Draped on southern live oak and bald cypress trees, blue-gray beards that would put ZZ Top to shame sway to the Florida breeze. It is Spanish moss. It is neither Spanish in origin nor a moss. Native Americans called it “tree hair”, the Spaniards called it “French hair” and the French called it “Spanish hair”. Guess which name stuck! A rootless, wiry plant supported by tree limbs, branches and leaves, it is an epiphyte; it absorbs nutrients and water from the air. Spanish moss produces flowers and seeds just as any plant does.
Native Americans used Spanish moss for making ropes, brewed a tea with it for fever and chills, and used it in pottery. Henry Ford brought the plant to Detroit to stuff Model T car seats. It was also used for – stuffing mattresses, building insulation and packing. Today Spanish moss is often used in garden planters. Some birds line their nests with it.
Spanish moss is symbolic of the deep south where it is prevalent in sub-tropical forests. It is very much part of the landscape in our community reminding those of us who came here from up north that we are truly in a tropical paradise.