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Nifty After Fifty
home : features : nifty after fifty
July 16, 2018

It's Nifty... After 50!

Dolly Fetcko
Contributing Writer

Curiosity Stirs Up Inquiries

New residents and visitors to Florida wonder about that Spanish moss that hangs from tree branches and utility wires. Some laundry lines or fence posts. Where did it originate? Is this plant without a root base native to our state of Florida? Did some errant explorer bring the strange moss to our southern regions?

Some people even call the growth “air plant”. Florists often enhance their selections by adding a smidgen to the base of a potted plant.

Traveling in the southern United States, this moss can be found elsewhere... In various swamps. Where crocodiles crouch in darkened waters. In flooded low-lands or creeks. From the underside of bridges...

The “Blue Bayou” of Louisiana is a favorite “hang-out” for this weird growth. In fact, its origin is rather an obscure mystery.

Who can ever forget the haunting musical strains of Linda Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou”?

This subtropical moss plant can be found here in the U.S. from coastal Virginia and adjoining eastern states. Even as far as the West Indies and South America’s Argentina. Reportedly, some plants have been sighted in far-off Hawaii.

Spanish moss is a flowering plant that grows on larger trees, notably, the southern live oak or bald cypress. Reference notes that “it absorbs nutrients from the air and rainfall”. It is graceful, eerie and beautiful. Greenish silver following a rain and sometimes grayish-silver. Spanish moss can grow strands measuring 20-feet long on tree branches or electrical wires.

There aren’t any discernible roots. The plant grows “in a chain-like fashion, much like a pendant”. There are tiny inconspicuous flowers. Seeds are carried by birds or the wind and stick to the limbs of trees.

Many legends involve Spanish moss. All being romantic. Many pertaining to everlasting or unrequited love. The stories are part of southern tradition or American Indian lore.

There is a sad story about an Indian princess and her warrior who lived on the banks of a southern bayou. The princess died unexpectedly. The warrior cut off her braids and hung them in the trees. He wept every day in sorrow. The braids turned gray over time. The braids blew through the trees. Clinging everywhere. Her lover died as well.

Listen. Hear his sobbing as the wind blows through the gray hair of everlasting love. Oh, such fanciful reflection!

Another version is this...

A Spanish soldier saw a beautiful Indian chief’s daughter bathing in a Florida pond. It was love at first sight. The Attakapas chieftain forbade the friendship and ordered them to stop meeting. Love-struck, the couple continued to meet in secret. The offended Indian father ordered the Spaniard tied high in an old oak tree. The Spaniard refused to relinquish his love. He was denied food and water. Finally, he died. His body was left in the huge tree as a warning to any other suitors.

Remarkably, his beard continued to grow and grow to signify “undying love”. And, the Indian maiden never married...

Legend says “when the Spanish moss (the beard) is gone, the Spaniard’s love will have died with it”.

Here’s Another Version ...

A very old legend whispered among southern folks about the lacey moss has a bittersweet climax. The story goes that a lovely princess and her groom were killed on their wedding day by a jealous suitor. United in death, they were buried together under the strong limbs of an oak tree.

According to custom of the time, the long hair of the bride was cut “with love”. The tresses were hung on the trees “for all the world to see”. The vibrant hair strands blew on the wind to other trees. Eventually, turning gray..... a warning or a curse??

Let each choose a concept. Or, disregard. Perhaps, to reassess...

The vibrancy of LOVE continues to entice, inspire and haunt. Even into modern times as noted in this trio of selections.

Gordon Lightfoot: singer-songwriter wrote a ballad about Spanish moss.

Brad Paisley: country music singer refers to Spanish moss in his hit song, “American Saturday Night”.

Dierks Bentley: county music singer, a reference in his, “Every Mile a Memory”.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The cascading view of Spanish moss reminds this writer of the closing of the day’s events. That the curtain will go up anew. Tomorrow. The key to tomorrow is ANTICIPATION.... Thank you, Dear Lord, for another day.

Copyright by Dolores Fetcko 2012

E-Mail: dollyfet@sbcglobal.net

Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, September 14, 2012
Article comment by: Maria Pickell

What a lovely article!

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