32. Krulik, Gerald, "The Case of the Stagnant Spanish Moss", PUP TALK (Saddleback Valley
Bromeliad Society), 13(4)p.6, April, 2006.

My son Steve has never followed in my footsteps as a plant enthusiast. I think it can be traced to when
he was five years old and fell butt first into a bed of my prickly pear cactus. Despite this, he has recently
been trying his hand at horticulture. He has made friends with a number of plants, and I have hopes
that in the future he may slowly get addicted. He is now a father and a homeowner with a new place in
Studio City.
Steve’s elevated wood deck has lots of places for plants, including a big wire trellis on part of two
sides. I gave him a number of Tillandsias for this trellis, including several good-sized hunks of Spanish
Moss, Tillandsia usenoides. This is by far the easiest bromeliad to grow. I know that even the most
horticulturally challenged should be able to grow this as long as it is watered regularly.
I was therefore surprised a few months ago when I visited. He complained that the Spanish Moss was
not growing even though he and his mother in law watered it almost daily. I could see that they didn’t
seem any bigger than when he hung them up. In fact, they may even have shrunk some. The other
Tillandsias that were hung on the same trellis were growing and clustering well, so evidently they were
watering them often enough.
I sat down in a chair on the patio, to cogitate (that’s what old codgers do best) while looking at the
plants. In just a few moments, my brilliance had solved the problem!
My son lives across the street from a steep rocky slope with an apartment house at the top. The slope
itself has large scattered bushes all over it. Among these shrubs is a nesting colony of house finches.
These are medium sized (like starlings), brown, redheaded birds who are tame and trusting. One pair
even raised young when they nested in a hanging Epiphyllum cactus under my patio, when I had two
cats who waited anxiously (and fruitlessly) underneath the pot all during the incubation and feeding
So this was the answer. The Spanish Moss seemed to grow slowly, because the birds kept landing on
the strings of moss and pulling off strands. I watched males and females come and go, taking lots of
pieces for their nests, flying back and forth in a steady stream between nest material source and
nesting bushes. Evidently these birds nest in colonies too. So, no matter how fast the Spanish Moss
actually grew, it was lucky to have survived at all.
The last visit I made was after the nesting season for the house finches was over. The Spanish Moss
that had been trimmed to a standstill, was visibly recovering. I hope that it grows quickly and well, as
the house finches will probably want to use it again next year.
The big lesson here is that not every horticultural problem is due to the owner. Next year I am going to
check out the house finch nesting bushes if I can reach them. I wonder if the Spanish Moss, or at least
some of it, will continue to grow in their nests? The fertilizer may work wonders on it!

The arrows show two of the clumps of Spanish Moss in question.

33. Krulik, Gerald, "The Saddest Spanish Moss Short Story", PUP TALK (Saddleback Valley
Bromeliad Society), 13(6)p.6,  June, 2006.

Terry and I vacationed in New Orleans about two years ago. I loved the chance to see wild Spanish
Moss, or Tillandsia usenoides. We saw lots of it on drives through wooded areas outside of town. One
day we took a tour to one of the oldest and largest, well preserved plantation houses. These are the
ones which have a double row of several hundred year old, massive live oaks stretching from the
mansion to the road along the river. You see these plantation homes all the time in historical-type
movies. I was looking forward to seeing these huge old trees, draped with equally huge clusters of
Spanish Moss.
The tour bus arrived at the back entrance. No moss was in sight on the trees back there. We do the
house tour and arrived at the front, to view the river and the long live oak entrance way. No Spanish
Moss! I was puzzled as we wandered around, with me checking the trees and fallen branches closely.
Nothing! Finally I found one of the staff who knew something about it.
Oh, the owners thought that Spanish Moss was too gloomy for the plantation. They had everything
sprayed with a chemical to kill it off.
I don’t know what it was, but I suspect some kind of weed killer or grass killer, since bromeliads are
monocots, like grass. It sure was successful. The only things growing on the massive oak trunks and
branches were ferns. I still don’t know whether I am more sad at this destruction, or disgusted by the
wanton destruction of the owners.  

This is the mansion in question, showing the live oaks looking like California sycamores, not true live
oaks since there is no Spanish Moss.