Spanish Moss - getting rid of it

tryz(Z9 FL)December 11, 2005

My wife and I own land in Central Florida with some beautiful oaks, but I've noticed Spanish Moss starting to grow on them. While I know lots of people love the look, I'd rather not have it.

Short of picking it all off, is there something we can do to kill it or keep it out of the trees without hurting the oaks?

On another note, there is one oak on the property that is totally dead. About 50 feet high, brittle, an no leaves...not a one. I've heard Spanish Moss does not cause this. Any idea what can and are my other oaks in trouble?


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komi(z7/8 DC)

hi, spanish moss is actually a bromeliad - Tillandsia usneoides. You might try the bromeliad forum. Also folks in the florida forum might have suggestions on the oak problem.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2005 at 11:25AM
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Since Spanish moss is spread by birds who use it to build their nests I have a feeling you're going to have a hard time getting rid of it, and I really don't understand why you'd want to. The growing area for this plant is a pretty small range and gives a unique flavor to the geography that I personally treasure.

It is true that this tiny bromeliad doesn't kill trees, or do them any harm of any kind. It gets no nourishment from the trees but merely anchors to them to stay up in the air and off the ground, it will die over time if it falls all the way to the ground. It does love light, moisture and fresh air and will grow more thickly in trees that are defoliating, at least for a while, because these elements are more available, but it won't influence the health of the tree in any way.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 1:00PM
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Some people treat their smaller trees with copper sulfate solution to kill this plant. Of course you have to spray the entire tree which may not be realistic with large oaks. Also, both common species of Tillandsia, T. usenoides (spanish moss) and T. recurvata (ball moss) will reestablish themselves in just a few years. Still, it can be done if you're willing to spend the $.

A funny side note is that since I lived in the south for so many years I fell in love with T. usenoides, so I had to get some for my yard. I had to pay the equivalent of $16 for a fistful of the stuff here in Japan! It is growing happily in a crape myrtle. It makes me feel better when I'm homesick! PF

    Bookmark   December 18, 2005 at 4:39AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

There is no possible way that anyone on this forum or any other can guess what might be wrong with your declining trees. At least not without a complete history of the site. Trees die due to many reasons: old age, just because, construction damage recently or 10 years ago, grade change + or -, flooding, drought, etc. If your other oaks are of importance to you, I advise that you call in two or three CERTIFIED arborists to take a look at your trees and evaluate problems.

A tree company is who to call to remove the Spanish moss from your trees, by the way. They hate to do it, but this is the time of year that they will take that kind of work. BE SURE THAT NO ONE CLIMBS YOUR TREES WITH SPIKES FOR ANY REASON. Except to take down that dead one! A bucket truck is the required tool for SM removal.

Oak trees without Spanish moss look lonely and cold to me, like they need someone to bring them a shawl. Are you SURE you want this wonderful native plant removed?

Here is a link that might be useful: Arborist information

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 1:49PM
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((((((Rhizo))))))!!!!! What a lovely, poetic thought!

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 9:51PM
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Rad3Dad(z5 IL)

If you want to get rid of some, I'll pay shipping. I could really use some for some projects I'm working on.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2006 at 8:20AM
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jessay3(Ga Z 8)

You know I was wondering the same thing. I have oaks in my yard and the moss is overtaking everything. My poor dogwood trees are covered in it!! I've been pulling down what I can reach but whats the point? And I'm not so sure about the statement that the moss doesnt harm the trees. I have some trees that are so loaded down with moss that is has broken off branches!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2006 at 1:40PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

jessay, you are correct that an overabundance of moss can create a wind-sail and a weight burden on susceptible plants. It can also grow over leafy branches, making it difficult for the plant to photosynthesize.

By susceptible, I mean plants that are weak wooded by nature or those that are already in decline. As Nigella pointed out earlier, this bromeliad does not take energy from the host plant whatsoever. It can only overcome a plant that is probably already in trouble.

Common sense should dictate when it's advisable to de-moss a tree.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2006 at 10:54AM
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jessay3(Ga Z 8)

But how in the world do you de-moss a 30 foot tree?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2006 at 1:52PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

YOU don't! As I said in the earlier post, an arborist who is looking to keep his employees busy is the way to go. Again, a bucket truck should be used to avoid damaging the tree in anyway, and no living tree should be climbed with spikes.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2006 at 1:37PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Was curious if anyone knows why this is so common in the south but as you get into s. Florida it thins out.?? The further south you go the rarer. I know it's replaced by other types of bromeliads but it grows very easily here but you rarely see it growing wild.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2006 at 6:54AM
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Interesting observation Gary. I lived in Florida for many years and noticed the same thing. I'd say that ball moss (T. recurvata) becomes more dominant in central and south Florida, replacing T. usenoides. Not sure why myself. I grow T. usenoides here in zone 9 Japan where winters are on average much colder than Florida (similar to Atlanta but never below 25F or so), and the species seems to thrive here. Perhaps they prefer a cool down in the winter months that south Florida just doesn't provide.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2006 at 8:43AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

I think you might be right about the cool down couldn't be the lack of humidity lol.
My neighbors had a huge amount of it and Wilma put a bunch in my yard lol. Going to watch it to see what happens. So far it seems to be thriving.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2006 at 7:24AM
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I work at a large 80,000 acre military instalation in north Florida. Recently we have had an abnormal amount of large trees dieing. I'd say 3 times or more the usual tree mortality.
They are mostly shrub oak but some larger oaks also.
The moss sure looks like the culpret but after some research, I'm not so sure.
We have always had a moss problem, there used to be people who would come in and crop it to sell but, apparently the market for it has dried up.
Seemingly otherwise healthy trees are just covered by it, so much so that they can't be getting much light.
Even the crape mirdles which we have alongside the roadway were covered. So much so that they were not able to bloom. I had to cut them all down to the ground as it was to time consumeing to manually remove it. They came back very nicely, some covered with blooms.
I suspect that the trees were stressed by our recent drought which gave the moss a chance to take them over, ultimately killing them by blocking there light.
Doesn't explain the Crape Mirdles though
Any suggestions on a cost effective way to eradicate some of the moss would be appreciated.

Here is a link that might be useful: my ham radio site

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 8:09PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Isn't there some new patogen that came out of california, sudden oak death or something?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 4:25AM
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aureliajulia(8b-9a South Coastal SC)

Raddad, you may want to be cautious with Spanish Moss, it is infested with tiny arachnids known as "redbugs" or "chiggers" locally. They are paracitic to humans and crawl over your flesh until they find a good place to burrow into your skin. Then you'll have to find someone who carries "Chigger X" to get rid of them. Just a guess, but they probably don't sell this in Il.


    Bookmark   July 16, 2006 at 3:27AM
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I recently read that, contrary to popular belief, chiggers live on the ground under where the spanish moss grows.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2007 at 4:32PM
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harrywitmore(Zone7 NC)

'Chiggers' do not borrow under your skin. We get them here in North Carolina if we sit on logs or exposed wood. But they are not normally anything to be concerned with.

'Spanish Moss' is natural and been here for thousands of years without destroying it's host environment. I suspect non native trees may have different reactions to hosting it than native trees. I would never spray it with anything as it is a ecosystem in itself and an indicator species of air quality. Be happy you have it, it means your air quality is good.
Maybe if you prefer not to have it, you may want to move to somewhere that it will not grow.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chiggers

    Bookmark   January 1, 2008 at 9:35AM
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mesu15(z9 FL)


Just my 2 cents. I have lived in Central FL since 1957 close to the St Johns River. I saw Hyway 46 change from a dirt road to a busy hyway soon to be 4 laned.

The moss used to be very thick along the road but as more traffic used the road the moss thinned out.

I was told long ago the moss requires a good air quality and too much carbon monoxide seems to kill it off.

I have a lot of trees for such a small place here now, and the moss has taken over my Cyprus, WIllow, and Oak trees so much so that my hedges and small plants are being killed by so much of if falling from the tall trees.

The trees seem to suffer from the weight and loss of light for their leaves and rain adds so much weight that fairly strong limbs break and fall to the ground.

Usually I agree moss clings to dieing trees or baron branches where it gets the wind, air, and light, but too much is a problem to the trees, the plants, to me, and soon to the moss.

I like to see moss, and I do not think any attack to it will stop or kill it all, so I am all for whatever it takes to get rid of several tons of it without me bagging 5 bags a week to be recycled.

Since Hurricane Charlie 8/13/04, The moss has managed to becom too dominant and the suffering trees have had a severely hard time trying to recover and fight the moss at the same time.

Co.Ag. officials say copper sulfate will kill moss, just keep it away from the tree roots. Tests I have done did not kill moss though. Of course it could be covering the dying moss so I could not see it, I am not sure.

I say kill the moss for now, and let the birds restock later.

My thought,


    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 7:48PM
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If you don't like spanish moss you could always move to California.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2008 at 8:47AM
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I researched this last summer. Spanish moss CAN kill trees by blocking too much light. Even though it is not parasitic, it blocks the light and once critical mass is reached for the poor tree, it dies. Also, even though it is not parasitic, just try to remove every bit of just one strand from the bark of the tree!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 1:35AM
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The garden expert at our local nursery said to fertilize the moss-covered trees with a tree fertilizer product made by Bayer. I've noticed the trees around us in Central Florida with the most Spanish moss are dying. Their leaf color is not a vivid as the neighboring trees without moss. I've fertilized my trees with the Bayer-made liquid (mix with water) tree fertilizer and continue to hand-pluck the moss, and pray God saves my trees from this insidious moss that seems to be choking the life out of our surrounding trees. I've noticed all the trees that have died are covered by moss BEFORE their demise!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 5:38PM
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I've been told Spanish Moss strangles the life out of trees, I have one Oak, and my Neighbor has one that must have came here with the pilgrams! Both are loaded with this Moss stuff,and now some branches are drying out and breaking off,someone said spray Copper sulfate on the Moss, will this stuff hurt other plants?(COPPER)

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 8:11AM
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The moss is pretty heavy on the lower and middle branches of my two Live Oak trees and causes them to die due to lack of sunlight. Every year at this time I duct tape a garden hand rake to an expanding pole and pull down all I can reach. These trees never entirely lose their leaves so this is the best time for demossing. Of course I can't get to a lot of it but it helps. I try to do a little each day until the tree leafs out.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 5:41AM
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I want to use the spanish moss in the base of some silt trees and silk flower arrangements, how do I get rid of any
little bugs that might be in it?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 10:52PM
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Hi all, I am on the fence about Spanish moss. I was always told that it is not native to Florida but was brought here by the Spanish and was used for stuffing back in days of old and nights of bold. I have lived in central Fl. (West coast) for almost 40 years. My current property (24 yrs. now) is covered with the moss. It seems to have gotten worse over the last ten years or so. I'm afraid it will kill my Live Oaks. I was told that vinegar will kill it but my test on some of it proved wrong. I wonder if it requires a certain kind of vinegar. I don't mind it so much, sometimes it looks pretty and sometimes it seems gloomy. Friends from other parts of the US and world think it is very unique. I have decided that the best thing I can do is just to thin it from the trees once a year with a long pole with barbs on it. Maybe I'll bleach it and stuff some pillows with it...:-) Take care

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 10:44AM
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I hate to tell you HarryWitmore but you may be confused about what chiggers are. Because my father personally had them burrowed under his skin. He had to paint himself with nail polish to get rid of them, it suffocates them and they die.
These creature are a serious problem and a severe pest. You may want to look then up because whoever told you this is missinformed, here is one sight. But you should look furthur into it. I do not mean to be rude but saying something like this may cause people do get into trouble with these creatures because they are missinformed and told they are harmless. When they are nothing of the sort. Maybe you are confusing them with another animal.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chigger

    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 1:52PM
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Spanish moss is either loved or hated. As a tree expert and my wife, Claudia is certified Arborist, most tree owners do not realize the danger what large amount of moss can do to a tree(s). Little moss is pretty to some and to many is a sign to stop it before it takes over the tree(s).
Abundant amounts can smother small or even larger limbs. One pound of Spanish Moss will hold up to two more pounds and maybe more of rain water which then becomes three (3) lbs. Let's say the tree may have 500 lbs of moss and then it rains weight becomes = 1500 lbs. or 1200 lbs of living Spanish moss then it rains = 3600 lbs to a tree during a storm or even hurricane. Now, the University of Florida, back in the 80's, said that Spanish moss should be pulled out of citrus and crepe myrtles before the moss grows too abundant and smother the tree. How about a large limb in a majestic Live Oak? So, how to get rid of moss for those who loves trees being trees? You can spray with copper sulfate, staining problem, but it is a systemic and travels all through the moss. Also, copper in one ingredient in most or all dry fertilizers.

Another note for your trees: Remember that most large trees drink up to 75 to 100 gallons of water a day. (These numbers can always be less or more) When you have couple of weeks or more without rain then I recommend that you give the tree(s) 50-100 gallons twice a week for each tree. Several trees (Live Oaks as well) died from a long drought last year and customers thought their sprinklers were doing enough for all plants.

Hope this helps and sorry that I may sound that I hate moss but moss is a welfare plant. It can harm the tree, it use the tree and gives nothing good back except to some it looks artistic like it's a Florida tree. I look at a tree full of moss as needing help to lose weight when each tree has enough problems holding its own weight during storms.

I love trees and saving them is fun and maybe soon I'll post on how long it takes water to get to the top of a hundred foot tree, live oaks struck by lightning on what to do, and more.

I am not advertising but I gave the above information of my wife and I that we are tree experts. I have not listed any last names, websites, phone numbers, etc.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 11:37AM
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