Tillandsia usneoides

Plant of the month: March

Tillandsia usneoides

Also Known As: Spanish moss/old man’s beard

Native To: Tropical & subtropical parts of USA, the West Indies and South America

Blooms: summer, foliage evergreen

Habitat: On trees in subtropical states of USA

Where Found At BBG&G: Subtropical House



Looking like a lichen, the leaves and stems of this rootless, epiphytic air plant are covered with a felt of grey hairs and function like roots, collecting rainwater and nutrients in wind-blown dust.  Spanish moss hangs from trees and telephone wires up to 30 metres long.  They are spread from tree to tree by birds using it as a nesting material and when blown about during hurricanes. Tiny green or blue flowers 1 to 2mm across appear in summer. In the USA it is used for stuffing upholstery, including the seats of the early T-Model Ford cars and can be used as a medical compress to stop bleeding.  Surprisingly, Tillandsia belongs to the same family as the pineapple – Bromeliaceae.