10 Facts About Spanish Moss You Might Not Know

Posted: October 13, 2016

spanish-mossWith so much Spanish moss found throughout Savannah, it’s important to understand what it is and some of the facts about it. Many of the live oak trees throughout the city feature the moss and provide a natural beauty and charm. It has even become a symbol for the city. Here are some of the most unique facts about Spanish moss, which you may not be familiar with.

It’s not from Spain

Even though it’s called Spanish Moss, it actually originates from South America, Central American, Mexico, the United States and the Caribbean. From Texas to Virginia, you will find Spanish moss in the moister areas of the country. It prefers tropical or subtropical climates with healthy trees.

It’s not Moss

So the entire name is a lie. Spanish Moss is actually not a moss at all. It’s part of the pineapple family.

It was Named by the French

Even with the name Spanish Moss, it wasn’t even named by the Spanish. Instead, it was named by French explorers. Native Americans first named it and told the French it was called itla-okla, which meant tree hair. However, it reminded the French of the long bearded of Spanish conquistadors, so they decided to call it Barbe Espagnol, which means Spanish Beard.

The Spanish did play a role by trying to get revenge. They named it Cabello Frances, which means French Hair. However, the French name stuck and later on, it was changed to Spanish moss.

It’s used Widely by Wildlife

Spanish moss is very important to the area wildlife and used by many different creatures. Birds are probably the largest users of the moss as they use it to build nests. However, spiders actually call it home and Boil weevils love it. After the moss touches the ground, it also becomes a home for chiggers and snakes.

It has been used Commercially

In the early 1900s, Spanish moss was used for the padding of car seats. More than 10,000 tons were processed in 1939, but it’s not used the same way today. The moss is still collected and processed, in much smaller amounts, and used in arts, crafts and for flower garden beds.

It’s not a Parasite

Typically, something growing on another plant is known as a parasite. However, Spanish moss doesn’t put down roots or take from the tree. It thrives on fog, rain, airborne dust, waterborne debris and sunlight.

It has many Uses

savannah-spanish-mossSpanish Moss has been used in many ways from Native American dresses to roof material or even privacy. Using the moss for anything means it will have to be replenished, though. It only grows on trees, so if it’s used for chain-link fence privacy or in clothing, it has to be replaced after is dies.

It was also used to make mortar for houses and when it’s dried, it’s good tinder for starting fires. Some of the other uses include mattress filling, rope and blankets.

The Seeds are Feathery

Just like a dandelion seed, the Spanish moss seed is feathery. This allows the seed to float to another tree and start to grow.

It has very little Nutritional Value

While it may have been tried as a feed for livestock, it wouldn’t work. Spanish moss has nearly no nutritional value.

There are many interesting facts and even some legends about Spanish moss. It certainly adds to the beauty of the city and provided plenty of uses for Native Americans and early settlers. Today, it’s not used nearly as much, but still provides beautiful picture opportunities and a symbol of cities, such as Savannah.