Types of Moss on Trees

Written by janet hunt
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Types of Moss on Trees
Spanish moss can be seen growing on trees in areas of the United States' South. (Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Mosses on trees are quite common and are not always harmful to the tree. Spanish moss draping from live oak trees in the Southern United States is often considered attractive and part of the natural landscape. Other mosses may appear on dead or decaying trees but are often not the cause of the ill health of the tree. Understanding the different types of mosses helps tree owners better care for their trees.

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Spanish Moss

Spanish moss is common in South and Central America and in many parts of the Southeastern United States states, including Texas, Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina. Spanish moss does not host off the tree it lives on but is an air plant without roots. The moss, which hangs down from the branches, has long, scaly stems that wrap around the tree. The seeds of Spanish moss are tiny and are carried from tree to tree by different varieties of birds and the wind. Even though Spanish moss does not host on the tree, it can cause damage by weighing down the branches and covering leaves. Spanish moss is commonly found growing in pine, oak and pecan trees.

Ball Moss

Ball moss is grey-green in colour and can found growing from trees or hanging from telephone lines. The tiny seeds are blown by the wind, attach to the bark of a tree and develop into plants. Ball moss can be helpful to its host tree by converting nitrogen into a form usable by the tree. Decomposing ball moss falls from the tree and provides fertiliser for other growing plants. Ball moss resembles curly grass leaves growing on the bark of trees.

Lichen

Lichens appear as grey or blue-grey growths found on the trunks and branches of trees. They do not harm the tree but only use the tree as an anchor to attach to and grow. Although they often appear on trees in declining health, they are not responsible for the ill health of the tree. These trees are merely open to more sunlight than more vigorous trees and provide a fertile ground for lichen growth.

White Cushion Moss

White cushion moss gets its name from the thick cushion it forms during its growth. It can vary in colour from white to grey or blue-green. It often grows in a ball shape or can form a mat of growth that may reach 3 feet in length. White cushion moss grows well in moist shady areas and is often seen on the base of tree trunks. Birds often use this moss as a lining for their nests.

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