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Growing Spanish Moss in the NC Piedmont

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NC_Palm_Enthusiast

I recently ordered some Spanish moss online, it got here today so I spread it all over my property on several trees. The trees are mostly oaks and one crepe myrtle. I technically live in 7b, but over the last decade we have been solid 8a, and this last winter was 9a. I'm hoping the moss will make it and maybe even spread, given the birds don't take all of it to build their nests.

I took some pictures of a few of the places I put the moss:

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Silas_Sancona
1 hour ago, NC_Palm_Enthusiast said:

I recently ordered some Spanish moss online, it got here today so I spread it all over my property on several trees. The trees are mostly oaks and one crepe myrtle. I technically live in 7b, but over the last decade we have been solid 8a, and this last winter was 9a. I'm hoping the moss will make it and maybe even spread, given the birds don't take all of it to build their nests.

I took some pictures of a few of the places I put the moss:

sm1.jpg.856936face916f7174b919ffea89038a.jpg

sm2.jpg.de308c0001fc09a21c08e3a41540f942.jpg

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Nice.. Hope this works out. Love the look of it draping over various things. Tried some years ago back in CA, wrapping it around various Orchids i'd mounted on Cork Oak slabs/ tubes but the birds managed to take all of it, lol.. Next time i may wrap a few such mountings w/ the moss on them in netting to help keep the birds ( mostly House / Purple Finches out there ) away and keep a few "extra" clumps situated either right up next to a frequently opened window, or in a shade/greenhouse, just in case..

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NC_Palm_Enthusiast
1 hour ago, Silas_Sancona said:

Nice.. Hope this works out. Love the look of it draping over various things. Tried some years ago back in CA, wrapping it around various Orchids i'd mounted on Cork Oak slabs/ tubes but the birds managed to take all of it, lol.. Next time i may wrap a few such mountings w/ the moss on them in netting to help keep the birds ( mostly House / Purple Finches out there ) away and keep a few "extra" clumps situated either right up next to a frequently opened window, or in a shade/greenhouse, just in case..

I bet the birds will probably take quite a bit of it here too, but you never know. I'm surprised it's humid enough to grow it out in California, did it spread any there before it was all taken by the birds? I live very close to the natural range of spanish moss so hopefully that will help me out a little. 

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Silas_Sancona
8 minutes ago, NC_Palm_Enthusiast said:

I bet the birds will probably take quite a bit of it here too, but you never know. I'm surprised it's humid enough to grow it out in California, did it spread any there before it was all taken by the birds? I live very close to the natural range of spanish moss so hopefully that will help me out a little. 

Birds got 90% of it before it really started to grow and too dry ( through 95% of the Summer ) where i was for it to survive on it's own w/out misting it daily / a couple times a week... Both sp. of Finches will hang out under the eves of a roof / Patio cover searching for spiders/ other bugs, or looking for somewhere to build their nests.

Somewhat different story up in the mountains that face the coast, or anywhere right along the coast where moist air blowing onshore keeps humidity levels higher year -round, can see how it could establish itself, esp. say along a moist canyon that faces the Ocean. Definitely possible someone may encounter it hanging from trees in natural areas here and there in the future, especially around Southern California. Same w/ any other Tillandsia that can survive the same degree of occasional cold / moderate humidity levels well. There's at least a few sp. that grow further south in Baja / fairly dry parts of Sonora and can tolerate the extra dryness compared to wetter/ more humid areas at similar latitudes on the side of Mexico that faces the Gulf ( of Mexico )

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knikfar

Good morning! I live in Raleigh and I love spanish moss. I collected some from Washington NC last fall, along the banks of the Pamlico River, put it up in my trees at that time and it made it through the winter just fine. The birds took a little bit of it earlier in the spring but have left it alone for the most part. I actually just went back to Washington last week and collected more. I've read spanish moss can survive up to about 100 miles outside of its natural range.  But you also have to collect it from an area where it grows naturally that is as close to your own climate as possible. So you can't collect spanish moss from Savannah or Charleston and expect it to survive winter in NC. But the climate in Washington isn't that different than Raleigh. And Greensboro isn't that different than Raleigh. So my advice is, if yours doesn't make it through the winter, go to Washington or maybe even somewhere north of there, collect it and bring it back. And that should survive in your yard with no problem at all. 

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NC_Palm_Enthusiast
9 hours ago, knikfar said:

Good morning! I live in Raleigh and I love spanish moss. I collected some from Washington NC last fall, along the banks of the Pamlico River, put it up in my trees at that time and it made it through the winter just fine. The birds took a little bit of it earlier in the spring but have left it alone for the most part. I actually just went back to Washington last week and collected more. I've read spanish moss can survive up to about 100 miles outside of its natural range.  But you also have to collect it from an area where it grows naturally that is as close to your own climate as possible. So you can't collect spanish moss from Savannah or Charleston and expect it to survive winter in NC. But the climate in Washington isn't that different than Raleigh. And Greensboro isn't that different than Raleigh. So my advice is, if yours doesn't make it through the winter, go to Washington or maybe even somewhere north of there, collect it and bring it back. And that should survive in your yard with no problem at all. 

Thanks for the info! Definitely reassuring to hear it survives in Raleigh, I've also heard it even naturalized at Robertson's Millpond in nearby Wendell. The birds have already taken a couple clumps of it but most is still where I put it. Hopefully it will stay that way through summer like you said yours did. The only problem I may have is that my spanish moss was shipped from a grower in Florida, so that may present some issues come winter. We shall see

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knikfar
21 hours ago, NC_Palm_Enthusiast said:

Thanks for the info! Definitely reassuring to hear it survives in Raleigh, I've also heard it even naturalized at Robertson's Millpond in nearby Wendell. The birds have already taken a couple clumps of it but most is still where I put it. Hopefully it will stay that way through summer like you said yours did. The only problem I may have is that my spanish moss was shipped from a grower in Florida, so that may present some issues come winter. We shall see

You're correct about Robertson's Millpond. I've kayaked there and I've seen it. There are a few small clumps higher up in the trees in a few spots. Definitely not like Savannah, Charleston or Wilmington but its still exciting to see. 

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NC_Palm_Enthusiast
3 hours ago, knikfar said:

You're correct about Robertson's Millpond. I've kayaked there and I've seen it. There are a few small clumps higher up in the trees in a few spots. Definitely not like Savannah, Charleston or Wilmington but its still exciting to see. 

It sure is, next time I'm in the Raleigh area I might have to take a trip out there to take a look. It may not be much now, but maybe if these warming trends continue it will keep spreading and start to look like the lowcountry around there haha. That would certainly be cool

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cm05

I put some Spanish Moss in a tree near me, I’m in zone 7b New York and it has spread (just a bit) since I first placed it there. It has a flower bud on it so it must be satisfied, or stressed from the lack of rainfall since April.

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NC_Palm_Enthusiast
31 minutes ago, cm05 said:

I put some Spanish Moss in a tree near me, I’m in zone 7b New York and it has spread (just a bit) since I first placed it there. It has a flower bud on it so it must be satisfied, or stressed from the lack of rainfall since April.

AB0B15A1-306E-45BA-BFD2-B6ACFCCBBF92.thumb.jpeg.c73dd9bd1630f064d377418698488f04.jpeg

Nice! Where did you collect it from?

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AnTonY

The distribution of spanish moss has always been a confusion for me. I notice it in HUGE abundance all along the SE US Atlantic coast, especially around coastal Georgia down to around Central Florida - so abundant, that the stuff is even growing on powerlines. Yet west along the Gulf Coast, whether Alabama or Texas, it doesn't seem to be near as proliferous. It also seems quite absent in South Florida and South Texas, as well as Central/South America, despite the data stating that the range includes those places.

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NC_Palm_Enthusiast
17 minutes ago, AnTonY said:

The distribution of spanish moss has always been a confusion for me. I notice it in HUGE abundance all along the SE US Atlantic coast, especially around coastal Georgia down to around Central Florida - so abundant, that the stuff is even growing on powerlines. Yet west along the Gulf Coast, whether Alabama or Texas, it doesn't seem to be near as proliferous. It also seems quite absent in South Florida and South Texas, as well as Central/South America, despite the data stating that the range includes those places.

I've always wondered why it's not near as prevalent on the gulf coast. Something else I've noticed is that in the Carolinas it's all over the place around the inland coast (along the sounds) and also along lowcountry rivers and swamps,  but it is much more scarce out on the barrier islands. You'll see a ton around cities like Wilmington and Charleston that are set back off the ocean a bit, but once you're out on islands like the Outer Banks, Isle of Palms, or Emerald Isle spanish moss is much more scarce. Maybe this is due to higher winds and salt spray? Not sure

Edited by NC_Palm_Enthusiast

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NC_Palm_Enthusiast

Another thing I've noticed and wondered about is White and Bay Tree Lakes in SE NC. Spanish moss is literally everywhere, I mean it grows on every tree seems like, around White lake. However, it is not nearly as prolific at nearby Bay Tree Lake which is only a few miles north. This one has always stumped me

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Manalto
6 hours ago, NC_Palm_Enthusiast said:

I've always wondered why it's not nearly as prevalent on the Gulf Coast. 

Adding to the confusion is its habit of vigorously populating, seemingly at random, pockets here in Mobile. Sometimes it can be found on a rise (too gentle to be called a hill), sometimes in a low-lying area. It's not necessarily in trees close to water. The only thing these areas appear to have in common is live oak trees, which are everywhere anyway.

A couple of years ago I asked Amanda Wilkins, who was then horticulturist at Mobile Botanical Garden, why she thought Savannah drips with Spanish moss and in Mobile it's relatively rare -  when the cities have similar climates. She could only speculate.

Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides) is abundant on live oaks here; it's not nearly as common on the Atlantic coast.

I've introduced Spanish moss on to my live oak, as well as on a Magnolia soulangeana and a fig, and it seems to be thriving.

Edited by Manalto
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AnTonY

@Manalto

The only thing I can think of perhaps would be some type of difference regarding soil - whether in terms of structure or pH.

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Manalto
5 hours ago, AnTonY said:

@Manalto

The only thing I can think of perhaps would be some type of difference regarding soil - whether in terms of structure or pH.

But Spanish moss is an epiphyte; it doesn't grow in soil.

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Joe NC
On 5/29/2020 at 2:21 PM, NC_Palm_Enthusiast said:

I recently ordered some Spanish moss online, it got here today so I spread it all over my property on several trees.

I have tried multiple times over the years here in Wilmington NC to get Spanish moss established in my yard.  It is native and fairly abundant, so I didn't think it would be so hard...

Of my various attempts, I think (maybe?) I have finally got some established.  Usually birds will take it away faster than it will grow, so I was always at a net loss of plant.  I have found actually tying it (either with string, or actually knotting the strands of moss around a branch) keeps it from being as easily pulled out of the tree by animals looking for nesting material.   At first I was just draping it over the branches like how it appears to be in the wild.  However after actually pulling on some hanging from trees in the wild, I realized it is rather firmly attached at points to the branches and bark of the tree. 

Also initially I had hedged my bets, by trying to spread around the larger clumps of moss I would bring home to multiple places in my yard.  These smaller patches seemed to both dry out and die or be taken much easier than the large clumps.  I assume the large clumps might be harder for birds to wrestle with as well as hold moisture better for the survival of the plants?     

From what I have read, it does prefer certain "host trees".  Growing better on trees that leach more foliar minerals.  I am having the best luck in my yard on a pond cypress.  Based on where it grows on in the wild that should not be a surprise I guess (I don't have live oaks).  I have seen crape myrtles nearly totally swallowed by Spanish moss, and I bet the honeydew from aphids is a great fertilizer for the epiphyte.  It also appears to appreciate more sun in my yard than I had initially expected, as I am having better luck now that I have lost many canopy trees from hurricane damage.   

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NC_Palm_Enthusiast
5 hours ago, Joe NC said:

I have tried multiple times over the years here in Wilmington NC to get Spanish moss established in my yard.  It is native and fairly abundant, so I didn't think it would be so hard...

Of my various attempts, I think (maybe?) I have finally got some established.  Usually birds will take it away faster than it will grow, so I was always at a net loss of plant.  I have found actually tying it (either with string, or actually knotting the strands of moss around a branch) keeps it from being as easily pulled out of the tree by animals looking for nesting material.   At first I was just draping it over the branches like how it appears to be in the wild.  However after actually pulling on some hanging from trees in the wild, I realized it is rather firmly attached at points to the branches and bark of the tree. 

Also initially I had hedged my bets, by trying to spread around the larger clumps of moss I would bring home to multiple places in my yard.  These smaller patches seemed to both dry out and die or be taken much easier than the large clumps.  I assume the large clumps might be harder for birds to wrestle with as well as hold moisture better for the survival of the plants?     

From what I have read, it does prefer certain "host trees".  Growing better on trees that leach more foliar minerals.  I am having the best luck in my yard on a pond cypress.  Based on where it grows on in the wild that should not be a surprise I guess (I don't have live oaks).  I have seen crape myrtles nearly totally swallowed by Spanish moss, and I bet the honeydew from aphids is a great fertilizer for the epiphyte.  It also appears to appreciate more sun in my yard than I had initially expected, as I am having better luck now that I have lost many canopy trees from hurricane damage.   

That's surprising that it has been so difficult to establish it when you live in a place like Wilmington. Last time I was down there I got to see the gigantic ancient live oaks at Airlie Gardens, they were awesome. It seems that spanish moss is extremely abundant in that area, festooning nearly every suitable tree.

Here's one of those huge live oaks I mentioned with tons of spanish moss:

1733517626_liveoak.jpg.e56e75233bb2d54b8381b3d7cc9dc900.jpg

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AnTonY
On 6/4/2020 at 6:46 PM, Manalto said:

But Spanish moss is an epiphyte; it doesn't grow in soil.

I'm aware of that. What I was referring to was the soil's effects on the host trees.

As a comment above mentioned, spanish moss prefer live oak and cypress trees most often, due to their higher rates of foliage leaching (i.e. calcium, magnesium, potassium, etc). So I was thinking that perhaps the soil differences between Mobile and Savannah could explain the differences in spanish moss coverage - differences in pH (more acidic/alkaline) could affect how the trees re-uptake nutrients, in turn affecting how abundant the spanish moss becomes?

 

Edited by AnTonY
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Silas_Sancona
7 minutes ago, AnTonY said:

I'm aware of that. What I was referring to was the soil's effects on the host trees.

As a comment above mentioned, spanish moss prefer live oak and cypress trees most often, due to their higher rates of foliage leaching (i.e. calcium, magnesium, potassium, etc). So I was thinking that perhaps the soil differences between Mobile and Savannah could explain the differences in spanish moss coverage - differences in pH (more acidic/alkaline) could affect how the trees re-uptake nutrients, in turn affecting how abundant the spanish moss becomes?

 

A possible clue, but thinking it is those nutrients ( and/or others ) being drizzled onto the Spanish moss itself rather than anything involving the soil, especially since Epiphytic Tillandsias absorb nutrients through the Trichomes on the leaves, not through any roots. Roots just anchor the plant, like with Orchids. Orchids take that to another level though.. a layer of absorbent Velamen on the roots of Orchids are what provides them moisture/ food. 

Only one species of Oak in South America, but not where Spanish Moss is documented ( Inaturalist Data ) so there must be something there that may mist clumps of the stuff, and all the other Epiphytes hanging out on the same branches with a similar ratio of nutrients/ tannins. 

As far as a possible influence from the Acidity/ Alkalinity of the soil X host tree might grow in, we have tons of Oaks in the mountains and southern part of AZ / all of California but soil in most places is fairly alkaline.. Trees will leach tannins when shed foliage is submerged in water though.  likely too dry for Spanish Moss but Ball Moss extends it's range into the southern part of AZ.

Anyhow, Spanish moss can be found growing on Pines / Oaks in the transition zone across the foothills in various parts of Sonora just south of the AZ/ Mexico Border ( and all over interior Southern Mexico apparently ). Not sure if it also occurs on Montezuma Cypress /  Ficus that often line rivers in the TDF ( Tropical Deciduous Forest ) zone at lower elevations in Sonora or Sinaloa. Believe soil in many places there is also fairly alkaline. 

Still doesn't completely answer some of the questions regarding why it is especially prolific in certain parts of it's range vs. others though..

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NC_Palm_Enthusiast
1 hour ago, AnTonY said:

I'm aware of that. What I was referring to was the soil's effects on the host trees.

As a comment above mentioned, spanish moss prefer live oak and cypress trees most often, due to their higher rates of foliage leaching (i.e. calcium, magnesium, potassium, etc). So I was thinking that perhaps the soil differences between Mobile and Savannah could explain the differences in spanish moss coverage - differences in pH (more acidic/alkaline) could affect how the trees re-uptake nutrients, in turn affecting how abundant the spanish moss becomes?

 

Hmm that's an interesting thought for sure

Edited by NC_Palm_Enthusiast

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Toddmin

I have Spanish Moss growing on the Magnolia tree in my front yard.  I live outside of Atlanta and got the moss from the Savannah area.  It definitely seems to like being kept in clumps, rather than wisps.  I think it also benefits from the humidity and I occasionally give it a quick spray if the summer is drier than normal.

20200606_133857.jpg

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mdsonofthesouth

I'd love to try it in my yard but I doubt it would do well lol. But hey I am in the Piedmont so maybe!

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NC_Palm_Enthusiast
On 6/9/2020 at 11:46 AM, Toddmin said:

I have Spanish Moss growing on the Magnolia tree in my front yard.  I live outside of Atlanta and got the moss from the Savannah area.  It definitely seems to like being kept in clumps, rather than wisps.  I think it also benefits from the humidity and I occasionally give it a quick spray if the summer is drier than normal.

20200606_133857.jpg

That's awesome! I believe Greensboro has basically the same climate as Atlanta so hopefully it will do ok here too. Has yours spread at all yet?

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NC_Palm_Enthusiast
20 hours ago, mdsonofthesouth said:

I'd love to try it in my yard but I doubt it would do well lol. But hey I am in the Piedmont so maybe!

Never know until you try

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PalmTreeDude

I grow it here in Central VA just a tiny bit south of Richmond. My yard isn’t really close to any water though, but it is in the most moist spot of my yard. It would probably do a lot better hanging off of a branch over a lake. I am west of the fall line too. 

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PalmTreeDude

Closer pictures. There are also a few other super tiny clumps in the trees. I love seeing it in its habitat in Virginia Beach. 

image.jpg

image.jpg

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mdsonofthesouth

Yeah I'm not near water either and about 20 minutes west of the fall line but we at least get a lot of humidity year round but we have 0 to 5 days a year that can be deadly to some plants including this one.

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Toddmin
On 6/10/2020 at 5:10 PM, NC_Palm_Enthusiast said:

That's awesome! I believe Greensboro has basically the same climate as Atlanta so hopefully it will do ok here too. Has yours spread at all yet?

Yes, I definitely see it growing!  Greensboro's climate is kind of similar.  You definitely get more snow and ice than we do.  We are 7B/8A.  Last winter we were more like 8B/9A.

 

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NC_Palm_Enthusiast
On 6/10/2020 at 7:51 PM, PalmTreeDude said:

Closer pictures. There are also a few other super tiny clumps in the trees. I love seeing it in its habitat in Virginia Beach. 

image.jpg

image.jpg

Did you place all the bunches in the trees or has the moss spread?

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NC_Palm_Enthusiast
8 hours ago, Toddmin said:

Yes, I definitely see it growing!  Greensboro's climate is kind of similar.  You definitely get more snow and ice than we do.  We are 7B/8A.  Last winter we were more like 8B/9A.

 

Greensboro is also 7b/8a, and last winter was also 9a here. Looking online at the data it looks like Greensboro and Atlanta have similar elevations as well, both north/west of fall line obviously. It also looks like over last decade both Greensboro and Atlanta have gotten nearly the same amount of snowfall, although historically Greensboro does average a little more. 

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NC_Palm_Enthusiast

I was driving through the town of Oak Ridge, which is about 15 minutes northwest of Greensboro, this evening and I saw some spanish moss hanging from a tree in someone's yard. There were also a couple nice windmills on the same street, in a decade or so maybe they'll be telephone poles like some of the older ones in the area.

Picture quality isn't great, kinda hard to see the moss - sorry about that. If you look closely there are several bunches hanging around the two far right windows on the bottom level of the house:

smoss.jpg.212677a37392bcc5b14034573ef91210.jpg

Here are the two windmills:

You can't see it in the picture but this one was flowering

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w1.jpg.d3d04105be7f6eb5a2e0b0424486e6ec.jpg

Edited by NC_Palm_Enthusiast
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knikfar

You all might be happy to know the moss I draped in my trees last fall has flowers on it now. So it must be happy here in Raleigh. :)

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Will Simpson

Hopefully it will take a hold well for you . I'd like to keep up with how well it does since if it does well I'll be trying it too .

Good luck .

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Nj Palms

I have a few large clumps on a broadleaf oak in a shady area and it does great. I can just throw it in the greenhouse if it goes below 5°F. I have seen small pieces around my property probably from birds.

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PalmTreeDude
On 6/12/2020 at 5:23 PM, NC_Palm_Enthusiast said:

Did you place all the bunches in the trees or has the moss spread?

I placed a few clumps, over time the wind blew it around, so the little bits away from the main clumps are probably just there from the wind blowing it away from the main clump. It is flowering though, I’ll get pictures later. I also watch it grow, it is slow, but it makes progress. Again, I feel like it would do really well (at least over the summer) if it were to be hung above a stream, pond, or lake here. Some people even have bald cypress trees in their ponds, which would be perfect for some clumps of Spanish Moss! 

Edited by PalmTreeDude
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Toddmin
9 hours ago, PalmTreeDude said:

I placed a few clumps, over time the wind blew it around, so the little bits away from the main clumps are probably just there from the wind blowing it away from the main clump. It is flowering though, I’ll get pictures later. I also watch it grow, it is slow, but it makes progress. Again, I feel like it would do really well (at least over the summer) if it were to be hung above a stream, pond, or lake here. Some people even have bald cypress trees in their ponds, which would be perfect for some clumps of Spanish Moss! 

Whenever the wind blows some off the branches, I pick it up and place it on an accessible branch.  If it were to grow naturally, you would see some higher in the trees.  The wind would blow (or gravity) would make it fall onto the lower branches.

 

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Stevie G

I've got Some Growing here in Rocky Mount North Carolina. I brought some back about 2 years ago from Wilmington and it has spread very rapidly and has bloomed and produced seeds. I have it growing in a water oak along the woods in my backyard. I've even started putting it in cypress trees along creeks and rivers in my area.

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PalmsNC
On 9/8/2020 at 1:22 PM, Stevie G said:

I've got Some Growing here in Rocky Mount North Carolina. I brought some back about 2 years ago from Wilmington and it has spread very rapidly and has bloomed and produced seeds. I have it growing in a water oak along the woods in my backyard. I've even started putting it in cypress trees along creeks and rivers in my area.

Your area is around where the Spanish moss inland range roughly terminates, kayak downstream on the tar river I'd wager you would find some just before reaching Tarboro.

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courmike

I live in Atlanta proper and I have Spanish moss growing well. I have about 6 huge Camellia bushes that are tree sized(14ft). I put the moss in them. The birds can't land on the limbs because the are too soft and it is doing great after two years. Atlanta is actually 8b though. We don't get snow and ice often at all...don't know why people keep saying that. Pretty close to Atlanta's northern borders in the foothills is where it gets colder.

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