Is spanish moss a parasite?

What you need to know about Spanish moss

For Release On Or After 01/22/10

By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

It’s been called both picturesque and spooky, but whatever you think of it, Spanish moss draping live oaks and bald cypress trees contributes a lot to the look of Louisiana.

Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides, is a flowering, epiphytic plant belonging to the Bromeliad family. This makes it related to the plant that produces pineapples, which is also a bromeliad.

Spanish moss is widely distributed from southern Virginia to eastern Texas along the coastal strip of the southeastern United States. It occurs throughout Louisiana, but it can range from very common to rare, depending on the location.

Individuals frequently are concerned that Spanish moss is damaging their trees. Contrary to what many people believe, Spanish moss is not a parasite and does not injure a tree by obtaining any nourishment from it. As an epiphyte, Spanish moss lives on the tree but is independent of it. It only uses the tree for support and doesn’t invade the living tissue unlike mistletoe and other parasitic plants that do.

Spanish moss gets everything it needs from sunlight, rainwater and air. Like other green plants, Spanish moss uses light in a process called photosynthesis to create its food from carbon dioxide and water. Dust in the air probably supplies some needed mineral nutrients, too.

Moss has the ability to absorb quantities of moisture into its leaves when it rains. The gray scales that cover the leaves and give this plant its characteristic appearance help with this process. They trap water underneath them when it rains, and the moisture is then gradually absorbed by the plant.

Live oaks and bald cypresses seem especially well-suited for sheltering this plant, and many of our older live oaks and bald cypresses have at least some Spanish moss in them. But Spanish moss may be seen growing in many other tree species as well as on dead trees, fences and power lines.

Because people sometimes see Spanish moss growing on a dead branch or tree, they mistakenly think the moss killed the branch or the tree, which is incorrect. The branch or tree died for other reasons, and the moss is simply growing there.

Although Spanish moss does not obtain any nourishment from a tree, under certain circumstances it can become a nuisance. If a weak limb becomes heavily laden with moss, it could break. Spanish moss causes the most trouble in economic crop trees such as pecans. In shade trees, the only real reason for removing the moss is if you don’t like the way it looks – not because of any damage it might do.

If removing moss is necessary, mechanical removal is the preferred method. No herbicides are labeled for controlling Spanish moss in trees. A long pole with a hook or a long-handled rake is useful to remove moss from lower branches. Many tree companies will perform mechanical removal with a bucket truck to reach high branches.

On the other hand, some people want moss to grow in trees that don’t have any moss in them. You may gather living moss and simply hang it from branches in the tree where you want it to grow. If the growing conditions are to its liking, the moss will become established and grow. If not, it will die. There’s nothing you can do if that happens except try again.

In nature, most new Spanish moss plants sprout from a seed. The tiny, greenish flowers of Spanish moss produce a seed pod that turns brown and splits open when it’s mature. The seeds inside are equipped with feathery parachutes that allow them to float through the air like dandelion seeds until they lodge on a tree trunk or other suitable spot to grow. Strands and tiny pieces of moss carried to new locations by wind or birds also can grow into new plants.

In earlier times, moss had a variety of uses in upholstery. It was used to stuff everything from car cushions to horse collars, but it was mainly used in furniture manufacturing. Fresh moss was gathered and cured by wetting it down and packing it in trenches or pits in the ground, where it usually remained for six to eight months, during which the outer covering rotted off, leaving the inner strand. At the moss factory it was sorted, cleaned and baled for shipment. Quite a few Louisianians made at least a part-time living from collecting moss. The last operating factory in the South was located in Gainesville, Fla. It burned in 1958 and did not reopen.

Spanish moss is reported to be sensitive to air pollution, so you would think it would not grow in urban areas with lots of cars. But you can see it growing in all the major cities around the state. It adds character to many of the magnificent ancient live oaks in local parks. And what would a Louisiana swamp be without it hanging from the branches of the bald cypress?

Whether you appreciate its appearance or wish it would go away, remember, Spanish moss is harmless to the trees.
Rick Bogren

Spanish moss isn’t a moss, or a parasite

Though far-ranging, it seems to define the South

There’s something about live oaks draped in Spanish moss that defines The South.
But Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is not just here; it has the largest distribution of any species in the Bromeliaceae family. Its range is as far north as Virginia, westward to coastal Texas and as far south as the southern Andes (Chile, northern Argentina and Bolivia) including the West Indies in between. It has been introduced to other temperate and tropical climes, such as Hawaii, where it is being monitored so it doesn’t get out of hand.
It is sensitive to pollution and does not thrive in areas with stagnant, dirty air (which means the atmosphere around The Sun on SW 13th Street must be pristine).
Spanish moss is not a parasite; its tiny gray scales trap nutrients and moisture from the air. There are no roots. Therefore there is a higher incidence of moss around lakes and rivers, where the humidity is high.
While it is called a moss, it is not; it is a member of the division Magnoliophyta, the flowering plants. The inconspicuous flowers are fragrant and appear around March/April. When the seed pods open the following winter, the seeds use hairy sails to drift to other trees or suitable sites to lodge in ridges in the bark. Once established, the temporary root – actually, just a hold-fast – becomes unnecessary.
Some trees – camphor for one – exude an allelopathic substance and resist infestations. Crape myrtles seem to have an uncanny attraction for the moss, and this may be because they are deciduous and allow more light into their framework.
A heavily infested tree, however, can suffer from secondary problems. The amount of moss can shade the leaves, weakening the tree. Long festoons of moss, when wet from rain or irrigation, can weight down branches which may break.
Pest control companies can spray trees with a product that will start eliminating the moss. Most contain copper sulphate. Daniel Dye, training coordinator for Florida Pest Control, said his company gets a lot of business in the winter from people wanting to thin out – or completely eliminate – the overgrowth of moss on their trees. He had it done at his own home near Brooker, using a tanker truck to reach nearly 80 feet to spray the copper solution to the top of an old live oak whose limbs were bearing heavy congregations of Spanish moss. “That stuff gets real heavy when it is completely wet.”
He said it takes 8 to 12 weeks for the moss to begin dehydrating and a year to 18 months for it to fall naturally – or blow off – the limbs.
He noted a lot of pecan grove owners request the service because heavy moss coverage decreases production of the nut trees.
It can take over a year for the moss to succumb to the spray, and then it will need to be pulled off the tree. Hickerson said the spray kills the seeds, while simply pulling away live moss disperses the seeds and often leaves traces of moss branches to rekindle the growth.
Spanish moss serves as a home to a variety of animals. The most notorious are chiggers but a spokesman for a pest control company said chiggers are only found on moss that is near or on the ground, not farther up into the tree. The most creative are the Baltimore oriole and warblers, which will build a nest right inside the hanging festoon. Other birds use the strands in building their nests, and bats will sometimes hide inside a large clump.
Spanish moss was a large commercial commodity in the early 1900s, when it was collected, dried and used as stuffing for car seats. When the living portion drops away what is left is a black, wiry product. Native Americans used this wiry substance for a variety of purposes, including weaving into horse blankets and creating fire arrows.
Modern uses of moss are mulches and crafts. Be sure to eliminate critters in the moss. While microwaving is suggested by several sources, the best way is to soak the moss in a dish detergent/water solution and then air-dry.
Ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata) is a gray-green epiphyte found on tree branches or telephone wires. It is often mistaken for a small clump of Spanish moss. It grows in clumps 6 to 10 inches in diameter on most kinds of trees, but seems to be especially fond of live oak. I find it on crape myrtles. It also sometimes ends up on utility wires.
As with Spanish moss, tiny seeds are blown by the wind until they land on a tree branch or bark. They stick fast and develop root-like attachments to the outside of the bark. They are also not parasitic, but if you don’t like the way they look, just carefully pull them off.
Ball moss makes an interesting – if not drab – epiphyte tied to a piece of bark and hung on a wall. Let it live outdoors in the summer, protecting from freezing temperatures in the winter (even though mine on my crape myrtle look healthy after last week’s hard freeze).
Interestingly, ball moss is able to convert nitrogen in air (which is unusable to plants) into a form that plants can use. Except for the beans and peas, most plants cannot do this. So when ball moss falls to the ground and decomposes, it provides fertilizers for other plants.
Marina Blomberg can be reached at 374-5025 or [email protected]

SPANISH MOSS JUMPING SPIDERS!

While traveling over the holidays, we were near the coast where Spanish moss is often seen hanging from the trees. Seeing a large oak covered in Spanish moss just screams Southern beauty to me. After seeing some in a parking lot one day, my son informed me that there was a type of insect that only lives in Spanish moss. Interesting, I thought. So, of course, the research began to see if he was right.

Spanish moss is not really moss. It is a epiphytic herb. This means it grows on other plants for structural support, but it does not rely on them for nutrients. Spanish moss grows on several types of trees, but prefers live oaks and cypress. It prefers moist environments and can be found in the Southern United States.

So, what lives in Spanish moss? Well, several types of spiders and insects make their home in Spanish moss. Some birds, like the warbler, as well as several bat species also like to nest in the thick, fibrous masses. There are some differing opinions about red bugs, or chiggers, living in Spanish moss. It is more likely that they are found in moss that has fallen to the ground rather than what is up in the trees. However, there is one creature that not only lives in Spanish moss, but that is the only place it is found. It is called Pelegrina tillandsiae, a species of jumping spider. It is named after Spanish moss, or Tillandsia usneoides. Unfortunately, I was not able to find pictures of this species, and it does not seem to have been studied extensively.

In looking into this topic, I came across several folklore tales about how Spanish moss got it’s name. They mostly have to do with a man’s beard getting caught in the tree. However, look it up for some fun reading sometime! There are also some interesting facts surrounding Spanish moss. It has been used for many reasons throughout history, including to stuff the seats of early Model T Fords and mattresses. Since bugs can be found in Spanish moss, this is supposedly where the phrase, “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” came from.

If you are ever around Spanish moss, take a look inside and see what you find. You might just get one of the few pictures of the jumping spider. If so, send us a copy. We’d love to see it!

Please read our original blog post at: http://www.midgapestcontrol.com/spanish-moss-jumping-spiders/

Tags: Conyers Pest Control, Griffin Pest Control, Peachtree City Pest Control, Covington Pest Control, McDonough Pest Control

Content Distribution Provided By Freskos Media an Atlanta Internet Marketing Company

DISCLAIMER

We must explain that this Free Online Bilingual Dictionary includes all of our products that you can find in our products page. You will find that it is the most complete online bilingual and bidirectional English-Spanish dictionary on the web, showing not only direct translations but synonyms, complete definitions, set phrases, idioms, proverbs, usage examples, famous quotes and compound entries as well, all related to your entry word. On top of that, it offers English and Spanish pronunciation, separation into syllables and grammar attributes. It also accepts conjugated verbs and Spanish feminine and plural forms as valid entries.

The advantage of acquiring them as your personal software is that you will enjoy a better, even friendlier interface with many, many more features including word tagging, Bilingual Verb Conjugation, Double-Window Synonyms, idiom search facilities plus a unique collection of 40,000 color pictures associated with noun entries.

Here are just a few numbers:

  • 1,300,000 direct entries
  • More than 6 million inflected entries recognized
  • More than 300,000 idiomatic expressions in both languages
  • Famous Quips & Quotes – corresponding to 15,000 entries in each language
  • Graphics: 40,000 color pictures attached to nouns
  • Voice Recognition and pronunciation
  • Enter conjugated entries, even Spanish enclitic verb conjugations (i.e. hazlo; cómetelo, etc.)
  • Enter feminine or plural Spanish nouns or adjectives
  • Unroasted nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and walnuts make an ideal snack food for would-be slimmers keen to get cracking.
  • Half of those allergic to peanuts are also allergic to tree nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, and often sunflower and sesame seeds.
  • Tree nuts include walnuts, pecans, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pine nuts, pistachios, and more.
  • The most common foods people are allergic to include: peanuts; walnuts; pecans or almonds; and wheat and gluten.
  • There were almonds, peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans and Brazil nuts.
  • Hazelnuts, both in the dough and praline, can be substituted with other nuts such as almonds, walnuts or pecans.
  • Switch almonds with Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds.
  • Yes, this recipe is better known as a pecan pie with walnuts instead of pecans.
  • Stir in apples, pecans, parsley, thyme, sage, salt and pepper.
  • This resulted in an oversupply of peanuts, soybeans, pecans, and sweet potatoes.
  • Squeak has buried untold pounds of walnuts, pecans, and peanuts in my yard.
  • Roasted pecans, walnuts, or pumpkin seeds are a nice addition.
  • Garnish with the toasted, chopped pecans or walnuts for crunch.
  • Other common ingredients are crushed pecans and almonds.
  • Many nuts are rich in it, including walnuts and pecans, as are cooking oils such as corn and sesame oil.
  • Scatter the pecans and dried cranberries in the tart base.
  • Today’s crumble features bananas and pears, and a topping starring toasted pecans and bran flakes.
  • You could also use hazelnuts, Brazils, cashews and pecans.
  • My pecan trees produced large, filled-out pecans last year, but about half of the crop was damaged with dark spots on the meat.
  • Nuts especially high in vitamin E include almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans.

The cultivation of pecan nuts set to extend across the Guadalhorce

The pecan nut originates from North America and Mexico however it wasn’t appreciated for its fruit until the nineteenth century when the first pecan plantations were planted in America’s mid west. The pecan (Carya illinoensis) arrived in Europe in the sixteenth century as an ornamental tree. It belongs to the Juglandaceae family (hickory).

Native American and Mexican Indians ate the pecans during the autumn and the name ‘pecan’ comes from a word they used for any nut that needed to be broken open with a stone.

In Spain it is grown in the Ebro valley, the Guadalhorce valley and some areas of Murcia. In the Guadalhorce valley, the number of pecan trees is increasing due to the interest shown by producers such as Andrés Rojas, from the Málaga Natural company. He estimates that the production of pecans in the area will double over the next three years. At the moment, pecan production in Malaga is around 200 tonnes a year.

Pecan nuts have started to become more common in shops in Andalucía over the Christmas period, as they have in other regions such as Madrid and Barcelona.

Appreciation

“The national market still has a long way to go as the nut is becoming more and more appreciated by consumers,” explained Rojas.

Coín is one of the areas where the pecan already has a foothold, ‘mahan’ being one of the most popular varieties of pecan as it produces a large nut. Price per kilo is between 8.50 euros for the large ones and between five or six euros for the smaller nuts.

Farmers in Córdoba are also showing a lot of interest in this relatively new agricultural opportunity.

Pecan Tree: The Nut of Time

Carya illinoinesis

The pecan tree has been around since before the formation of the United States. A member of the hickory (pawcohiccora) genus within the walnut family, its prized benefits spread quickly once people learned of the nutritional value pecans have to offer.

Natives used the nuts as a main source of food for up to four months a year. In fact, tribes living outside of the natural range of the tree even started cultivating it. The nuts were pound into wooden mortars and added with water, adding flavor to broth, boiled corn, beans, and squashes. The word pecan is a Native word, but the French turned it into pacanes. It is said that the Algonquin term paccan meant “all nuts requiring a stone to crack” and included walnuts and hickories.

While Natives were cultivating pecans long before its popularity into mainstream foods, a Spanish conquistador by the name of Hernando DeSoto is often credited as “discovering” the pecan tree in Arkansas in 1541. By 1711, Spanish colonists were growing pecans in the Southwest, 60 years before other colonists gave it a try in the North. They were consumed extensively in the South during the Civil War, becoming one of the most beloved shade trees of the region.

In addition to their sweet taste, pecan trees were loved for their towering heights—reaching up to 200 feet high— and lofty shade, extending as much as 30 feet around. Early settlers would camp under these old giants, finding shade, fuel, lumber and food.

Originally, pecans were found only in the moist bottomlands of the South, however with more than 1,000 cultivars available today, pecans can be grown in a range of climates in hardiness zones six through nine. Pecans are the country’s most important commercial nut producer; a single pecan tree produces 70-150 pounds of nuts per year. The U.S. alone produces more than 300 million pounds of pecans every year. The trees not only produce an abundant of nuts, but they do so regardless of age, sometimes up to two centuries or longer. Pecan trees can live up to 300 years or more.

With such rich history and value, it’s no surprise that the pecan continues to be widely-grown today. Georgia is the top pecan-producing state in the nation, followed by Texas—who made it their state tree—and New Mexico.

What is your favorite way to eat pecans? Let us know below!

REINDEER MOSS



Description: Reindeer moss is a low-growing plant only a few centimeters tall. It does not flower but does produce bright red reproductive structures.
Habitat and Distribution: Look for this lichen in open, dry areas. It is very common in much of North America.
Edible Parts: The entire plant is edible but has a crunchy, brittle texture. Soak the plant in water with some wood ashes to remove the bitterness, then dry, crush, and add it to milk or to other food. mosses or lichens are nearly 94% carbohydrates. It was also used in the making of Swedish brandy and vodka. The acids is contains may upset your stomach a little. best when prepared as a tea,but can also be entirely eaten
OAK MOSS


An edible lichen, Evernia prunastri, found in mountainous regions of the N hemisphere. It has a pale greenish-grey body, 3-8 cm long, with pointed branches. It is used in perfumery and in the preparation of drugs
An edible lichen,Oakmoss, also known as Evernia prunastri, is a type of lichen used extensively in modern perfumery. It has a pale greenish-grey body, 3-8 cm long, with pointed branches. This lichen can be found in many mountainous temperate forests throughout the Northern Hemisphere, including parts of France, Portugal, Spain, North America, and much of Central Europe. Oakmoss grows primarily on the trunk and branches of oak trees, but is also commonly found on the bark of other decideous trees and conifers such as fir and pine. The thalli of Oakmoss are short (3-4 cm in length) and bushy, and grow together on bark to form large clumps. Oakmoss thallus is flat and strap-like. They are also highly branched, resembling the form of deer antlers. The colour of Oakmoss ranges from green to a greenish-white when dry, and dark olive-green to yellow-green when wet. The texture of the thalli are rough when dry and rubbery when wet.
Oakmoss is commercially harvested in countries of South-Central Europe and usually exported to the Grasse region of France where its fragrant compounds are extracted as Oakmoss absolutes and extracts. These raw materials are often used as perfume fixatives and form the base notes of many fragrances. They are also key components of Fougère and Chypre class perfumes. The lichen has a distinct and complex odor and can be described as woody, sharp and slightly sweet. Oakmoss growing on pines have a pronounced turpentine odor that is valued in certain perfume compositions.
Oak Moss Absolute is a natural product derived from tree lichen. An essential oil is produced by solvent extraction of the plant. The part of the essential oil that is alcohol extractable is called absolute or isolate. It is a commonly used fragrance material in aftershave lotions to give them an earthy, woody, and “masculine” odour.
SPANISH MOSS



Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) closely resembles its namesake (Usnea, or beard lichen). However, Spanish moss is not biologically related to either mosses or lichens. Instead, it is a flowering plant in the family Bromeliaceae (the bromeliads) that grows hanging from tree branches in full sun or partial shade. Formerly this plant has been placed in the genera Anoplophytum,Caraguata and Renealmia. It ranges from the southeastern United States (southern Virginia and eastern Maryland) to Argentina, growing wherever the climate is warm enough and has a relatively high average humidity.
The plant consists of a slender stem bearing alternate thin, curved or curly, heavily scaled leaves 2-6 cm long and 1 mm broad, that grow vegetatively in chain-like fashion (pendant) to form hanging structures 1-2 m in length, occasionally more. The plant lacks roots and its flowers are tiny and inconspicuous. It propagates both by seed and vegetatively by fragments that blow on the wind and stick to tree limbs, or are carried by birds as nesting material.
Spanish moss is an epiphyte (a plant that lives upon other plants; from Greek “epi”=upon “phyte”=plant), which absorbs nutrients (especially calcium) and water from the air and rainfall.
Medicinal use of Spanish moss has a long history. It was taken, while green, and brewed into tea for expectant mothers, supposedly to aid the flow of breast milk and make the delivery easier. Tea from the plant was also used as a folk remedy for rheumatism. In Mexico, it has been used to treat infantile epilepsy. In the early 1950s, it was used as an estrogen substitute and scientists have found the plant exhibits antibacterial properties. Drugs extracted from it have been used in the treatment of diabetes and researchers have been looking for a way to use it to help control blood glucose levels.
Oral extracts of Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides), a non-parasitic epiphyte in the pineapple family, have been found in a few studies to reduce blood glucose in laboratory animals. The compound primarily responsible is called HMG, short for 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaric acid. HMG is now featured as an ingredient in a few herbal diabetic supplements.

Although there is a difference between lichens and moss, the terms will be used relatively interchangeable for this brief write up, as many lichens are commonly referred to as mosses. As for real mosses, few are edible, but they are often used as filters and natural antibiotics. Do to the time required for preparation, and the side effects of poorly prepared lichens, these should generally be avoided as a go to food if stranded in the wilderness.

While almost every lichens are edible, it does not mean they are nutritious or even palatable; but they can be eaten. Most of the benefits ascribed to moss are medical, many claiming that they are antiseptic and some are analgesic. As with many natural remedies, few studies have either confirmed or denied the medical claims. Lichen are bitter, acidic, and at best bland. But as plants, they have some vitamins and often contain minerals leeched from the soils and decay they grow on.

Due to its tight leafy nature moss will trap lots of insects, dirt, and other debris; so as with all other leafy greens, thoroughly wash before you prepare. As moss will often grow over top of other moss, do not dig deep into decaying material and ensure what you are picking is the fresh material on the surface. Decomposing material can bring along unhealthy doses of rot, bacteria, and other pathogens.

Beneficially moss can be easily found year round, notably in winter months on tree trunks, rocks, and other exposed surfaces; so while not generally desirable, it is a survival food to tuck away in your knowledge bank.

What varieties of moss all share is acid and as such require proper preparation if they are to be eaten, because unprepared and uncooked they will painfully attack your digestive track. Unprepared moss taste like aspirin. That should motivate you to prepare it correctly. Never eat unprepared and raw moss unless your life truly depends upon it. It probably will not kill you but you will wish it had.

Although there are a few common names used, there are many varieties of lichen and they can be quite complicated in differentiating, as with many types of fungi and mushrooms. However, while 96% of the 10,000 species of mushrooms are not edible (including the one to four percent that will definitely kill you); only two lichen out of some 20,000 are what we would call poisonous, Letharia vulpina and Vulpicida pinastri, or Wolf Lichen and Powdered Sunshine Lichen… and conveniently they are both yellow, Wolf Lichen a greenish yellow and the Sunshine Lichen a sulphur yellow. In short, if it has yellow to the color think of it as a warning, and stick with the stuff that is pale bluish and grey in color. And though internally toxic from vulpinic acid they can be used on external wounds and sores.

To make lichen edible they should be soaked in several changes of water, with Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) added to each soaking, if you have it. Another method is to soak them with hardwood ashes. The modern version of that is to soak them in a 1% solution of potash. A method used in China is to boil lichen for 30 minutes and then soak for two days in several changes of water. After discarding the soaking water they are boiled and that water discarded, or they are steamed. They are then ready to eat, plain or mixed with other things, or dried and added to flour or as a thickener to soups. Moss or Lichen is often cooked until it turns into a gelatinous mass; Cladonia islandica was used to thicken jelly until gelatins came along. The point is the longer you soak them and the longer you boil them and the more often you change the water, the more palatable they will be and the less acidic.

Below are three common varieties often referred to as Mosses, although there are many more. Lichens can be up to 96% carbohydrates after being leeched of the acid.

Reindeer Moss

Cladonia rangiferina, also known as reindeer lichen, is a light-colored, fruticose lichen belonging to the Cladoniaceae family. It grows in both hot and cold climates in well-drained, open environments. Found primarily in areas of alpine tundra, it is extremely cold-hardy. Cladonia rangiferina often dominates the ground in boreal pine forests and open, low-alpine sites in a wide range of habitats, from humid, open forests, rocks and heaths.

Other common names include reindeer moss and caribou moss, but these names may be misleading since it is not a moss. Reindeer moss is a low-growing plant only a few centimeters tall. It does not flower but does produce bright red reproductive structures.

The entire plant is edible but has a crunchy, brittle texture. Soak the plant in water as mentioned above. It was also used in the making of Swedish brandy and vodka. Best when prepared as a tea, but can also be entirely eaten.

Oak Moss

An edible lichen, Oak moss, also known as Evernia prunastri, is a type of lichen used extensively in modern perfumery. It has a pale greenish-grey body, 3-8 cm long, with pointed branches. This lichen can be found in many mountainous temperate forests throughout the Northern Hemisphere, including parts of France, Portugal, Spain, North America, and much of Central Europe. Oak moss grows primarily on the trunk and branches of oak trees, but is also commonly found on the bark of other deciduous trees and conifers such as fir and pine. The thalli of Oak moss are short (3-4 cm in length) and bushy, and grow together on bark to form large clumps. Oak moss thallus is flat and strap-like. They are also highly branched, resembling the form of deer antlers. The color of Oak moss ranges from green to a greenish-white when dry, and dark olive-green to yellow-green when wet. The texture of the thalli are rough when dry and rubbery when wet.

Spanish Moss

Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) closely resembles its namesake (Usnea, or beard lichen). However, Spanish moss is not biologically related to either mosses or lichens. Instead, it is a flowering plant in the family Bromeliaceae (the bromeliads) that grows hanging from tree branches in full sun or partial shade. Formerly this plant has been placed in the genera Anoplophytum, Caraguata and Renealmia. It ranges from the southeastern United States (southern Virginia and eastern Maryland) to Argentina, growing wherever the climate is warm enough and has a relatively high average humidity.

The plant consists of a slender stem bearing alternate thin, curved or curly, heavily scaled leaves 2-6 cm long and 1 mm broad, that grow vegetatively in chain-like fashion (pendant) to form hanging structures 1-2 m in length, occasionally more. The plant lacks roots and its flowers are tiny and inconspicuous. It propagates both by seed and vegetatively by fragments that blow on the wind and stick to tree limbs, or are carried by birds as nesting material.

Spanish moss has almost no nutritional value and should not be ingested as a plant. Medicinal use of Spanish moss has a long history. It was taken, while green, and brewed into tea for expectant mothers, supposedly to aid the flow of breast milk and make the delivery easier. Tea from the plant was also used as a folk remedy for rheumatism. In Mexico, it has been used to treat infantile epilepsy. In the early 1950s, it was used as an estrogen substitute and scientists have found the plant exhibits antibacterial properties. Drugs extracted from it have been used in the treatment of diabetes and researchers have been looking for a way to use it to help control blood glucose levels.

Iceland Moss

Iceland moss (Cetraria islandica) is a lichen whose erect or upright, leaflike habit gives it the appearance of a moss, where its name likely comes from. It is often of a pale chestnut color, but varies considerably, being sometimes almost entirely greyish-white; and grows to a height of from 3 to 4 in., the branches being channelled or rolled into tubes, which end in flattened lobes with fringed edges.

It grows abundantly in the mountainous regions of northern countries, and it is specially characteristic of the lava slopes and plains of the west and north of Iceland. It is found on the mountains of north Wales, northern England, Scotland and south-west Ireland. In North America its range extends through Arctic regions, from Alaska to Newfoundland, and south in the Rocky Mountains to Colorado, and to the Appalachian Mountains of New England.

The whole plant is edible with some preparation. (Cetraria Islandica) is probably the most useful of the lichens for human consumption. It has a bitter astringent taste that can be removed by boiling and adding a spoonful of baking soda to the water. In Icelandic countries it is used to make jelly, gruel porridge, in salads and bread.

Before the lichens were used it was boiled in lye, rinsed in cold water, dried and stored in closed containers, stored in a dry place, it would keep for many years. In bread it was first oven dried, ground fine, ¼ grain meal was added and mixture was baked as usual producing a strong bread, which fair taste that kept well.

Rock Tripe

Rock tripe is the common name for various lichens of the genus Umbilicaria that grows on bare rocks, moist, open woods and cliffs. They can be found throughout northern parts of North America such as New England and the Rocky Mountains. They are edible when properly prepared and have been used as a famine food in extreme cases when other food sources were unavailable, as by early American northern explorers.

The whole plant. This is a last resort survival food, and make sure you prepare correctly. A group of explorers did not process it correctly and suffered from severe side effects such as extreme bowel issues, nausea and other illnesses. Boil with baking soda as stated with other lichen species, or at least soak it to become more digestible. Snip off the gritty parts of the base where they are attached to the rocks, wash over and over and over again in running water if possible. In a pan roast slowly until it becomes dry and crisp, then drop into boiling water and boil for 1 hour. Eat hold or cold, as soup or pudding. It has been remarked by other explorers as remarkably good and pleasing. When natives would run out of food this is what they would go and find, they would boil it to provide a nourishing gelatin to feed his children.

Umbilicaria esculenta is commonly used as a food in Asian cuisine and a restorative medicine in traditional Chinese medicine. It is called shi’er (石耳 “rock ear”) in Chinese cuisine, iwatake (岩茸 “rock mushroom”) in Japanese cuisine, and seogi (석이버섯) in Korean cuisine.

Rock Tripe is a group of leaf shaped lichens that are attached at their centers to non-calcareous (mostly granite) rocks. They are almost circular and flat, smooth or covered in blisters and pits. They are greyish to dark-brown or black. Undersides are often darker and velvety. When they are moist they are leathery or rubbery, and a most easily collected in this condition.

Assorted Wikipedia pages

Reindeer Moss

You Can Make Your Own Fertilizer at Home

Did you ever wonder what Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) was good for? We have massive clumps of the stuff growing in our trees or in little piles all over the landscape.

Historically Spanish moss was used for a wide variety of products. Colonists used mud mixed with Spanish moss to caulk their cabins. Spanish moss was used for weaving blankets, stuffing upholstery, making bridles and braids, as packing material, even as filaments for repairing fisherman’s nets.

It was only recently that I learned how extremely useful Spanish moss can be for the gardener. I was attending a workshop on wild edible plants when an herbalist from Valrico mentioned that Spanish moss can be boiled to make a tea that is really beneficial for plants. The only cautionary note was that the brew really stinks. Since I didn’t want to prepare a smelly tea in the kitchen, I decided I’d go for a sun brewed tea.

I gathered up enough Spanish moss to fill a five gallon bucket and covered it with rainwater. Then I set it out in the sun for 24 hours to let it steep. I was impressed with how well the tea worked, especially for getting plants to fruit and flower. This led me to conclude that while it’s a little low in nitrogen, it’s otherwise a very suitable fertilizer. A daily application of Spanish moss tea more than tripled the number of muscadine grapes that we harvested last summer.

A few months later I wanted to experiment with Spanish moss as a dry fertilizer. I cut up clumps of it with scissors until it had the consistency of a granular fertilizer. Then I added some dried blood (purchased in a garden store) to give it a boost of nitrogen. I went around to a few plants and poked holes in the root zone which I would then fill with my homegrown fertilizer mix.

I can only describe the results as dramatic. The plant growth was vigorous in all stages. My homemade fertilizer was powerful enough to pamper even the heavier feeders like tomato plants. There was never any blossom end rot in the tomatoes or peppers. We’ve been using the Spanish moss fertilizer exclusively at the Temple Terrace Community Garden. This stuff really works.

I speculate that Spanish moss must be loaded with the nutrients that are essential for plant growth. Because it is an epiphyte (air plant), its cells have to already contain all the nutrients that a plant needs in order to survive. As the Spanish moss starts to break down in the soil, it releases these nutrients which greatly benefit any plant that is fertilized by it.

How safe is Spanish moss? Well you can actually eat it. The part you eat is the inner green part found on the new growth of Spanish moss. The only problem is these little tidbits are really bland and you expend more calories gathering it than you get from eating it.

Here’s the recipe for a homemade, mostly local, totally sustainable fertilizer:

  1. Find some clumps of Spanish moss either on the ground or in a tree.
  2. You want to harvest the freshest moss that you can find, the moss with a vibrant grayish green color.
  3. If you’re removing it from a tree, be sure to leave a few live strands on each limb so it can replenish itself.
  4. Spanish moss is much easier to cut if it is moist. The dry dead material is extremely tough and resistant to cutting. There may be some ball moss mixed in and that is also more resistant to cutting.
  5. Cut up a few handfuls of Spanish moss as finely chopped as you can. You want it to look like some kind of granular fertilizer.
  6. Combine 80% Spanish moss with 20% dried blood (blood meal) and put it in a plastic bag.
  7. The dried blood will tend to sink to the bottom of the bag, so shake it right before you apply it.
  8. The sooner you can apply your fertilizer, the better it will work. Poke a hole in the outer part of the root zone and pour in your fertilizer.
  9. Then cover up your hole so that squirrels and raccoons are less likely to be attracted to it.
  10. I make one hole to fertilize a small plant, two holes for a medium plant and three or more holes for larger plants.

Enjoy your newly invigorated plants!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *