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Spanish Moss... whats the coldest temps you have seen it survive?


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#1 Tennesseestorm

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 01:10 AM

I know that there are, because we have alot of people here from Florida, southeast coast and Gulf coast. My question is what are some of the lowest temperatures you have seen Spanish Moss survive in? (the squiggly stuff that hangs from the Oaks and Cypress trees).....

I just need to verify, because this is my first winter that I have had Spanish moss on my Oak tree that I bought from my cousins house in Florida. I know its been pretty cold along the Gulf and southeast coast, where Spanish moss is everywhere and even know that parts of central Florida have been below 20° before in years past (like they will be in some areas this week) and the moss seems to have survived there, but I am wondering if it dies out some and regrows in the spring, or if it survives as low as 0° or something.

We are supposed to be the coldest of the season so far on Wednesday morning, with lows forecasted as low as 16°! We have not yet been below 23° this winter and I am wondering if I should kiss my Spanish Moss good-bye. I would hate for it to perish, because my mom really enjoys it so.

Thanks.


#2 Ray

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Posted 01 January 2008 - 04:46 AM

Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is a Bromeliad (Bromeliaceae - the Pineapple Family) and most people will tell you that a Bromeliad will not survive at freezing temperatures and below.  However, that is a false assumption on their part.  While this is true for the most part, it is not true for Spainish Moss.  The generally accepted minimum temperature for Spainish Moss is around 22 F.  This can also be misleading because it does not take into consideration the duration of the temperature.  While it can endure temperatures in the low twenties and even below that, it may not survive if these temperatures persist for more than a few hours.  I have seen reports of people that, supposedly have had it survive temperature around 5 degrees, but I am very skeptical of such reports.  It has survived temperatures as low as 17 degrees at my Alabama location, but for a short duration and for very widely spaced events.


Spainish Moss is endemic as far north as Montgomery, Alabama, where it often sees below freezing temperatures but only for a few hours.  I don't know where in Tennessee you are located but I know of people that have sucessfully grown Spainish Moss in Nashville and Chattanooga for the last 2 or 3 years.  It will probably not flourish in your area but it may very well survive.  It is, of course, everywhere at my Panama City Beach location and I, along with others, have sucessfully grown it for several years at my North central Alabama location where it is completely hardy.  One of the main limiting factors for growing it in areas where it does not flourish and reproduce as fast as it does in the coastal plain, is birds.  Birds like to use it for their nests and will carry it off to do so.  If it does not reproduce faster, they simply deprive you of keeping it.

Keep in mind that atmospheric moisture alone will not support growth and it does not tolerate drought.  If your area is in the severe drought that is plaguing a lot of the South, as in my Alabama location, you must mist it often, especially during the hot summer.  

Again, the duration of the temperature may be more of a factor in your ability to grow this plant, than the actual minimum you encounter.  This is one of the reasons that USDA zones are not a reliable indicator for growing marginal plants as they do not take this factor into consideration.  If I had to make a guess, I would say that Spainish Moss would not be long-term outside of the lower south and coastal south.  That is not to say that you won't have some success with it in the middle south where you live, but it may only be short-term.  Several people that I know, push the envelope and have surprising results.  Perhaps you will too.
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#3 Tennesseestorm

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Posted 02 January 2008 - 12:44 AM

Thanks Ray.  I actually live in northeast Tennessee.  I am about 10 miles south of the Tennessee-Virginia state line and about 30 miles west of the North Carolina state line.  We are at 1500 ft. here at my house.  If it survives this latest cold snap, it will suprise me... this will be the coldest weather we have had since I acquired the moss back in May of 2007.  It did really well this summer of course... still looking very healthy- for at least a couple of nights anyway.  I have a good deal of it draped in my Willow Oak and some in my Bald Cypress trees.  So far, it has endured our coldest lows in the lower 20s for about 3 different mornings now.  

The main reason I was confused is because northern Florida and parts of the southeast coast can often drop to the teens in the winter during an artic outbreak.  Wednesday night is a prime example, as I have seen where parts of Florida is forecasted to drop as cold as the mid 10s (one location had a forecasted low of 14°, just north of Gainesville), but I am sure that the temps rebound much faster in the day than they do here, so the duration in the teens may not be as long-lived as they are here on those mornings this week.  I have seen parts of eastern VA and eastern NC drop well into the teens during outbreaks and the moss is in high abudance there, so I was wondering.  

We will not even rebound above 30° tomorrow according to the forecasters, but back to the 60s about 5-6 days from now.  If it does not survive, its not a big deal (even though I will miss it) ... its just a reminder to me that it was not meant to be here.   icon_cry.gif  The wind will probably blow it away tonight... its very windy!  

I do have a small amount here in my room that I have wrapped around the wiring of a hanging basket... I mist it with purified water every couple of days and it seems to be doing OK for now.  

Thanks again.

Edited by Tennesseestorm, 02 January 2008 - 12:47 AM.


#4 Tennesseestorm

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 01:02 AM

To update, my Spanish Moss has endured a couple of artic outbreaks with little fanfare.  We had two mornings this month when the temp dropped to a bone chilling 13° and on the morning of the 25th, the temperature dropped to a frigid 11°, which is the coldest we have seen so far this season.  So far, so good.  It came a couple of rains since that first hard freeze and the moss appeared undamaged.  It still had the nice green look to it when it was wet.  

Like you said, I think it also has to do with the duration of the cold temperatures.  When we get that cold, it does not stay that cold that long, or all day.  On one of those 13° low temp days, the high that day was a lousy 24°, which I thought would kill the moss for sure, but it did not, unless it is a "slow" death and it will perish later on.  Today after the 11°, it warmed into the 40s, so it did not stay bone chilling all day, but it was still below average.  

Its true, we had a dreadful drought in summer of 2007.  I misted it with non-chlorinated water to keep it moistened.  I also brought some into the house and placed on a branch a south facing window.... I mist it nightly and its doing fine.  I am wondering though about the birds taking it.  I am sure they will, but wherever they take it to, wont it survive in the trees they take it to (unless it gets too cold), or will it die once they get ahold if it and make a nest of it?  I would think this would only spread it around the area?  

Like you said, it may be short term here, but I will enjoy it as long as I can.  I had found a link somewhere of someone here in Tennessee (somewhere in north middle TN) that has had a great deal of Spanish Moss on some Southern Like Oaks that they have had since 1995... its my understanding that part of TN they are located in gets colder than it does here.  

I guess time will tell.  Thanks again!


QUOTE (Ray @ Jan 1 2008, 4:46 am) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is a Bromeliad (Bromeliaceae - the Pineapple Family) and most people will tell you that a Bromeliad will not survive at freezing temperatures and below.  However, that is a false assumption on their part.  While this is true for the most part, it is not true for Spainish Moss.  The generally accepted minimum temperature for Spainish Moss is around 22 F.  This can also be misleading because it does not take into consideration the duration of the temperature.  While it can endure temperatures in the low twenties and even below that, it may not survive if these temperatures persist for more than a few hours.  I have seen reports of people that, supposedly have had it survive temperature around 5 degrees, but I am very skeptical of such reports.  It has survived temperatures as low as 17 degrees at my Alabama location, but for a short duration and for very widely spaced events.


Spainish Moss is endemic as far north as Montgomery, Alabama, where it often sees below freezing temperatures but only for a few hours.  I don't know where in Tennessee you are located but I know of people that have sucessfully grown Spainish Moss in Nashville and Chattanooga for the last 2 or 3 years.  It will probably not flourish in your area but it may very well survive.  It is, of course, everywhere at my Panama City Beach location and I, along with others, have sucessfully grown it for several years at my North central Alabama location where it is completely hardy.  One of the main limiting factors for growing it in areas where it does not flourish and reproduce as fast as it does in the coastal plain, is birds.  Birds like to use it for their nests and will carry it off to do so.  If it does not reproduce faster, they simply deprive you of keeping it.

Keep in mind that atmospheric moisture alone will not support growth and it does not tolerate drought.  If your area is in the severe drought that is plaguing a lot of the South, as in my Alabama location, you must mist it often, especially during the hot summer.  

Again, the duration of the temperature may be more of a factor in your ability to grow this plant, than the actual minimum you encounter.  This is one of the reasons that USDA zones are not a reliable indicator for growing marginal plants as they do not take this factor into consideration.  If I had to make a guess, I would say that Spainish Moss would not be long-term outside of the lower south and coastal south.  That is not to say that you won't have some success with it in the middle south where you live, but it may only be short-term.  Several people that I know, push the envelope and have surprising results.  Perhaps you will too.



#5 Ray

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 01:42 AM

The moss would probably survive in the bird nest if it would survive at all.  I have found several nests in my area where the moss was growing.  Robins are the main offenders, (if we can use that definition) and, if the nest is local, you may see it later on.  I have one that is still inside one of the large leafs of a Sabal palmetto.  I didn't know it was there until I saw the moss hanging over the edge of the leaf at the end of the season.

Good luck, let me know how it goes.
There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

#6 snowflurry18

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 02:54 AM

I know spanish moss can survive temperatures as low as 14 or 15, because my family lived for awhile in southeast Georgia, and I saw it live after temperatures that cold.

Edited by snowflurry18, 26 January 2008 - 02:55 AM.


#7 Chuck Biddinger

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 06:39 PM

QUOTE (snowflurry18 @ Jan 26 2008, 1:54 am) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I know spanish moss can survive temperatures as low as 14 or 15, because my family lived for awhile in southeast Georgia, and I saw it live after temperatures that cold.



Yes, but that was for one or two nights. Will it survive in NE Tennessee? I would not think so.
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#8 Tennesseestorm

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 08:52 PM

QUOTE (Chuck Biddinger @ Jan 26 2008, 6:39 pm) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Yes, but that was for one or two nights. Will it survive in NE Tennessee? I would not think so.


Well, thats the question I asked myself....  We will see I guess.  

Well, 14°-15° lows is not the norm here either... our coldest average January low is 25°, so those teens and single digits are not that often and does not stay that cold that long thankfully.  So far so good... the coldest AMs we have had were one 11° morning and a couple of 13° mornings... no damage yet.  Someone on another forum said it dropped to 3° @ their house in north central TN and it survived.... he has had it since 1996.  

I would imagine that this far north, it would be OK in some areas (micro climates), which I seem to be in.  I think one of the keys will be for me to occasionally "mist" it with water during the dry spells in the winter, when the temps are supportive.

Edited by Tennesseestorm, 26 January 2008 - 08:55 PM.


#9 Chuck Biddinger

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 10:51 PM

QUOTE (Tennesseestorm @ Jan 26 2008, 7:52 pm) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Well, thats the question I asked myself.... We will see I guess.


Good luck, I hope it works for you.
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#10 Tennesseestorm

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Posted 26 January 2008 - 11:20 PM

Thanks Chuck.... I will just keep misting with water and hope for the best... I think if it will survive through January, I may be OK, but we have been known to get some of our coldest temps in Febraury.  Winter of 2006-07, our coldest morning came in February when the mercury dropped to a bone-biting 8°!  

However, if it does not survive, no big deal... I have enjoyed it while it has lasted.... if it does not survive here, it proves it was not meant to grow here and I should have not been so foolish... lol.  

QUOTE (Chuck Biddinger @ Jan 26 2008, 10:51 pm) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Good luck, I hope it works for you.

Edited by Tennesseestorm, 26 January 2008 - 11:21 PM.


#11 Chuck Biddinger

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 09:15 AM

QUOTE (Tennesseestorm @ Jan 26 2008, 10:20 pm) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
If it does not survive here, it proves it was not meant to grow here and I should have not been so foolish... lol.



Not foolish and you had fun with it either way. By the way, moss is a gray color, correct? How do you know if it dies? icon_rolleyes.gif
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#12 David in SW Blount

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 12:21 PM

There's a wetlands area along I-65 North of Montgomery that's full of it.  That area has certainly experienced severe cold during its history.  I think Montgomery has even been below zero.  What did they get down to in January 1985?

#13 David in SW Blount

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 02:49 PM

Cold weather facts about Montgomery from Birmingham NWS:

QUOTE
Montgomery

Average date of first freeze - Nov 17th

Earliest freezing temperature - Oct 20, 1989

Latest first freeze - Jan 31, 1932

Average date of last freeze - Mar 8th

Earliest last Spring freeze - Dec 24, 1949

Latest freezing temperature - Apr 13, 1940

Coldest mean monthly temperature - 36.0 Jan 1977

Coldest Temperature ever: -5 F on February 13, 1899

Coldest Maximum temperature 18 F on January 9, 1886


SO certainly Spanish Moss can take some pretty harsh weather, although the extreme temps on this list occurred during the 1800's.

#14 Tennesseestorm

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 03:00 PM

I just go by the color when its wet.... when its wet, its green.  The moss I have is like a light gray color when its dry... I have some that was shipped to me that was dead and its dark gray/brown.  

QUOTE (Chuck Biddinger @ Jan 27 2008, 9:15 am) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
By the way, moss is a gray color, correct? How do you know if it dies? icon_rolleyes.gif



#15 Tennesseestorm

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 03:04 PM

Thats one thing I was always wondering, because back in the mid 1980s, there was some really harsh weather... especially in January of 1985.  I think that parts of north Florida dropped below zero.  Obviously it survived because its still there.  I do not think it could reproduce so fast that it would be everywhere now that was below 0° so many years ago??  Tallahassee dropped to -2° and I am sure that there were some rural areas that were -10°.    

I am not saying that our below zero temps are over forever, but it has not been below zero here since 1996 and that was at the airport....  here at my house, we have not been below zero in over 14 years.  

QUOTE (David in SW Blount @ Jan 27 2008, 2:49 pm) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
SO certainly Spanish Moss can take some pretty harsh weather, although the extreme temps on this list occurred during the 1800's.

Edited by Tennesseestorm, 27 January 2008 - 03:06 PM.


#16 Ray

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 04:40 PM

David in SW Blount said:


QUOTE
SO certainly Spanish Moss can take some pretty harsh weather, although the extreme temps on this list occurred during the 1800's.


Yes, having lived in Montgomery at one time, I can attest to the fact that it does get cold sometimes.  As I have stressed before, the minimum temperature that Spainish Moss, or any other cold sensitive plant can endure, is not the only limiting factor governing it's survival.  In the case of Spainish Moss, as it is in other plants, the length of the time spent at a certain temperature, along with how quickly the temperature rises above freezing afterwards, is probably more important.  How often it would be asked to endure these conditions would also enter into the equation.  Of course, humidity would also be a factor in the case of Spainish Moss.

The differences in these conditions between the deep south and the middle to upper south, can be tremendous in the propgation of some plants.  Spainish Moss doesn't seem to be especially sensitive to to a very cold minimum temperature, but I suspect that the other conditions set out above would be the limiting factor in it's range of growth.  As David knows, some of these same conditions are the limiting factors in growing palms and other cold sensitive plants.  As I am fond of saying when having these discussions, lattitude more often than not, trumps attitude.  This means that, you may have the proper attitude for growing a certain plant, that is, you may offer it protection from the cold and otherwise assist it in surviving, but after you have done your best, the lattitude you live in will more often than not, be the determining factor in it's survival.  Having said that, I am for pushing the envelope where possible, so what T-Storm is doing is admirable and he may very well have success.

On another post, I related as to how birds were often responsible for making it difficult for one to keep Spainish Moss, as they love it for their nests.  I am attaching a picture of the Robin's nest in one of my large Sabal palmetto palms.  Note how the moss has grown out of the nest after the Robin vacated it last summer.


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#17 David in SW Blount

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 09:32 PM

Ray is that one of your Mt. Olive palms or Florida palms?   icon_biggrin.gif

#18 snowflurry18

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Posted 28 January 2008 - 12:47 AM

QUOTE (Chuck Biddinger @ Jan 26 2008, 6:39 pm) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Yes, but that was for one or two nights. Will it survive in NE Tennessee? I would not think so.


Very true; it certainly gets much colder and for more nights each winter in Tennessee than southeastern Georgia.   I only related my past experiences.

#19 Ray

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Posted 28 January 2008 - 01:25 AM

QUOTE (David in SW Blount @ Jan 27 2008, 9:32 pm) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Ray is that one of your Mt. Olive palms or Florida palms?   icon_biggrin.gif



That one is in Mt. Olive David.

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#20 Tennesseestorm

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Posted 29 January 2008 - 09:08 PM

Thats neat!  Looks like it survives on!  

Does Spanish Moss normally look the same in the winter as it does in the summer?  SOME of mine looks a little whiter/lighter in color when wet than it did in the summer, but some is still very green when wet.  Some could be dying out?

Edited by Tennesseestorm, 29 January 2008 - 09:09 PM.


#21 Ray

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 02:46 AM

You were correct about what you said before.  It's gray in color when dry (actually it can have a slight greenish color, especially when it is growing well) but will be green when wet.  If you want to verify that it is healthy, watch for the little blooms on it this spring.
There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

#22 Tennesseestorm

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Posted 30 January 2008 - 07:05 PM

QUOTE (Ray @ Jan 30 2008, 2:46 am) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
You were correct about what you said before.  It's gray in color when dry (actually it can have a slight greenish color, especially when it is growing well) but will be green when wet.  If you want to verify that it is healthy, watch for the little blooms on it this spring.


Yes, back in the summer, when it was wet, it was green as grass.  Even now, most is green when wet, but now I am notice that about 20% of it is actually white when its wet.  I bet its slowly perishing.   icon_sad.gif

The moss I have kept inside is the same way, despite watering it daily.

Edited by Tennesseestorm, 30 January 2008 - 07:15 PM.


#23 Tennesseestorm

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Posted 18 March 2008 - 11:17 PM

Well Ray, I am anticipating the blooms very soon, because I am getting concerned now.  Only about 30% of it is now showing a green color when wet.   icon_neutral.gif   Some of it is like a white color now when wet.  I think some of it was not as healthy when I even got it.  I will see how it goes this spring and I will weed out whats dead and hope it tries to establish itself this summer.  The coldest we got down to was 12° on a couple of mornings, but when I really noticed a gloomy look to it was a couple of weeks after we had those highs in the 20s for a day.  It was very bitter cold for this far south.  I should have known it would not survive this far north, but I still find it strange that one person I know in Crossville area has had Spanish Moss since 1996 and its still living... it gets even colder there, unless he in a micro-climate or something.  Then again, mine may end up being OK.  Time will tell.  

QUOTE (Ray @ Jan 30 2008, 3:46 am) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
If you want to verify that it is healthy, watch for the little blooms on it this spring.

Edited by Tennesseestorm, 18 March 2008 - 11:19 PM.


#24 Tennesseestorm

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Posted 18 April 2008 - 10:43 PM

Boy, you werent joking... the moss has been leaving in droves here over the past 3-4 weeks.  I guess its in nests.  Worst part is they are taking my "healthy" moss and leaving behind the old dried up moss that was shipped 1/2 dead last summer.  icon_sad.gif  

Oh well.  

One thing I noticed is that the SM I had in my Bald Cypress tree survived pretty well and much better than the SM I had in my Willow Oak.  I guess it was a littler warmer/moister down where it was on that tree.  

As of now, even on the "still living moss" still no signs of gorwth/blooms.  Should have done something by now?  I am probably going to let it do whatever and not fret over it.  I do not think it will make it here.  Winters are too cold and dry.  


QUOTE (Ray @ Jan 1 2008, 5:46 am) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
One of the main limiting factors for growing it in areas where it does not flourish and reproduce as fast as it does in the coastal plain, is birds.  Birds like to use it for their nests and will carry it off to do so.  If it does not reproduce faster, they simply deprive you of keeping it.

Edited by Tennesseestorm, 18 April 2008 - 10:44 PM.





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