Spanish-Moss – Tillandsia usneoides

Spanish-Moss – Tillandsia usneoides

Common Name: Spanish-Moss

Botanical Name: Tillandsia usneoides, ti-LAND-zee-a us-nee-OI-deez

Decorative Life: Years.

Flower Color:

Availability:

Family Roots:
  • Member of the Bromeliaceae (pineapple family).
  • Native to Southeastern US to Chile and Argentina.
  • Family relatives include Billbergia, Cryptanthus, Aechmea, Guzmania, pineapple and Puya.
Personality:
  • Silvery-gray threadlike masses to 25 ft. long, classed as a monocotyledon.
  • Densely covered by gray scales, which are a means of receiving and holding atmospheric moisture making roots unnecessary.
  • Very small axial flowers with petals 3/8 in. (1 cm) long, in changing colors yellowish-green to blue, the plant is an epiphytic perennial.
  • Flowers are not fragrant.
Storage Specifics:

Almost any.

Tidbits:
  • The genus name, Tillandsia, derives from the name of a Swedish scientist, Elias Tillands, a professor of medicine at the University of Abo, who catalogued the plants around that town in 1673.
  • Native Americans called the plant “tree hair”, which name the French explorers turned to “Barbe espagnole” — “Spanish Beard” — to insult their bitter rivals in the New World. The Spanish retorted with “Cabello franc”s” (“French hair”). “Spanish Moss”, a milder variation of the French taunt, has survived. Another common name is “Graybeard”.
  • According to legend, a Spaniard was in love with an Indian chief’s daughter. The chief did not approve and had the Spaniard strung up in a tree until he renounced his love. The Spaniard refused, died in the tree, but his beard continued to grow from the tree’s branches as a sign of his undying love.
  • Most commonly seen naturally growing on tree branches.
Recent Research Findings:

Bessler et al. (1998) showed that light stimulate ethylene production for this species.

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