Tillandsia usneoides

Tillandsia usneoides in the garden of my sister Holly in Sydney

The so-called Spanish moss is actually an epiphytic bromeliad, originating in Southern USA, Central and South America, and the West Indies! It was once used to stuff pillows and furniture. It has no roots, and the branching wiry stems bear fine leaves covered with silvery white scales. The strands will grow on tree branches and in time form thick masses, which can become quite lengthy and can be used to create interesting garden effects or even a living screen. Apparently, Spanish moss was used by rural people in the southern United States to fill pillows and mattresses, and has been used as stuffing for upholstery.

Tillandsia usneoides growing on a mask

It can also be trained around garden decorations as shown in the accompanying photograph, and it looks pretty growing on the branches of a silver birch tree. It can also be used to accompany other bromeliads or epiphytic orchids grown on a tree fern or in tree branches.

Tillandsia usneoides on a tree fern in the garden of Anne Prescott in Sydney

Insignificant pale flowers, with a musk fragrance, appear in the warmer months. The plant prefers light shade and a regular spray of water is beneficial, as is occasional liquid foliar feeding, but it is very tough. Propagation is by detaching a handful of the clump and draping it in a new position!