Spanish Moss, Ball Moss, and Lichens – Harmless Epiphytes

Figure 2. Ball moss may grow on a dying tree, but it is not the cause of a tree's decline. Epiphytes are “air” plants that survive on moisture and nutrients in the atmosphere. Several epiphytic plants, like Spanish moss, ball moss, and lichen, are common to the Florida landscape and southeast United States. People unfamiliar with epiphytes sometimes worry that they may cause injuries to the plants they perch in. Epiphytes do attach themselves to plants, but they do not harm the plants, unlike mistletoe, a plant parasite. Without soil as a source of nutrients, epiphytic plants have evolved the capacity to obtain minerals dissolved in water that flows across leaves and down branches. This 3-page fact sheet was written by Joe Sewards and Sydney Park Brown, and published by the UF Department of Environmental Horticulture, September 2013.