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Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Posted by leenie_me Z 5 (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 6, 09 at 1:57

I live in SW Florida and have airplants on all my trees including my bottlebrush, oak, golden rain tree, bald cypress, magnolia and fruit trees. They are not spanish moss. I also have the airplant known as spanish moss but they don't hurt the tree branches. These do. Believe they are some kind of tillisandia. They are gray and are shaped like a ball with many little gray soft bristle like things sticking out of them. They grow on branches and before I know it, the branch is dead. They start small but before long get large and when they do, the tre branch is dead. I'd hate to lose these trees. Can anyone tell me how to kill the air plants. I pull off the ones that I can reach but have many up very high and I can't reach them. Each branch that has one on it has died. It seems to be an infestation of these air plants in my whole town and others around it. I've noticed them in public areas such as the local hospital, shopping centers, etc. Hoping there's a spray that sprays a stream that may reach and kill them. Please let me know if you have any helpful suggestions.
Leenie


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Leenie - You've got the sequence backward. Ball Moss - Tillandsia recurvata - is not killing your trees, they are already in decline. The Ball Moss is simply taking advantage of the open spaces. You can spray them all you like, but the trees have a problem that the Ball Moss has alerted you to.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Hello fawnridge,
I have been told that by others but, watching my trees, I have trouble accepting that theory. I will find a little tiny one of these air plants on a branch that is perfectly healthy. There doesn't seem to be any look of stress to my trees that have these on. If it were stress, I would think that other branches all over the tree, that doesn't have these air plants on them, would show signs of decline. They don't. I do know sw Florida, where I live, has had a drought. We are not allowed to water hardly at all and that may be a contributing factor. If stress is the reason, are all of the trees in sw Florida going to die?? This problem seems to be everywhere down here. Thank you for your imput. I will keep it in mind. Since I can't water my trees, do you have any suggestions for a way to help the situation?
Leenie


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Your choice is simple - water the trees or let them die. If you choose to let them die, you can replace them something more drought tolerant, after you spend the money to dig out the dead ones. And by the way, it's not theory, it's fact.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Fawnridge is right, tillandsias (spanish moss is also a tillsandsia) are not parasites, they are a type of bromeliad. They are considered epiphytes, as are many types of orchids and ferns. They have evolved to grow on tree branches instead of in the ground, and take nothing from the tree. There is a parasitic plant in Florida, mistletoe, but is only grows on deciduous trees, mainly oak, and is very different in appearance than a tillandsia.

As a tree goes into decline and looses its leaves the tillandsias that have always been there become much more obvious. Plus the bare limbs offer less competition to the tillansdias and they grow larger.

I think most areas of Florida go allow watering, at least once/week, and not with a sprinkler. A good soaking with a hose once/week should be OK with most trees, particularly if they are established.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

I tried to convince others on another thread about air plants/spanish moss killing plants/tree's to no avail,now let me tell you from 29 years of experience in SW FL. yes, it will, I take action immediately, on my plants which I recently did on my crepe myrtle, only thing kills the air plants is Liquid Copper..mixed in water and sprayed on the plant it does no harm to anything else but does kill air plants and moss of any kind.. Good Luck...


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Ah susieq, the lone voice of experience over science in this debate. Susie, you need to continue your research and find someone else who agrees with your conclusions. For the rest of us, science works out just dandy.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Here's a link that might help and give a little more insight about ball moss and health of trees (stress) in general. Hope it helps.
It's the second anwer down...

Here is a link that might be useful: ball moss


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

The reason the copper fungicide kills the Tillandsias is because they are BROMELIADS, not because they are a fungus!! Copper is toxic to broms. All chemicals are collective and will eventually end up in our ground water.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

PLEASE , please , please read this link below and pass on this information .

Anyone will find these facts very helpful - even some who are quite knowledgeable already about trees .

Here is a link that might be useful: Dispelling Misperceptions About Trees


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Well in my 50 years of experience in growing "things" in Florida I have learned/witnessed/experienced/researched THAT airplants DO NOT kill or harm trees, period!


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I'll second that !

DITTO !


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Ok well in this case you can take your science and shove it...okay? because the first experience with the air plant was on a very healthy bottle brush tree given to us from our realitor, planted by a nursery, and as I watched it later become smothered in air plants and being set back before my eyes, after talking to old Fl. gardeners who told me or put me onto liquid copper, and spraying my branches and trunk, then watching my bottlebrush tree bounce back to restored health, and is still going strong at the home we sold 12 years ago,I know best about this fungus problem, and you nor your science will ever convince me otherwise, and I will happily go on getting rid of it where ever I can on my plants, before they do any damage.If you got the bucks to keep replacing tree's & shrubs, then have at it, but for these retirees,we'll continue to save our precious plants & tree's that we ourselves worked hard to plant, and spent our hard earned money on, because we do not intend to do it all again.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

I agree with you susieq, to hell with science. The world is flat and the sun orbits it every 24 hours. Giant sea serpents rule the oceans at the edges of the planet and control the tides with their mighty tails. And some day, very soon, my hair will grow back if I keep pouring whiskey for a god named Joeboo.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

"Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but airplants will NEVER hurt my trees" Nah nah nah (sticking out tongue)!

My trees are loving life, because I care for them and don't let the "deadly airplants" attack them. Bah Bah Bah

black snake

Air Plant Watch Snake Loves Airplants!


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

susieq, there is absolutely no need to make a statement like that. No one has insulted you or has been as vulgar as you have been to to these gentlemen. People here are merely making statements of what they understand to be true,wich I also believe. But your verbal attack owes an apology to everyone on the board. It just does not serve any purpuse.
Felix


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

  • Posted by florah z9 Leesburg, Fl (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 6, 09 at 18:13

I think that many airplants are part of the Florida ecosystem and look cool. If you didn't live so far from me, I would take them off your hand, ehmm trees, susieq07. By the way, why poison them? Can't you just take/rip them off?

Fawnridge, my hair turned dark brown again this morning. There ARE miracles.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Yes, Felix, I agree with your sentiments.

It is heart wrenching to see a beloved tree go into decline, and the happy thing is that most areas in South Florida allow hand or drip watering, could that apply to your area, Susieq? Perhaps it is a lack of water as the gentlemen suggest.

Sometimes old wives tales are right, sometimes they're wrong. Good luck, nevertheless.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

You ARE allowed to use your gray water to water things and when the drought gets tough I will use my old bath water,dish water, etc so the H2o nazis cannot do a thing. If you love your trees hand water them with a bucket of gray water.
Also rain barrels are great.
Good luck.Personally I dislike bottle brush trees but plans are like pets and we do get attached to them.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Fawnridge, I was wondering how the tides worked. Glad you cleared that up.

There are a lot of ways around water restrictions. Low flow emitters are exempt from what I understand. Put a "leaky hose" on the B Brush, they like a lot of water.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

  • Posted by cjc45 9 Mount Dora FL (My Page) on
    Mon, Apr 6, 09 at 21:17

If you don't like Spanish moss in your trees, don't kill it, sell it. There are people who harvest it, kill the bugs in it and sell it to the flower trade. Lawn services will also clean it out but you have to pay them. I have it growing on my clothesline which is okay for now but I may start using it again. Anyone old enough to remember how much greener the grass was under the clothesline?


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

If you took a walk in Big Cypress National Preserve or Fakahatchee Strand you'd see plenty of healthy trees with bromeliads growing on them. Yes, they are on some that are dying and on their way out. You would see cypress that are 100+ years old with beautiful Guzmania and other bromeliads growing on them, NOT killing them.

As for me, I purposefully put bromeliads and Spanish moss on my trees. And nope, they aren't dying!!!! I wonder, do you think epiphytic orchids are killing trees too???

A few photos from nature:
Bromeliad Garden

A here's the rest of the set to show you how nature does it.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

well if the scientists know so much as opposed to real people who are losing trees good for them. I am seeing all the trees in San Antonio die then and they all have this horrible crap growing on them.I will get some copper and kill the stuff off mine and watch my neighbor's 300 year old oaks slowly die and fall on his house.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Well I live in Hunter's Creek in Orlando, Florida and this "ball moss" is most definitely sucking the very life out of every single tree we have in our community. Our oaks are bad enough and so are our magnolias but you should see the suffocating effect on our carpe myrtles. Hundreds and hundreds of them are about completely DEAD. I too can physically remove ball moss from just one tree and watch that one tree come back to life. Sometimes you know science CAN be wrong.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

I live in Englewood, Florida and all my trees are dying.. from graoefruit to orange to maple to holly berry.. the only thing I can figure is the ball moss.. every where there is ball moss there is dead branches.. the only one that doesnt seem as affected are the oak trees.. definately trying the copper, will let you know the outcome.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Ignorance is bliss they say...and then there are those refuse to educate themselves. You can take the horse to the water but you can't make it drink I guess. I collect Spanish moss, ball moss, air plants, tree bromeliads where I can and put them in my trees. Hmmm, 17 years in the same house with many of the same trees, some here longer than that and they are all still alive and thriving. I'll make you a deal, gather it all up, put it in a box and send it my way. I'll reimburse you the shipping and a little something extra. And I do mean that. I'd love more than I already have.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

The drought stress maybe killing the trees. In 2005 most of the oaks died in my area. I lost about 15. Not sure the cause. Could have been drought, hurricanes then rain. Who knows. Spanish moss doesn't feed off the trees. But too much can weaken the branches and cut off sunlight especially in smaller trees like Crape Myrtles.I have to keep pulling it off mine. A little is okay but they are actually smothering mine. Most areas allow hand watering. I'm in a drought area also and am having to water my smaller trees.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Not this... again! ;P Darned air plants, they'll smother a person too if you stand still long enough.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

This thread taught me bunches! It was definitely informative and entertaining.If it weren't so sad, it would have been funny.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Just coming back to this thread after reading about someone having a company take their ball moss out of a tree.

jeanie365_1, 2011 was a HORRIBLE drought year in Texas. Um, that's what killed the trees.

Florida also experienced a drought recently.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

What always strikes me as funny is that people will quickly blame ball moss or spanish moss for killing a tree, but seeing mistletoe (the plant that is actually parasitic) up in a tree is somehow a good thing.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

I've got spanish moss, ball moss, et. al in my Laurels and Live Oaks. I let it stay until it's too much, then I just reach up and pull some down so it's wispy again instead of clumpy.
Mistletoe... UGH! I'm always checking to make sure I don't have any, since my neighbor's Oaks DO have it.
So far, all is well.

:)


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Although ball moss is not a parasite and takes no nuturients from the tree, they're not harmless.

Ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata) is not a moss, nor a parasite that kills trees. This dense, ball-like bromeliad is an epiphyte. It perches on other plants but does not sap nutrients. Instead, ball moss feeds off nutrients and moisture in the air.

The problem comes with density and growth. To secure its position on a branch, ball moss uses encircling tendrils called “hold fasts.” As hold fasts tighten their grip to support larger balls, they reduce circulation to the end of the branch.

An already weak branch, or one overloaded with ball moss, may die. This alone will not kill a tree. But if the infestation becomes too thick, it can also retard tree bud growth.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://blog.chron.com/lazygardener/2008/02/ball-moss-isnt-completely-harmless/


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

After posting this yesterday, I went outside and looked up into my Oaks. I don't have much ball moss... maybe 15 per HUGE tree... but the balls aren't very big. By the time they're the size of a grocery-store orange, they fall out of the tree. No idea why... maybe the trees are fighting back? LOL!


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Have you (those who say the air plants are killing your trees) thought that it might be your soil? Maybe something in your soil has started to change. You say once you get rid of the air plants, you trees come back but for how long?! I went to Florida just recently and saw some very healthy trees with these plants and some unhealthy ones with that moss. I guess I don't claim to be either a scientist or a gardener but I would think that if they were truly killing your trees, they couldn't be removed so easily. Just my thoughts.....


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Ha, wish I had seen this sooner. They absolutely suck nutrients from trees. The only one I ever managed to keep alive was attached to a tree bramch that I broke off the tree. I never watered it or anything, unlike the others which got top misted as they should have been. Those ones died. The one attached to the limb? Yep, limb Is nearly dead but it isn't. Only explanation? Those roots do tap water.

Not to mention all the oaks along the Guadalupe are slowly being suffocated by these things. If you can, absolutely remove them.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

I've got an air plant living on a dead, dried-up branch segment from a tree that was hit by lightning. It has happily resided on this dead piece of wood for over a year. In other words, there are no nutrients for it to 'steal' and it is doing just fine. Aside from the lightning damage, the Black Cherry that I got the limb from is doing fine and is recovering.

Similarly, there is a Crape Myrtle across the street from me that is riddled with ball moss and aside from the park manager commiting Crape Murder twice a year, it is doing just fine. And if anyone ever visits Leesburg, take a walk down Main St. They have several trees peppered with air plants. All doing just fine.

Air plants are not the cause of tree issues. They just get blamed by people who don't bother looking for the real reasons. It's like people who do massive landscaping under their oaks, regrading, building those 'trendy' plant rings three feet deep on the trunk and then blame ball moss for their tree losing vitality.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Take another air plant and put it beside that one with no organic support and don't tend to It. It'll die. Idk what the deal is with these , they are weird. Maybe some trees are just more susceptible than others. I too have seen healthy trees with Spanish moss on them... But given these travel by fuzzy seeds the argument of these being attracted to trees already in decline doesn't make sense.

Not arguing BTW, I just find this kind of thing interesting and am interested in the science behind it. But we shouldn't rule it out given we discover new things about plants we thought we knew daily. :) For example, did you know that Cephalotus, a carnivorous pitcher plant from Australia was long thought to be like other carnivores and make up their lsck of nitrogen by catching and digesting insects, actually receives up to 70% of its nutrition through its roots? The highest amount of any carnivore known.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

They don't attack trees in decline, the seeds can attatch themselves to most anything and germinate if conditions are right. Having been all over the South, I have seen Spanish and Ball Moss growing from some interesting places. There are some older communities in SC and LA where some old wooden buildings have moss growing from the walls. There are probably similar buildings here in Florida, but I haven't personally seen one here. My inlaws sometimes get 'seedling' Spanish Moss growing from the screen of their lanai. Not true seedlings, but small spears of moss about 1/2 inch in length that catch hold and start growing. Spanish Moss is not Ball Moss, but it goes to show that can't get much more nutrient deprived than a screen, but the Spanish Moss doesn't care, it grows just the same. I still haven't figured out what it is about their lanai that makes it ideal, but their neighbors don't seem to have the same issues. I am thinking it has something to do with the design that allows for decent air flow. Or the neighbors are just far better at cleaning their screens, my in-laws can be a bit lax in that regard.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

With this topic fresh on my mind and having to make a trip to my in-laws' to help my FIL with something, I tried keeping one eye out for any unusual places where Ball Moss had started growing. Unfortunately the vast majority of buildings around here are fairly new, definitely nothing on par with the 60-100 yr old buildings in SC and LA. There was one house that had some ball moss growing from the shingles on its roof, but it could be argued they were blown down from the oaks that shaded the house. However, there was an interesting place that I saw lots of ball moss. The lowest cable of the power lines was a twisted steel braided cable that I am guessing is used as a tension wire. All along these wires, ball moss seeds had managed to get a foothold and start growing, and some of the locations were nowhere near a tree, strongly suggesting that they had to have been started by seeds floating on the wind. And there were some rather healthy specimens up on those cables too.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Amazing. I thought this thread was dead and buried. That the "evil ball moss" crowd had finally accepted their inaccuracies and sulked away. Oh well, let's set the record straight again.

Ball Moss - Tillandsia recurvata - and Spanish Moss - Tillandsia usneoides - are air plants, in the genus Tillandsia. And as such, they are adventitious plants, meaning they will take advantage of any location that provides sun and rain. While it is possible that a mass of them might get so heavy as to break a small branch, it would probably be a dead branch to start.

Tillandsia do not kill trees, they grow where the tree is already in decline. They are not truly symbiotic, since they take nothing from their host tree and give nothing back. You can find Ball Moss growing in the cracks of highway overpasses, on telephone poles, anywhere one of their small roots take hold. If you could follow a tree full of Ball Moss or Spanish Moss back in time, you would find a healthy tree that gradually faded and at some point after the fading had begun, the Tillandsia started to grow.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Well actually what I was wondering is that if there some correlation somewhere between air plants and trees that would lead to death. I know they don't actually kill them outright though.

We have big magnolia trees at work that are pretty healthy... But the last few years the oak trees across thr road have shared air plants. And now we have huge limbs that drop off from just one of these sitting on it. I saw a cluster today of maybe 4? On a section of branches that wasn't there prior to spring... And that branch cluster doesn't have a single leaf on it. So this is why I wonder if its just coincidence. But we dont have many branches fall/die without the air plants on them. So I wonder if there Isnt more to it. Anyway, I dont consider them evil or bad... But i dont see it as dumb to be cautious about where we plant things. Frankly, I would be devastated if I lost my oak tree in the front yard for any reason. It's literally the same age as me darn near to the month.

Good stuff all. Very informative. :)


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Well actually what I was wondering is that if there some correlation somewhere between air plants and trees that would lead to death. I know they don't actually kill them outright though.

We have big magnolia trees at work that are pretty healthy... But the last few years the oak trees across thr road have shared air plants. And now we have huge limbs that drop off from just one of these sitting on it. I saw a cluster today of maybe 4? On a section of branches that wasn't there prior to spring... And that branch cluster doesn't have a single leaf on it. So this is why I wonder if its just coincidence. But we dont have many branches fall/die without the air plants on them. So I wonder if there Isnt more to it. Anyway, I dont consider them evil or bad... But i dont see it as dumb to be cautious... I don't believe everytging I read. I just know I would be devastated if I lost my oak tree in the front yard for any reason. It's literally the same age as me darn near to the month.

Oh, and on a semi-related note... That harder mossy stuff that is always found on tree bark? Is that an air plant because it seems to have an anchor root system?

This post was edited by Sundewd on Sun, Jun 1, 14 at 23:06


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

Lots of things can lead to tree degradation. Anything that changes how or how well a tree gets its nutrients can lead to eventual decline. From articles I have read, doing things like changing the grade of the ground around a tree won't have a noticeable effect for a few years.

During the fall or winter of 2012-13, I witnessed a termite eruption from the field behind me. It only lasted about an hour and at that moment I did not know what I was seeing. Since then the oak near the eruption point has been in slow but steady decline while the others nearby look fine. Talking to the guy who owns the land, he was baffled as to why that oak was failing. It's one of the few oaks in Florida that doesn't have moss hanging from it and there are few ball moss on it even though the lightning struck Black Cherry with ball moss isn't far away, though usually down wind of the oak. I told him about the termite eruption and he kind went "Ah hah, that would be why." But the thing is, if I had not been outside in that particular hour when the eruption occurred, there would be no clues why the tree was failing and all sorts of 'innocents' might have been blamed.


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RE: Help, Air Plants killing my trees,

This is along the same lines, but I believe this to be a lichen. My county extension agent told me years ago that it would not hurt my plants. Yet, every branch it settles on dies. I suppose I would buy the scientific theory of it invading an already "in trouble" shrub, but would like some expert advice!
Thank you, in advance.


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