Various Native American tribes, including the Houma
and the Seminole, have used Spanish moss for a variety of purposes.
When the outer coating of the plant is cleaned away, tough, black,
curly inner fibers are exposed. These strong fibers were useful
in many ways. The fibers were woven into a course cloth that was
used for bedding, floor mats and horse blankets. The fibers could
be twisted into cordage that was used as rope. The ropes were
used to lash together the poles that composed the framework of
housing. The dried fibers were used to remove scum in cooking.
The process used to strip off the outer coating is still used
today. It consists of placing bundles of the green moss into a
shallow pond for six weeks, long enough for the outer coat to rot
away. Dry Spanish moss was used for fire arrows. The moss
was wrapped around the base of the shaft, lit on fire and then shot
from the bow.
The moss was also an ingredient
in the clay that was used to plaster
the insides of houses. Fresh Spanish moss was gathered, soaked in
water and stuffed into dugout canoes to keep them from drying out and
splitting. The Natchez tribe of Louisiana played a game that used
fist-size balls that were stuffed with Spanish moss. The plant
was boiled to make a tea for chills and fever.
There is evidence that Spanish moss was used over 3,000 years ago to
make fire-tempered pottery. Although the moss burned away during
the firing, the distinctive pattern of the fibers is still evident in
the clay pottery. Spanish moss is still used today by many Native
American tribes. For example, the Houma and the Koasati use Spanish
moss in the construction and decoration of small dolls.
The use of woven spanish moss
blankets and saddle pads was adopted by
Conferderate calvalry during the civil war. By the end of the war it
was the most commonly
issued blanket, which is probably not surprising
considering its abundance in the south. It was durable and waterproof,
did not chafe the horses, and allowed airflow and evaporation of
Several bird species such as Yellow-throated
warblers build their nests inside clumps of living Spanish moss,
while several others gather the moss for nesting material.
There is at least one species of spider that only occurs in Spanish
moss and several species of bats including the Seminole bat, roost in
clumps of Spanish moss.
The plant is used as fodder for animals.
Spanish moss is used in flower arrangements and as
decorations for handicrafts. It is said to be excellent mulch for
the garden. Spanish moss is grown commercially for use as packing
material and as a replacement for horsehair in upholstery and mattress
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Picked Spanish Moss