The Villages - July 2008 - (Page 48)

Villages Greenery Moss in The Villages Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is not really a moss at all but a member of the bromeliad family and a relative of the pineapple. It grows in any area where the weather is warm enough and the average relative humidity remains high enough throughout the year for it to survive, from the southeast United States starting around Virginia, down to Argentina and Chile. Unlike true mosses, which do not flower, Spanish moss actually does flower in the spring with tiny pale-green flowers at the tips of the long-hanging stems which, if pollinated, eventually turn into small seed capsules that split open to release the seeds when they are ripe. These seeds have small parachutes similar to a dandelion seed that can be carried and dispersed by the wind. The seeds can then grab on to rough areas like tree bark or twigs and sprout to form new plants. The moss can also be spread by pieces of the plant that break off in the wind or from the weight of rain and can grow anywhere it ends up, provided that conditions are suitable. Birds, squirrels and other animals can also help spread Spanish moss during nesting activities. Contrary to popular belief, Spanish moss is not a parasite at all, but is instead what is called an epiphyte. This simply means that it is a plant that lives upon another plant, but does not directly derive nutrition from it. Spanish moss does not even have what you would think of as real roots. Instead, the only time it even has roots is when the seed first sprouts, and that is just to hold onto the tree until the plant is large enough to do its own thing. After that, the plant simply gets whatever water and nutrients it needs from the air or from nutrients that are dissolved in the water that passes over and is trapped by the small scales covering the plant. This does not mean that Spanish moss cannot harm a plant or tree, and it can in fact cause problems if conditions are right and it gets too thick. It can get thick enough under the right conditions to block sunlight getting to the tree’s lower branches and leaves and significantly reduce the ability of the tree to capture sunlight and produce food. And if it gets too thick and you get a lot of rain and/or wind, it can make an otherwise healthy tree branch fail and break off due to the weight of the wet moss or the added drag in the wind. Turf underneath a tree with very thick moss can also suffer and thin out due to the same lack of light. SPANISH MOSS There are several ways to control Spanish moss, and the best obviously is to remove it with a pole if you can reach it before it gets too bad. I have found that the teeth of pole saw on the end of the pole works great for hooking the moss and pulling it out of a tree. Spraying Spanish moss can also work if done correctly and with the proper chemical (usually some form of copper at the correct concentration), but be careful not to spray with a copper spray when a tree is flushing out fresh leaves in the spring or you can burn the young leaves. But, if you do spray or have your tree sprayed, don’t plan on seeing the results very fast. The moss will not start falling off until a few days or sometimes even a few weeks. Sometimes, the spray kills the moss and it just remains there until it finally starts to break down or the wind finally breaks it off. It is better to remove most of the larger clumps first and then spray the remaining moss more as a preventative. The removal of dead branches (called deadwooding) or very weak, declining or sparse interior branches on larger mature trees, especially live oaks, can be beneficial by improving overall tree health and by removing sites for the moss to hang from and spread. This can also significantly reduce the amount of “sail” a larger tree could have in the event of high winds or a hurricane. IRRIGATION/WATER SAVINGS TIP: CHECK FOR LEAKS WATER FAUCETS, HOSES AND CONNECTORS Check all faucets, hoses and connectors periodically for leaks and to make sure they are in good working order. Make sure faucets are closed when not in use. If you do find a leaky faucet, change the washer — after turning off the shutoff valve. AUTOMATIC LAWN AND SPRINKLING SYSTEMS Soft, wet spots on your lawn around the in-ground sprinkler could indicate a leak that is being absorbed into the ground. Contact your plumber or landscape maintenance specialist if repairs are needed. Reprinted with the permission of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. JULY 2008

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Villages - July 2008

The Villages- July 2008
Making Amazing Jewelry
Villages Offers Family Fun
Creating with Wood
Sports and Recreation
Villages Greenery
Brain Exercises
Go & Do Shopping & Dining Guide
Retail Briefs
Entertainment Briefs
Major Events

The Villages - July 2008