Mesmerized by Stunning, Spooky Spanish Moss Hanging from Ancient Trees

October 7th, 2012 Permalink

One of the first things to strike you with a sense of wonder when you visit the deep South is the grandeur of beautiful, draping Spanish moss decorating the huge trees. While the hanging moss has a mysterious appeal for people not used to seeing such natural beauty, Spanish moss-draped live oak trees thrive in the southeastern United States. If you don’t live there, then the charming and somewhat spooky appearance of the silver-gray strands, hanging like natural Halloween decorations, summon images of old plantations, bayous and the swamps like seen in movies. The fall season and bright foliage of northern colder climates steal the show during autumn, but for portions of the south, Spanish moss is a show stopper year-round. When it sways in the wind at night, this tangled ‘tree hair,’ as the Native Americans called it, is both eerie and intriguing. French explorers dubbed it ‘Spanish Beard’ as an insult, so the Spanish then named this moss ‘French Hair.’ It’s been used as bedding, stuffing, upholstery, insulation, mulch, medicine and in arts and crafts; it’s even been used as an ingredient in making voodoo dolls. Yet this flowering plant, is is not even a true moss. It’s a distant member of the pineapple family and grows until it looks like it’s dripping from large trees. It can grow over 25 feet long and does not kill the giant, ancient trees. Here’s a look at some stunning, spooky Spanish Moss. [48 Photos]

St Helena Chapel of Ease, South Carolina, a stunning example of the Spanish Moss that grows on trees in South Carolina

St. Helena Chapel of Ease, South Carolina, a stunning example of the Spanish Moss that grows on trees in South Carolina. This moss grows well in Southeastern America, such as the area comprising the extreme southern portion of Virginia and the Gulf Coast country from Florida to Texas in varying quantities. It mostly grows on larger cypress, gum trees, oaks, elms, and pecan trees. Spanish moss for commercial quantities grows in the lower Mississippi Valley and especially in the swamp lands like in Louisiana and Florida or where the rainfall is heavy. Photo #1 by Nick (puritani35)

Spanish moss on Louisiana canal at Lake Verret

Spanish moss on Louisiana canal at Lake Verret projects a lazy, laid back scene. Photo #2 by Peter Clark

House in Savannah

House in Savannah, Georgia. Between April and July, people can smell the mild collective fragrance of Spanish moss flowers in the moist night air of a beautiful Savannah evening. Photo #3 by Molly Stevens

This famous avenue at Boone Hall Plantation is nearly a mile long. It is lined by about 90 oaks with Spanish moss. South Carolina

The Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens is an antebellum plantation located in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. This is the famous avenue of Boone Hall Plantation; it’s nearly a mile long and is lined by about 90 oaks hanging with Spanish moss. Photo #4 by Kay Gaensler

Azaleas, Live Oaks and Spanish Moss at Eden Garden State Park, Northwest Florida

Azaleas, Live Oaks and Spanish Moss at Eden Garden State Park, Northwest Florida. Photo #5 by JR P (UGArdener)

Florida forest dripping moss

Ancient giants in Florida forest dripping moss. Photo #6 by the SkyHum

Serenity and Spanish moss at Bonaventure Cemetery at Savannah, Georgia

Serenity at Bonaventure Cemetery at Savannah, Georgia. Photo #7 by John Schneider

Boat house and Spanish moss in New Orleans bayou

Boat house and Spanish moss in New Orleans bayou. Photo #8 by Roger Smith

Thinking For Eternity. She was so serene looking amid the spanish moss

Thinking For Eternity. She was so serene looking amid the Spanish moss. Photo #9 by Lucid Nightmare

Eden Gardens State Park in Northwest Florida

Eden Gardens State Park in Northwest Florida. Photo #10 by JR P (UGArdener)

Magnolia Plantation, The old blue cabin. Two rooms, two fireplaces, and pecky cypress siding

Magnolia Plantation, The old blue cabin. Two rooms, two fireplaces, and pecky cypress siding. Photo #11 by anoldent

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina

Stunning, somewhat spooky scene like natural Halloween decorations draped over ancient trees at Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina. Photo #12 by Scott Spaeth

Spanish moss on tree at a national park in San Gil, Colombia

Spanish moss grows in warm, wet climates other than in the United States. This moss is hanging from a tree at a national park in San Gil, Colombia. Photo #13 by Jaceros

Scale of trees coated with moss on the plantation

Scale of man vs ancient giant trees draped with moss. Photo #14 by *w*

Paddlin' Home in the late afternoon on the Sante Fe River

Paddlin’ Home in the late afternoon on the Sante Fe River. Photo #15 by anoldent

Floating Forest

Floating Forest. Did you know that Spanish moss is a distant member of the pineapple family? Photo #16 by wirwuenscheneinbierinternationalereisegesellschaft

Along the Manatee Spring run, through the canopy of Cypress and Spanish Moss in Manatee Springs State Park

Along the Manatee Spring run, through the canopy of Cypress and Spanish Moss in Manatee Springs State Park. Photo #17 by Phil 1stPix

Slave cabins at Destrehan Plantation spanish moss

Slave cabins at Destrehan Plantation located in Louisiana. Photo #18 by Praline3001

The Moss Hung From Trees at Merchant's Millpond State Park, North Carolina

The Moss Hung From Trees at Merchant’s Millpond State Park, North Carolina. Photo #19 by Nathan Walls

Spanish moss hanging on Cypress trees in Lake Verret Louisiana

Cypress trees in Lake Verret, Louisiana. Photo #20 by Peter Clark

Live oak tree nature decorated with Spanish moss

The Angel Oak is a Southern live oak tree in Angel Oak Park, Charleston, South Carolina, on Johns Island, which is one of the South Carolina’s Sea Islands. This mighty oak is estimated to be over 1400 years old. It stand 65 feet tall (20 m), 8.1 feet (2.47) m in diameter, and the crown covers an area of 17,000 square feet (1,580 m²). The longest limb on the Angel Oak is 89 feet (27 m) long. Photo #21 by the SkyHum

Trees with Spanish Moss at Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, GA

Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, GA. Photo #22 by Kay Gaensler

Looking up at the Spanish moss in Savannah

Looking up in Savannah. Bugs, chiggers, spiders and birds all make the moss their homes. Photo #23 by Curious Expeditions

Wormsloe Plantation

Wormsloe Plantation is located on the Isle of Hope near Savannah. Photo #24 by jcbonbon

Kayaking Around Caddo Lake Docks

Kayaking Around Caddo Lake Docks. Photo #25 by Thomas & Dianne Jones

Live oaks and Spanish moss in downtown Tallahassee on East Park Avenue

Live oaks in downtown Tallahassee on East Park Avenue. Photo #26 by Readerwalker

Spanish moss in Pender County, North Carolina

Spanish moss in Pender County, North Carolina. It’s been used as bedding, stuffing, upholstery, mulch, insulation, and arts and crafts; it’s even been used as an ingredient in making voodoo dolls. Wildlife loves to nibble on this moss, but some people claim it’s edible. Photo #27 by Billy Hathorn

Enchanted Forest, beautiful park in Sarasota, Florida - spanish moss and palm trees

Enchanted Forest, beautiful park in Sarasota, Florida. The medicinal use of Spanish moss has a long history. While it was still ‘green,’ it was taken and brewed into tea for expectant mothers to aid the flow of breast milk and make the delivery easier. The tea was also used as a folk remedy for rheumatism. It’s has been used to treat infantile epilepsy in Mexico. In the early 1950s, Spanish moss was used as an estrogen substitute. Scientists discovered the plant exhibits antibacterial properties. Drugs have been extracted from it to be used in the treatment of diabetes. Photo #28 by Renee (paix120)

Mosquito land

Mosquito land. Photo #29 by the SkyHum

Camps on on Belle River. The Cypress trees and the Spanish Moss are magnificent

Camps on Belle River. The Cypress trees and the Spanish Moss are magnificent. Photo #30 by Peter Clark

Live Oaks and Spanish Moss

Spanish-moss is called by many names like Florida moss, long moss, or graybeard, but is not a true moss. It’s an epiphytic plant. It uses its long, thin, scaly stems to wrap around the host tree and hang down from the branches. It does not rely on the host plant for nutrients. Photo #31 by Charles Tilford

Massive tree covered with Spanish moss

Massive mossy tree. Photo #32 by Phr

Cypress Tree with Spanish Moss at Fisheating Creek River in Palmdale Florida

Cypress Tree at Fisheating Creek River in Palmdale, Florida. Photo #33 by Kim Seng

Cypress Swamp in January

Cypress Swamp in January. It grows from trees appearing silvery-gray in threadlike masses to 25 ft. long. Photo #34 by Judy Baxter

Driving Cedar Key at night

Driving Cedar Key at night, very dark with moss hanging down, very spooky. Photo #35 by Jessie Hodge

Lake Verret, Louisiana

Lake Verret, Louisiana. Photo #36 by Peter Clark

Slave Street at Boone Hall Plantation, South Carolina

Slave Street at Boone Hall Plantation, South Carolina. Photo #37 by Kay Gaensler

Secret Creole Cottage obscured by live oak trees festooned with Spanish Moss. South Louisiana

Secret Creole Cottage obscured by live oak trees festooned with Spanish Moss. South Louisiana. Photo #38 by bluecinderella

Spanish moss tree alley at Jekyll Island

Tree alley at Jekyll Island. Photo #39 by Kay Gaensler

Spanish Moss

Southeastern United States folklore: “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, and 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, densely covered by the gray scales which are a means of receiving and holding atmospheric moisture, and which help to enable the plant to dispense with roots. Photo #41 by Alice Lim

Trees with Spanish moss in the American Southeast

Trees with Spanish moss in the American Southeast. Photo #42 by Wendy

Sarasota Memorial Park, Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota Memorial Park, Sarasota, Florida. Photo #43 by Mr. Johnson, often nefarious

Trees with Spanish Moss at sunrise, Jekyll Island, Georgia

Trees at sunrise, Jekyll Island, Georgia. Photo #44 by josullivan.59

Fishing on Lake Verret

Fishing on Lake Verret. Photo #45 by Peter Clark

Forever at rest under the Spanish moss at Holt Cemetery, New Orleans

Forever at rest under the Spanish moss at Holt Cemetery, New Orleans. Photo #46 by Mark Gstohl

Sunrise at White Lake, North Carolina

Sunrise at White Lake, North Carolina. Photo #47 by John (cygnus921)

Spanish moss on plam trees in Forida

Spanish moss on palm trees in Florida. Photo #48 by Mark Donoher

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