Monday, April 13, 2015

The Bromeliads are Upon Us! The Sequel.

Spanish Moss drapes and envelopes the trees. It's distinctly southern. However, many times, even in the same tree, there exists another bromeliad, Tillandsia recurvata known as Ball Moss, hiding among the limbs.

The plant is compact
Sending out tendrils and seeds
Sprouting from flower

Tillandsia recurvata

In the picture above, we see that Ball Moss is a compact plant, similar and color to Spanish Moss, and like Spanish Moss, is stringy. The plant itself, however, grows differently. Instead of resembling a chain from a barrel of monkeys, T. recurvata grows in a more "normal" plant like fashion. There is a central place where the plant attaches to a limb. You can also see how the seed stalk is long and curves out. This is a key indicator for know when you have Ball Moss and Spanish Moss growing together, if you are trying to judge from a distance. I gave a picture of a seedpod dispersing seeds from a T. usneoides in the last post. Notice in that picture, that the seedpod is very close to the plant.

Another note about the seedpod of this plant: The seeds often germinate right on the end of the stalk, so the plant looks like it's "walking" ie, sending out a tendril and cloning itself. Nope, it's sprouting from the seeds, straight out of the nest!

T. usneoides  and T. recurvata growing together
To the right, we see Spanish and Ball Moss growing together, and this is how I first discovered it, even though at the time, I didn't know what I was seeing. I made the error of thinking that the Ball Moss was a baby Spanish moss plant. Now I know better.

Top, bottom, left, right
Surrounded, the plant juts out
Sending seeds on stalk

There's a chance Ball Moss is good for something other than looking pretty too! A study in 2012 revealed that it could help in the fight against prostate cancer. Green Deane reports that it and Spanish Moss can be nibbled.

 On the left, I'm holding a Live oak leaf behind a seedpod so I could take a better picture of the wispy, feather like seeds.

And there's a seed head, fully visible. Now that I know what they look like, Tillandsia seeds are easy to find, I've found them on trees, my windshield, in bushes, and all sorts of places. One long range photography project I have is to track a seed as it grows.

The seed, over time
Becomes a whole new plant
Making seeds itself

Part three involves a new-to-me Tillandsia that has very showy flowers.


The Louisiana Bayou Rat said...

I have not tasted (nibbled) either of these plants intentionally. Spanish Moss on the other hand has found its way into my hands, eyes, mouth, hair. Sometimes you get hung when you fish with popping bugs and there you have it. I don't remember the taste though.

GB Hoyt said...

Hmmm, as long as said poppin' bug doesn't wind up in the mouth, I suppose that's ok. The trick with eating Spanish Moss is to find the tippy part that's green, and eat just that. Green Deane calls it a "boyscout nibble" because it's the sort of thing a scout would dare another scout to do on a hike. He also details making a tea out of it to extract the bromelains, and that I know, is available as a dietary supplement.

Gotta work on my 6" poppin bug roll to keep it out of the moss!