Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Garden in a Tree

In the Deep South on the branches of big old live oak trees

two unusual plants ride piggyback to make their home.


One is the resurrection fern and the other is Spanish moss.


Both are air plants, getting their nutrients from the air.


Contrary to popular belief, neither plant takes food or water from the tree, nor do they harm the tree in any way. They just need a place to perch.









The resurrection fern is so named because in dry weather it dries up, turns brown, and looks for all the world like it is dead. But when the rains return, it comes alive again, green and healthy.

A resurrection fern can lose up to 97% of its moisture and still make a comeback. A normal plant will die if it loses more than 10% of its water.


Spanish moss, symbolic of the South, is a plant from the pineapple family. (I don't see the slightest resemblance but it's a fact!) It has scales that open up and allow the rootless plant to absorb water. It then makes its own food from elements and minerals in the rain.

Spanish moss was once popular for stuffing mattresses and car seats since one tree could produce a ton of moss and it repelled bugs. Nowadays it's used by florists as packing material and mulch.

Spanish moss is neither a moss nor Spanish. Some say it got its name from French settlers for its likeness to the beards of the Spanish settlers. The Spanish were insulted and retaliated by naming the plant Cabello Frances -- "French hair."





  1. Hehe - I love the little story of the tiff between the French and the Spanish - I can almost hear them saying it in their accents.

  2. Hilarious - the "tit for tat" between the Gaulic and the Hispanic lot of early settlers.
    "Spanish Moss" even if the name has nothing to do with "the sunny, rainless plains
    of Spain" is very attractive. Birds certainly love it for making their nests with the twine.
    I had some growing off the railing on my balcony for WHEN there were small birds here
    for their nest building - the willy wag tails were constantly helping themselves.
    Alas and then descended those birds from hell - the Indian Mynas - and no
    more small birds here!

  3. Have often wondered about the name of Spanish moss. Enjoyed reading about the fern and the moss.

  4. Spanish moss in the trees is so intriguing to me. Thanks for this information today!

  5. I don't know about repelling bugs, you'll usually find that Spanish Moss is full of chiggers. Once saw a guy at a Halloween party wearing Spanish Moss as a beard, he didn't wear it long.

  6. So different than what we see here in Minnesota! Very interesting post!

  7. Yes Spanish Moss is in the bromeliad family ( which does include pineapples) and here in Australia it is also called 'grandfather's or old man's beard. It's quite expensive to buy from a nursery but you can often get some from other people's plants, and drape them on something in your garden :-)

  8. I love your title 'Garden in a tree' - it is a perfect description, I have never seen anything quite like this, if I didn't know otherwise I would say it's a load of old pineapples! I'm not sure I'd want the Spanish Moss in my mattress though!

  9. The Spanish Moss I had never seen before when visiting the south of the US, it was amazing to see.

  10. I have a beard very much like that these days! Unfortunately there's already a plant called Old Man's Beard.

  11. I'm familiar with airplants have seen some growing, it's fascinating is nature.

  12. it is completely different fro P:oland nature

  13. Those tree pictures are beautiful. That is so interesting about the fern and the moss. We lived near Charleston when I was young and I loved the Spanish Moss that hung from all the big trees. It is beautiful there.

  14. I love the Spanish moss even if it is not Spanish:)

  15. Interesting facts about these two plants.

  16. I have always been fascinated with these plants. I've tried to "start" some here but I guess it's just too cold.