Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spanish moss shrouds the pathways

I love Spanish moss. It recalls my first days living in the South and every Tennessee Williams play I ever read. 

I mentioned James Lee Burke to someone and she said he notes Spanish moss on every page.

There's less of it these days and I've been told it has something to do with air quality. It lives off the air, after all, and is without roots, living symbiotically with the trees. It is not biologically related to moss, but is a flowering plant that drapes itself from tree limbs, particularly Southern live oaks and cypress, in humid climates. But Spanish moss isn't like a vine, but a chain of seemingly disconnected threads of vegetation. It doesn't hurt the trees, though it can deprive them of sunlight it it gets too thick. In a hurricane, its weight could help topple a tree.

In colonial days, it was used to stuff mattresses, plaster walls and make medicinal tea to treat chills and fevers. 

There is evidence, according to USDA, that moss was used over 3,000 years ago to make pottery. Versatile!

Spanish moss on trees in Audubon Park.
How about this little story found on Wikipedia: There was once a traveler who came with his Spanish fiancée in the 1700s to start a plantation near the city of Charleston SC. She was a beautiful bride-to-be with long flowing raven hair. As the couple was walking over the plantation site near the forest, making plans for their future, they were suddenly attacked by a band of Cherokee who were not happy to share the land of their forefathers with strangers. As a final warning to stay away from the Cherokee nation, they cut off the long dark hair of the bride-to-be and threw it up in an old live oak tree. As the people came back day after day and week after week, they began to notice the hair had shriveled and turned grey and had begun spreading from tree to tree. Over the years the moss spread from South Carolina to Georgia and Florida. To this day, if one stands under a live oak tree, one will see the moss jump from tree to tree and defend itself with a large army of beetles.

Spanish moss is just another reminder of where we live

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