind of gold.

    I’ve seen some photos of your ice, not to mention the broken trees. We’re going to be above freezing until Sunday night or Monday, and may avoid the ice, but you certainly have a mess on your hands. On the other hand, I can’t help but think you’ll take advantage of the opportunity to record a little ice to go with your snow.

    And here’s another unrelated tidbit. A couple of days ago, Andrea Mitchell responded to Ted Cruz by tweeting, “Sen Ted Cruz says Impeachment Trial is like Shakespeare — full of sound and fury signifying nothing. No, that’s Faulkner.” Half of the people who read that issued the correction, but the other half happily retweeted it, and now I’ve found the line attributed to Faulkner in a number of places that should know better. It’s interesting to see the actual genesis of a misquotation.


    February 12, 2021 at 10:57 AM

    • I think you’re right that some of the dry palmetto’s color got reflected onto the Spanish moss.

      Yup, I was out for close to two hours this morning taking pictures of ice-coated things. We lost power for 7 hours yesterday, and it briefly went off three times this afternoon, including in the middle of this reply. The Ashe junipers seem particularly susceptible to breaking under the weight of ice, and several limbs have come down in our yard, including one from the next-door neighbor; fortunately most of it fell short of our house but a few branches ended up on the roof. A couple of our large Ashe junipers have leaned so far that some of their branches are touching the roof, and that support may prevent the limbs from snapping off. It’s been a harrowing two days. Temperatures well below zero are predicted for Sunday and Monday, with a chance for snow again. Yikes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2021 at 3:41 PM

  5. Spanish moss sure is interesting in its cobwebby delicacy.


    February 12, 2021 at 3:33 PM

    • That’s for sure. Austin has a little in several places, but Palmetto State Park has a whole lot more.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 12, 2021 at 3:44 PM

  6. The first image makes me think of ages old thick spider webs.

    Steve Gingold

    February 13, 2021 at 5:13 AM

    • I see what you mean, especially because of the arc in the top central part of that picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 13, 2021 at 6:20 AM

  7. I’ve always love Spanish Moss, ever since the first time I drove through Georgia a lifetime ago and saw it everywhere, hanging from the trees. So fascinating to see it in individual pieces. When I moved to Florida, I learned from a naturalist that I volunteered with that it’s actually an epiphyte, a type of bromeliad. And yes to Peter above, it was apparently used for many years to stuff mattresses and other cushions, even car seating.

    Birder's Journey

    February 27, 2021 at 1:35 PM

    • I understand why you love Spanish moss. We have only a little in Austin, so getting to see it in large quantities is a treat, especially if I can drive for just an hour and don’t have to go to places as far away as Georgia and Florida. In posts in other years I’ve pointed out what you said, that Spanish moss and ball moss are both epiphytic bromeliads and therefore not mosses at all. It’s another example of the perils of common names. Maybe you’ll try stuffing a pillow with some of your local Spanish moss.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 27, 2021 at 2:20 PM

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