Spanish moss is neither from Spain, nor is it moss. Spanish moss is an epiphyte, a plant that grows on another plant but gets its nutrients mostly from rain and water vapor. These plants prefer a humid atmosphere.
Spanish moss is a member of the bromeliad family, which is the same family as the pineapple. Spanish moss can be found in southern North America, the West Indies, and Central and South America, but not Spain.
Sometimes called “graybeard,” Spanish moss grows in beard-like strands whose stems can grow from 20 to 25 feet (6 to 7.5 m) long, with leaves that are 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 cm) long. Some Spanish moss flowers, though this is rare. The flowers are yellow.
Spanish moss–like many other epiphytes–does not have roots. Its stems attach themselves to tree branches and bark. Special parts of the plant, called “scales”, take up water and nutrients from the air or sometimes from a nearby water source, such as a lake or swamp.
Spanish moss stores this water in its tissue to sustain dryer months; the more water it stores, the greener Spanish moss will appear.
Spanish moss seeds are feathery like dandelion seeds. The seeds float through the air until they land on another tree where they will begin to grow.
The botanical name of Spanish moss is Tillandsia usneoides.