Sunday, August 14, 2011

Backyard Bushcraft - Ball Moss - The Natural Air Quality Gauge

Ball moss, Tillandsia_recurvata, is not a moss but is actually a type of plant that is often misunderstood and as a result is blamed for having a damaging effect on trees. Knowing some simple facts about ball moss will help you understand this plant and how it survives.

Simple Facts about Ball Moss

1. Ball moss does not derive its nutrients from its host but receives it nutrients directly from the atmosphere surrounding it. Unlike mistletoe, which is a parasite, ball moss uses the host only as a support mechanism.

2. Ball moss is actually an epiphyte and is sometimes referred to as an “air plant”. It can be found attached not only on dead or dying tree limbs but it is also found on fence posts, wooden fences and even power lines.

3. Ball moss actually uses photosynthesis (sunlight) and moisture in the air in order to derive the necessary nutrients to survive.

4. Tree branches covered in ball moss actually die from a lack of sunlight and not from the ball moss. Ball moss can range in size from about the size of a golf ball to as large as a soccer ball.

5. Ball moss which forms on your trees is actually an indicator that your trees may be stressed and not doing very well for a wide variety of other reasons. It is also an important indicator of overall air quality since it derives most of its nutrients from the same air which we breathe.

The only real harm that ball moss generally causes is that it may become a very unattractive and unsightly addition to the trees in your yard.

One important use of ball moss, since it is a true plant, is that it can be used as a food source for animals and livestock. Although harvesting it involves a labor-intensive process, it can usually be brushed from its “perch” quite easily by hand or with a stick or similar object. This may provide a vital food source for animals during periods of extended drought and when other food sources such as grass may be scarce or non-existent. This is especially important since ball moss does well in growing conditions where there are low levels of moisture.

Got air quality indicator?

Staying above the water line!


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