What Is the Relationship Between Spanish Moss and Trees?

Spanish moss uses trees for mechanical support, but it does not get any nourishment from trees. Spanish moss does not harm trees, but it can occasionally weigh down weaker branches and become a nuisance to property owners.

Unlike parasitic organisms that cause harm by taking nutrients from their host, Spanish moss does not grow into the tissues of the trees that harbor it. Spanish moss is an epiphyte, a type of plant that grows on the surface of another plant but remains entirely independent. It is not a true moss, but belongs to the family Bromeliacae and is related to pineapples.

Spanish moss uses energy from the sun to create its own food and gathers moisture from rainwater and the air. The gray scales on the surface of Spanish moss trap moisture and retain it so that the plant can gradually absorb it over time.

Spanish moss reproduces by sending out feathery seeds that float through the air until they land on a suitable tree. Live oaks and bald cypress trees commonly develop colonies of Spanish moss in their branches, but the plant can form colonies in other types of trees and on inanimate objects, such as telephone poles or buildings. A single mass of Spanish moss can grow up to 25 feet long.