Range/Geographical Distribution: Along the coast from Virginia to Texas and south to Chile and Argentina. It has been introduced to Hawaii and Australia.
Habitat: Wet habitats including swamps, rainforests, mangroves, and near waterways. Commonly found hanging from bald cypress, live oak, elm, gum, pecan, and pine trees.
Description: A fibrous and rootless plant that droops from tree limbs. Stringy gray stems with narrow, fuzzy, gray leaves.
Size: Masses can reach 20 feet in length.
Breeding: Blooms in late summer with small blue/green flowers. Seed capsules split open when ripe and release seeds into the wind.
Predators/Ecological Importance: Although Spanish moss does not directly harm its host, it can cause increased wind resistance and reduce the amount of light that can penetrate its hosts’ leaves.
Conservation Status: No legal status.
Interesting Facts: Spanish moss is considered an epiphyte (“air plant”) and not a parasite because it photosynthesizes and produces its own energy. This plant was once harvested for stuffing car seats, mattresses, and furniture as well as for packing material.
On the Coast: Spanish moss is abundant along the Georgia coast where it can be seen hanging from trees, bushes, and sometimes even man-made structures.