The FSM Theory
It is a
common belief that spanish moss kills trees but many studies however,
indicate that the plant is not parasitic but can sometimes damage
the host tree by over-shading the leaves, thus reducing photosynthesis,
or by weighing down and breaking the branches.
Here at FSM we have always found it curious that while we do
that spanish moss kill trees, the volume of moss on a healthy
oak tree does seem to be significantly more where branches are dead and
a dead tree always seem to have more moss than a live one.
What then is
the cause and effect? In the case of the healthy tree, did the moss
increase in sufficient volume to block the light resulting in the
branch dying? Why then one branch and not the entire tree?
Spanish Moss tend to favor trees that have high rates of foliar mineral
leaching -- Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), Potassium (K), Nitrogen (N)
and Phosphoprous (P) -- providing an abundant supply of nutrients to
the plant. For this reason the plant seems to show a preference of
growth on southern live oak and bald cypress because of these trees'
high rates of foliar leaching.
One day on a cloudy day, while sitting in my family room sipping
glass of wine, I witnessed a lightning strike of an oak tree in my back
say it was a frightening experience would be an
understatement... the content of my wine glass ended up 6 feet away,
about the same distance our cat, who was asleep on the back of the
sofa, leapt when the tree was hit. I saw smoke, leaves flying and a
split bark from top to bottom... it was scary indeed.
The tree, which was a healthy oak tree died and over the weeks and
months I noticed something; it was full of spanish moss. Significantly
more than was there originally. It was obvious that the moss did not
kill the tree and it was even more obvious that the propagation of the
moss increased after the tree was struck by lightning.
FSM theory: spanish moss grows in more abundance on dying trees
or branches because there are higher rates of foliar mineral leaching
of nutrients as the tree dies. This is only a theory. We highly
encourange a young bright college researcher to validate this theory as