Tillandsia usneoides Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
One of Florida’s most spectacular plants is Spanish moss, an epiphyte that hangs from live oaks and other trees in silver grey curtains.
Spanish moss is not a true moss, but is related to the pineapple. Native Americans called Spanish moss ‘tree hair’ and early colonists fed it to their cattle and mixed it with mud to caulk the gaps in their cabins.
Later the moss was used to stuff furniture, and in the 1840’s mattress manufacturers in Liverpool, England were importing American Spanish moss to stuff mattresses. In the 1930’s moss gathering was an important industry in Florida. The plant was harvested and sent to commercial moss gins, where it was cleaned, straightened and baled. More than 10,000 tons of Spanish moss, worth $2.5 million was harvested in 1939. Synthetic fibers eventually replaced moss as furniture stuffing, but the plant is still collected and sold for the arts and craft trade.
However, if you collect it and use it for anything, remember, it often contains chiggers, and they can leave you itching for days.
top of page | back to plants