moss, Spanish and otherwise graciaafrika

It would be hard to overstate the effect Spanish moss has on a landscape. It is dominant and haunting. I am a bookish westerner/northerner visiting the South, so I think of Flannery O’Connor and Boo Radley, The Prince of Tides and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil when I see Spanish Moss dripping dry and eerie. I took these pictures in the beautiful Carolina low country town of Beaufort. Spanish Moss isn’t even a moss. It’s an epiphyte, rootless, sometimes called an air plant, that absorbs nutrients from air and water. Its tiny seeds are dispersed by wind and birds. It’s been used as stuffing for mattresses and furniture. Moss, like that in this picture I took in the Catskills, is also a simple plant. Classified as a bryophyte–a non-vascular plant, it has roots, but gets its nutrition through photosynthesis, absorbs water through its leaves, and germinates from spores. Spanish moss isn’t a parasite, but it can damage trees by blocking light and weighing down branches. Typically it’s seen hanging from massive Oak trees. Here it is tangling with berries and Dogwood. I know it would bother some people to have Spanish moss hovering over their beautiful old homes and trees, but I love how atmospheric it is.

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