What has happened

fernaly(z7 AL)June 11, 2013

I just took a trip to Mobile and on my way down I noticed that there was almost no Spanish moss hanging from the trees along the interstate. I have always seen it hanging everywhere from right below Montgomery all the way down to Mobile; now there is almost none. What has happened.

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That's disturbing. When traveling south you always knew you were at Montgomery's city limits because Spanish moss suddenly appeared. Few things define the South like Spanish moss and live oaks....and pecan pralines, which were available at every stop along the way!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 9:11PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I have no idea what the situation is in this instance, but Spanish Moss is not free from "epidemics", for lack of a better word. I remember when it was largely wiped out in parts of SC; it was scary. Disturbing, but temporary. It rebounded in just a few years.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 9:13PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

OK, y'all.....I did some digging around this morning and discovered several articles from different publications and different decades from all over the deep south referring to the mysterious disappearance of our beloved bromiliad.

Scientists call it a leaf and stem fungus....a blight perhaps triggered by pollution. That makes sense to me, knowing that these plants are sensitive to air quality.

Interesting, huh?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 9:54AM
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fernaly(z7 AL)

Oh rhizo, hopefully there is enough still in the area that it will not be long before we see it hanging everywhere once again; it spreads very quickly if it is healthy. I agree whole heartedly with Nelson that the South is just not the South without spanish moss. At the moment I have more live spanish moss hanging in my trees in zone 7b North Alabama than I saw in south Alabama. In all my 52 years I do not remember NOT seeing the spanish moss in Montgomery and south into Mobile.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 1:39PM
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jcalhoun(8b Mobile County AL)

The Spanish moss has been gradually decreasing over the years. It used to be the favored nest building material for squirels and bird around here.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2013 at 5:52AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

There is plenty of it around this area although it seems to know the FL border is about 15 miles south and mostly stays down there. It's wild, as soon as we get to Florala, it's suddenly everywhere. Drove up 331 last week and saw some random trees with it, but none above Montgomery.

Is there anything one can do to encourage it?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 6:25PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

If you mean encourage it to grow outside of its native subtropical/tropical climate....there's not much that can be done about that. But since the vigor of this Bromiliad seems to be tied to air quality....we could all stop driving and close down some of those coastal factories!

I've observed it go through cycles of decline and resurrection. I expect that it will continue to do just that. The deep south just wouldn't be the same without it.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 3:32AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Thanks for the response. My bad, poorly worded question. I'm asking how to encourage it around where one already sees it growing. Like in "my" tree, not just the neighbors. Guess I'm asking how it gets in a tree to begin with? Can it be manipulated?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 10:03AM
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jcalhoun(8b Mobile County AL)

Good question.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 2:13PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Oh! Well, they do best in a tree where there is some horizontal branching and fairly decent air circulation and dappled sunlight. As far as the chicken or the egg question, Spanish Moss starts off as a tiny seed that is carried in the wind by a whisp of a feathery parachute. Have you ever noticed the flowers of this plant? I'll attach a link with the flowers and seeds.

The seeds are carried in wind currents until they get trapped somewhere. If on a tree branch...voila! When the seed germinates, it develops a root like structure that will hold it in place firmly until it grows a bit. They lose those 'roots' once they gain enough length to drape over a branch. Those temporary roots do not do anything but latch on to the bark....they do take up moisture.

Birds and other animals that use SM for nesting material are also greatly responsible for passing vegetative segments from one tree to another. The plant doesn't need a tree to support it by the way. Hang it on a fence and it will grow.

So, yes....we can coerce SM quite a bit, but it will still thrive only where it's getting plenty of what it needs.

Here is a link that might be useful: Spanish Moss flowers

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 4:48PM
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I've been working in Baldwin County the past two weeks and so far I've seen very little Spanish Moss. Next week I'll finish in Bay Minette and start Foley, so I'll be a bit further south. I'll keep my eyes open for some down there.

On the bright side I met a delightful gardener who lives a few miles outside of Bay Minette. She's 88 years old and works in her yard just about every day. I hope I'm that active when I get to that age.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 6:15AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

That's cool, Rhizo! I'm sure this could be googled, but I never know if the info I'm reading is accurate when doing that. Thanks for giving us the real scoop on this story. The next time I find a piece I can reach, I'd love to put it in one of our mature trees. There's a couple oaks (of unknown species to me,) and a giant pecan, and some pines (also species unknown) back by the fence. Does one sound better than another?

I had no idea it made flowers.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 10:05AM
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A little bit of Spanish Moss growing in Calhoun County for years;-)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 6:03PM
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