Have you ever heard the legends of the gray moss over taking the trees in South Georgia? A few years back my family went on a ghost tour in Savannah and heard that if there is a tree without Spanish Moss in the middle of a group of trees with Spanish Moss, then you know someone met their death by hanging on that tree, and the moss refused to grow on the insturment of death. Very eerie and spooky to hear at night riding on the top of a convertible hearse around the Savannah Squares. You do see a few trees without the moss. Shivers.
However I had never heard the legends of where Spanish Moss came from.
“There are two legends about the origins of Spanish moss. Both of the stories associate it with the Native Americans.
According to one story, a Native American woman died. Her distraught husband cut off her braids and hung them in a tree. They turned into Spanish moss and continue to this day to serve as a reminder of her life and death and his sorrow.
There is another story, more sinister, which not only accounts for the existence of Spanish moss but also for its being called Spanish. Again, there was a Native American woman. She had attracted the unwanted attention of an elderly conquistador.
After she had refused him for some time, he decided that he would take her against her will. She ran from him, but he pursued her. Finally, she climbed a tree, but, even as old as he was, the Spaniard climbed after her. She prayed to her gods to be rescued.
The branch on which the old man was standing broke. As he fell, his gray beard caught on other branches, breaking his neck.
Of course, the Spaniards came for his body, but the beard was so entangled in the branches that they had to cut it off and leave it there. And, until this very day, his beard hangs in the trees, reminding us to treat the Native American women (and, by extension, all women) with respect.” (Micheal Segers http://voices.yahoo.com/spanish-moss-facts-fiction-5069676.html)
I think Spanish Moss is beautiful. I really like the last legend, as a reminder, not only to men, but to everyone, including ourselves to be respectful.
When I see it I automatically think historic Savannah and the Georgia Coast. I can almost feel the salty humid air on my skin. My mind goes back to when my grandparents lived on Wilmington Island, GA. They had huge oak trees covered with Spanish Moss. I wonder if that is why we kept red bugs. We would love to play outside when we visited them. I remember as a child getting the finger nail polish treatment to suffocate the red bug. Man those “chiggers” itched. They did not like to get in the nicest of places or most convenient. Right now I am itching all over, just thinking about it. I have nail polish on standby just in case, because I had to take a couple of really close up macro shots.
They say it a good day when you learn something new, today must be a good day then. I learned several things I did not know about Spanish Moss. The Legends, and also that it is not a moss. It is in the Pineapple Family. Yeah, I see you scrunching your nose and saying huh? I did that too. I thought it was pretty amazing. It is edible too. Not that I would eat it. I do not want to eat red bugs, yuck. Here is part of the article that I snagged the information from and I will link to it too.
“Spanish Moss — which isn’t a moss — was used to stuff car seats and furniture not only in the United States but Europe as well. It was chemically stripped of its outer gray bark and use for that purpose up until about 1960. In 1939, for example, 10,000 tons of it was raked from trees in Florida and Louisiana. It is not a parasite but an epiphyte so it doesn’t harm the tree unless it grows so prolifically to shade the tree from sunlight. Natives used it to make bedding and emergency clothes when cloth was unavailable. The inner black core was spun and used as thread. A bundle of stripped moss also makes excellent tinder. One can find them easily in local woods.
Spanish Moss is in the Pineapple family. Oral extracts of Tillandsia usneoides in a few studies have reduced blood glucose in laboratory animals. The chemical responsible is 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaric acid. Called HMG it’s found in some diabetic supplements. Traditinally T. usneoides was brewed into a tea to treat fevers, chills, rheumatism and contraction pains of childbirth. Other claims for it include treatment of infant epilepsy, estrogen substitute, and antibacterial uses. In 2004 a Japanese company reported an extract strengthen and protects skin capillaries and slows skin cells decline. I don’t know if that is true but they took out a patent on it.” (http://www.eattheweeds.com/spanish-moss/)
Lastly, this made me laugh. There is a song about Spanish Moss sang by Gordon Lightfoot in the 1970s. That is probably why I had no idea, I was too busy playing outside and getting red bugs from Spanish Moss to know there was a love song about it.
Hope you enjoyed learning about Spanish Moss! Keep your fingers crossed (and your toes if they are extra long) that I do not need to pull out that finger nail polish later.
Have you had any experience with Spanish Moss? Crafting, cooking, camping, etc? What about Chigger cures? I would love to hear from you!
- Spanish Moss (villagecraftsmen.blogspot.com)
- Simple Succulents (lifearoundtheloop.wordpress.com)
- Keep Chiggers in Check (thedailysouth.southernliving.com)
- Program educates about edible, medicinal plants // VIDEO (newsherald.com)