20 responses to “Tillandsia usneoides”

  1. Clement Kent

    The gardens and wildlife sanctuaries around Charleston South Carolina are also very good places to see Spanish Moss in abundance. Enjoyed the picture of the flowers – have never seen them before!

  2. Cecelia

    Daniel, super interesting! Enjoyed the stories, info and a wonderful Gordon Lightfoot song! Bromeliads–what a surprise awaits around the world of botany and your blog. Thank you.

  3. Ken Moore

    This one especially engaging for an old southerner chilling out in New Hampshire lake country where it feels like winter and looking forward to returning to the heat and humidity of central NC. Even better down in that historic old Savannah cemetery!!

    All the threads of info on Spanish Moss really engage one to read them all and love Gordon Lightfoot and never realized his words included this great plant!!

    Thanks for continuing this long running thread of botanics.

    Ken Moore

  4. Katherine

    Definitely ran into the chigger problem! I bought some orchid bark mix from a nursery, and the bag it came in was perforated and slightly damp from being watered due to nearby plants. All the bags of decorative spanish moss were stored directly above the orchid bark, and those bags were also perforated. Kept it in my greenhouse for a few weeks, then went out to repot my orchids, after which I brought them into the house and put them in the bay window behind my kitchen sink. The next day, I started coming out in red, itchy bites in strange places (not the usual for mosquitoes or fleas), with the worst being places like around my waist and under my bra. Got worse over several days, hundreds and hundreds of bites. I was miserable. It took a bit of research, but I finally determined they were chigger bites, something we don’t have naturally in California, as we are too dry. My husband got a few bites after doing the dishes, and I got a magnifying glass to look for the source and I could actually see a few crawling on the black part of my faucet hose. Unfortunately, had to throw out the orchids, pots and all. They spread from my greenhouse into the landscaping around it, and it took 5 years to finally knock them back, as we don’t get hard freezes here. The recent drought helped. I still get occasional bites in the spring after the weather warms up, and there are areas of my garden where I hate to step in to prune or weed. Ugh! I should say that I had lived in our house and gardened for 15 years before this happened, and this was the first time I had ever had bites like that.

    I guess there were mites in the spanish moss, and a few crawled or fell onto and then into the orchid bark and laid eggs. I picked the wrong time in the cycle to repot my orchids. Now I never buy anything from any nursery that is stored anywhere near spanish moss. And I did hear from a woman I worked with that her kids got chigger bites (diagnosed by a doctor familiar with chiggers) during a summer day camp in our area, from a watered, tall grass area on the Stanford campus, so they have escaped in other spots in our area.

    I used to love spanish moss, but I can never look at it the same way again!

    1. Trailtroll

      My family in Myrtle Beach calls them red bugs. I’m not sure if they’re the same as chiggers (live in SW Virginia) and have never gotten bitten from Spanish Moss bugs but the shear torture of chigger bites from blackberry picking is mind boggling. My sympathies. Also …. if you’re out picking wildflowers in this region, stay away from Queen Anne’s Lace. They’re rife with Chiggers.


    Katherine, my sympathies go out to you triple-fold. Here in Southern Md. Chiggers are rampant (as are ticks), especially around wild blackberry which grows in great profusion. I have had many bad experiences with chiggers and my husband suffered terribly (a real allergy). I have wandered through the deep south and handled lots of Spanish moss, but never suffered the agony of chiggers. Michael’s first photo is eeriely(sp?) beautiful. Thank you.

    1. Sara

      Bummer about the chiggers. I’m from So Cal, transplant to MO and chiggers – I never, ever walk barefoot in the grass, and only go outside completely covered. Hitting them hard with peroxide (burn, baby, burn!) will help some. Thank you for your suffering, since I never suspected that they could hang out in moss. We get relief in winter after the first hard freeze, but the bugs (mosquitos, ticks, chiggers, gnats, spiders) make summer very unpleasant!

      1. Denis Dooley

        My last experience with them was mistakenly sitting in the grass when I went to visit an old friend in Bucyrus, Kansas. I about scratched a hole in my hide. They prefer to nestle in anywhere you have tight clothing, such as the top of socks or the elastic on the waist and leg holes of briefs – right where they got me.

        I am quite content to not have to deal with them in Oregon.

  6. lynn

    Growing up with grandparents living in the Georgia Sea Islands, I was lucky to become familiar with Spanish moss. Like so many others, I’m enchanted by that plant so once I brought some home – no chigger issues, but (as I should have known, but I was young) it just wasn’t happy, even in the bathroom, with frequent showers. It certainly does well in greenhouses far from it’s native range though. A wonderful post, with the close-up showing the flowers, the gorgeous context photo and the Gordon Lightfoot song – you’re spoiling us!

  7. Wendy

    I always figured the usneoides referred to the Old Man’s Beard (Usnea longissima) covering our Coast Range forests in Oregon. I hear it is a threatened species, hard to believe from there. When its Latin name was changed to Dolichousnea I remember wondering if the Spanish Moss was also going to change its name to dolichusneoides? Botanical Latin is often so unfathomable…Or at least we may make it so.

  8. Anne Mitchell

    Daniel, I’ve been reading, enjoying and storing your Botany Photos for years now, and have a request: if you could put in the subject box the common name of the plant as well as the scientific name, I would have an easier time retrieving from my “Botany Photo” folder the particular plant I was interested in reviewing. For example, I would like to reread the entry on Mimosa trees, but can’t find it because it is stored under the scientific name.

    Thank you so much for any consideration you can give to this request!


    Anne in Seattle

  9. Valerie Knapp

    I am most intrigued by Spanish Moss and never imagined it flowering. What a wonderful discovery, especially since they are delightful and lime green! Excellent post and musical interactivity is a fun addition. Thank you!

  10. Mary Yee

    Wow, loved seeing those tiny lime green flowers! Thank you.

  11. Scott Dilatush

    That article triggered a Halloween memory. I gathered up about 2 bushel baskets of Spanish Moss in Virginia Beach a decade ago. It was all over the ground after a storm. Weaved it into a poncho made of strong fishnet. Made pants out of fishnet and Spanish Moss as well. Turned myself into the Swamp Thing. Used a gigantic abandoned Funnel spider web for my head. One of those jumping spiders jumped out of the moss and climbed up on top of my head. I itched a little from the moss but I believe it was just the moss that itched.

    1. michael aman

      You sound like a delightful eccentric!

  12. Denis Dooley

    I shared this page with Gene Phillips of Gene’s Nursery, who contributed many of the camellia specimens in the area botanical gardens. He enjoyed it.

Leave a Reply