This symposium on Spanish moss is offer-
ed to the public in answer to numerous re-
quests for information on the subject.
We wish to tender our thanks to those who
have contributed the signed articles which
make up the major contents of this bulletin.
May it serve to interest the curious and in-
struct those who are interested in it as a
Commissioner of Agriculture.
SPANISH MOSS got its name like many other things, inad-
vertantly. The Spanish were the first to make acquaintance
,ith it. Perhaps they used it to pack things with which they
hipped back to Spain. It is a native of America and not of
pain. Irish potatoes were found first in South America.
eanuts are a native of America, though there is a variety
nown as Spanish. Even America itself was not discovered
y Americus Vespucius. Spanish moss is just one of those
ruants of lexicography which got started wrong and has
ever corrected its ways, and doubtless never will.
Biologically, it is not a parasite, but feeds from the air.
Vhen it is seen on dead trees it was there before the tree
ied, and though dead itself, it will hang there for years. It
; never seen growing on some kinds of green trees. It is a
perennial of the family Bromeliaceae. It festoons the branch-
3 of trees in tropical and sub-tropical American forests,
eing conspicuous on liveoak, pine, gum, cypress, and many
rees in the forests of the states bordering the Gulf of Mex-
;o and along the rivers of the southern part of South Caro-
na and in South America along the rivers emptying into
ie Atlantic, as far south as Brazil.
It spreads by means of seed and by being blown from tree
) tree in fragments. Tiny green flowers appear at the base
f the awl-shaped leaves. They occur in May and June. The
)rmation of seed is slow, and it is not until the following
larch that they are dispersed. Each seed is covered with
delicate barbed hair, which enables it to float quite a dis-
ance in the winds and find lodgment in the bark of trees.
Nevertheless the usual method of propagation is by frag-
ients carried by winds and by birds. This accounts for the
o- f i i crli za m-.ih nn
curing lasts from four to six months. It is piled down an
watered while the non-fiber parts "rot down," leaving
dark hair-like fiber.
The person who makes gathering moss a business hE
long light poles with sharp hook-shaped blades on the enc
with which to cut it loose. Children are often used to dim
liveoaks and hook it down. The very tall cypress trees of ti
swamps cannot be robbed of their grey draperies, as the
boughs are out of the reach of man. In a few instances ti
value of the moss was considered of enough importance 1
be sold on timber lands just as one might sell a crop of fru
on the trees.
The fibers made from Spanish moss are used for a nun
ber of things, including upholstering, the most of it goi
into upholstering furniture, padding various articles, ta
ing the place in packing of excelsior, waste cotton, palm I
bers, kopak or cocoa fibers, straw, sea grass or tows. With,
Spanish moss is a real product, answering a real need ai
promising to furnish a commodity in permanent demand
Moss-bearing forests in Florida are very spotted ai
widely scattered. Cypress swamps and riversides are prolif
in moss production, but much of it is out of reach on t,
trees with no low limbs for climbing. Oak forests, even (
highlands, are often heavy moss producers. The scrub c
press timbered sections of the Everglades look "mossy," b
it is exceedingly difficult to get any kind of conveyan
through the woods to haul it out. Any one interested in I
eating a plant for handling moss would have to make a su
vey of the state to find the most promising moss-bearii
sections, and with the more favorable surroundings for t'
bringing of moss to the ginnery and of marketing the pr
By JUHN W. KABB
The value and grade of Spanish or southern moss as an
upholstery material depends largely upon thorough care in
electing the growing moss, upon its proper cure and prep-
ration for the market. While the supply is great, due to the
ipidity with which it replenishes itself, the loss in curing
id ginning is great and the finished product represents less
ian 12 per cent of the bulk or weight of the raw material.
The plant known variously as Spanish, or southern or
lorida moss, and from its appearance sometimes called "old
ian's beard," resembles a lichen and hangs in long festoons
'om the branches of trees. It is not a true moss at all but a
ber plant belonging to the pineapple family (Bromelia-
eae). The botanical name for it is Dendropogon usneoides.
nr novr 1N O vnars it hbor thp. scientific name of Tillandsiq
to the southernmost tip ot f'lorida and along the Gulf of
Mexico coast from Florida to Texas. Other species extend
southward in the Gulf region through Mexico into Central
America. It grows only in very moist localities and even in
those regions where it is abundant it is rarely found away
from swamps or water.
A rootless plant, it fastens itself to the bark of trees and
by means of specialized scale-like hairs takes its food from
air and rain. Spanish moss is an epiphyte, requiring the
support of other plants, but it is not a parasite, as often sup-
posed, for it takes no. nutriment from the sap of the tree
upon which it grows. The seeds lodge in cracks in the bark
of trees and germinate and as soon as the young shoots
reach a few inches in length, they break away from their
cradle and suspend themselves on any support to which
they fall or are blown.
In Florida the moss is gathered from the trees by means
of a long pole with a hook or double barb on one end. The
best time to gather the moss is in the late fall or winter
when it is toughest. It grows largely upon liveoaks but is
found on water oaks, hickories, cypress and gums and will
grow upon any tree, even dead ones, or telegraph wires. It
has been contended that it will grow better on dead trees
than upon live ones. Moss-gatherers and woodsmen have
observed, however, that after a tree is dead the moss on it
also will die eventually. This presumably is for lack of the
moisture exuded by the live trees, as the moss takes nothing
from the sustenance of the tree, although it frequently does
kill trees by becoming so thick upon them as to smother
While the different grades of moss are resultant largely
upon the length of time it is cured, the quality is dependent
to some extent upon the character of the green moss and
the species of trees from which it is taken. Cypress trees
are said to produce the highest quality, but it is more dif-
ficult to gather from them than from the other trees be-
cause of the height of the trunk and the fact that cypress
trees nearly always grow in water. It is almost impossible
for anyone not an expert on the subject to differentiate be-
tween cypress trees moss and that taken from oaks, gums,
When the moss is gathered, it usually is left under the
trees in small piles to be picked up by trucks or wagons. It
often is found in large quantities upon the ground, especial-
ly after a windstorm, and then is comparatively easy to col-
lect, but the fallen moss is not of the best quality if it re-
mains on the ground too long.
1 J CI.... ll.... - A".r'6UUU g YtcLtU",i LIM MIel
ods of gathering and treatment are somewhat differed
from those employed in Florida. A large part of the Louis
ana output is fallen moss, gathered from the bayous whei
it has dropped from the tall cypress trees, and the commc
practice of curing is to let it remain under water until tl.
bark rots off before drying and ginning it.
Because of the greater ease with which it is gathered ar
cured in Louisiana and its abundance there, the state h,
been able to produce most of the output. Another advantage
the industry has in Louisiana is that it was started their
shortly after the Civil War, whereas the marketing of mo,
has been an industry in Florida only about 25 years. Louis
ana has more than 50 ginneries and an average annual pri
duction of a value estimated at $750,000. Florida rani
second in production, with South Carolina third.
Those who gather the moss may undertake to cure
themselves or sell it directly to a dealer or ginner for cu:
ing. The curing process is of utmost importance, for it
upon this that the grade of the finished bale may ultimate]
depend. The common method of preparing is to wet it doxx
thoroughly by throwing water upon it, and pack it I
trenches or pits about four feet deep and four feet wid
This process is known to the trade as pitting. Several tor
of green moss are placed in a pit. After a few days, heat
generated in the moss and this moist heat rots the bar
and the leaves from the core. The chemical contents of tI
bark also serve to tan and toughen the hairy core and 1
color it black or a dark seal-brown.
of that time, and it is only after such a period of exposu
that it begins to become brittle or break up and decay. Wh
used in mattresses and in cushioning furniture, it is foul
much cleaner and more sanitary than the horse hair it i
sembles. When finally it does lose its resiliency in cushio
ing, it may be worked over and partially renewed and w
continue to give service.
Usually the higher the grade the darker the color. Bla
or very dark brown is preferred. A specially selected h,
produced in Florida corresponds to the famous "Black Jo
of Louisiana. These fine grades contain no particles of bai
leaves, or foreign matter whatever, and are much dark(
richer in color and glossier than poorer qualities. The pi
portion of first-class grades runs about 15 per cent of t
From Louisiana Conservation Review
Vol. I December, 1930 No. 3
SPANISH MOSS A FOREST PRODUCT
By V. H. SONDEREGGER, State Forester
Phe first comments to be made by the vast number of
rists who travel in the Gulf Coast region, particularly in
lisiana and Florida, are of the charming vistas framed
the massive spreading oak trees festooned and draped
;h long flowing strands of Spanish moss. The weird and
eath-like appearance of the Spanish moss appeals to all
o see this dense mass swinging in the breeze. To the na-
e the moss-draped areas mean very little and are a part
the scenery to which he is accustomed.
contraryy to all ideas of the layman, Spanish moss does
injure the tree, as it is an air plant, and derives its sus-
ance from the air, using the trees only for an anchor. As
breezes blow the moss back and forth, strands are brok-
and find new resting places, thus reproducing the moss
y prolifically. Scientifically, the moss is known as Til-
)panish moss occurs throughout the Louisiana swamps,
'er hardwood bottom regions, and in the piney woods that
adjacent to the Gulf Coast. It will be somewhat of a sur-
se when the statement is made that the Spanish moss
ustry is already producing between two and a half mil-
i to three million dollars per annum, and that this money
)aid to the pickers and gin operators.
'he Spanish moss industry is nearly as old as the history
Louisiana. In the early days the settlers or pioneers gath-
d the moss, cured, and ginned it by hand, making braids,
manufacturing from it bridles, saddle blankets and
se collars. In addition to this, they use the moss for pil-
s and bed mattresses. In the last twenty years, the repu-
ion of Spanish moss as a filler for mattresses, cushions
I pillows became known to the public, and due to its clean-
ss and cheapness it has gradually become more and more
demand, until at present the estimated value is in the
nity of three million dollars per annum.
Ipanish moss in its original state is a long gray stringy
nt that has a fine black hair in the center and a gray
etable coat surrounding it. The moss is picked green
m the trees, stacked in piles, and soaked in water, per-
ting a gradual rot of the outer coating. When the moss
tured it is a black color and resembles horse hair. The
cured moss is then ginned and the threads are separated.
The foreign material, such as branches, bark and other mat-
ter, is extracted. The moss is then baled in small bales sim-
ilarly to cotton, and sold to the various manufacturing
The Department of Conservation, through its Research
Department and the Division of Forestry, is now carrying
on a study of the moss industry, as it relates to Louisiana,
which is the largest producer of moss in the South. Although
the study is not complete, interesting factors have already
been obtained and are herein incorporated.
The greater portion of the swamp areas of Louisiana are
populated with both white and colored farmers. The white
p farmers and other citizens gather the moss during both the
warm season and winter months. The colored citizens, who
are in a great majority tenants on the plantations, spend
their idle periods gathering the moss.
A large per cent of the moss grows in the watered areas
of the State, and the height of moss picking season is usual-
ly during the fall and winter months, beginning in Novem-
ber and lasting until April. At this time, the citizens of the
area use boats to gather the moss and bring it to high
ground, where it is transferred to the farm, stacked in piles,
and hung along fences to be cured.
To the citizens of Louisiana, the Spanish moss industry
is a "lagniappe crop," or an extra revenue that Nature furn-
ishes in addition to the other resources. Investigation so
far has shown that the average moss picker picks five hun-
dred pounds of moss a day, and that a gin can work seventy-
eight thousand pounds of dry moss. Tentative figures show
that it takes one hundred and forty-four moss pickers to
keep a daily gin production of seventy-eight thousand
pounds cured moss going. The average labor employed at a
gin alone will vary from fifteen to thirty men, and the aver-
age wages paid vary from $1.50 to $2.00 per day; the gin
operates one hundred and fifty days a year.
Consequently, Spanish moss, a product of Nature and
one that grows very rapidly and produces large results, is
a very important auxiliary of the Forest Products Industry,
and of vast benefit to the residents throughout the coastal
area of Louisiana.
Instances have been cited by our investigator where a
great deal of ready cash is obtained by citizens who make
special efforts to collect moss whenever there is need for
ready cash. In checking up one family of five people living
in the hardwood bottoms in the moss district, the following
figures were obtained:
One hundred thousand pounds of green moss were s
this year, and in addition, twenty thousand pounds of cu
moss. The green moss was sold at 2'/2c a pound, and
cured moss at 3c per pound. However, the prices of m
sales depend upon the hauling distance and the local m
kets. The average prices on green moss for the whole
gion depend upon the four grades. Low grades yield 1:
per pound, next grade 2V2c per pound, next grade 2,4c
pound, and the next grade 3c per pound. The ginned m
has a variable sale price, depending upon supply and
mand. The average price recorded has been $9.17 per hi
To the tourist, Spanish moss has an esthetic value and
appreciated for the weird and mysterious aspect it gives
our swamps and hardwood regions; but to the citizen
Louisiana, Spanish moss is a veritable gold mine of the t
It is a savings bank, and always at hand to gather whi
ever he needs funds.
Spanish moss is now becoming well known, and the
mands are becoming greater each year. At this time, wYl
the farmers have lost their crops and suffered heavy los!
during the 1930 drouth, the moss industry is an import,
economic factor. A great many citizens are now gather
moss to earn the needed cash to pay their bills until the n(
crop is ready.
Modern methods are being developed, new machinery
stalled, and the moss industry is rapidly becoming a VE
important economic item in the industrial area of our f,
Another interesting fact is that Spanish moss is so pi
lific that there is very little danger of destroying the bE
Partial List of Spanish Moss Gins in Louisiana
DIVISION OF FORESTRY
DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION
New Orleans, Louisiana
Name of Company Address
Standard Moss Factory ------.-..... ......... Red Cross, I
Richard Wilhelom Moss Gin ..--....----..........---..--. Rosedale, I
J. I. Pinsonnat Moss Gin ...- --------------......... .... Livonia, I
Angelloz Moss Gin ........-.-....------.--....... --------- Maringouin, I
Schwing Moss Company, Inc. .-........------ Plaquemine, I
T, .T RIns.- Moss Comnanv Npw RnnRd.S T
,e B. Babin Moss Company --------.........--...... White Castle, La.
lousas Ginnery ---..-......-..---------................ Opelousas, La.
vens & Case ....---------------------....................... Plaquemine, La.
Saladino ..----..--------------.........--.....----............. Plaquemine, La.
ingeline Moss Manufacturing Co. -.. St. Martinsville, La.
ples Moss Gin Company .........--------............----...... Palmetto, La.
lisiana Moss Products Co., Inc. ........---.. Patterson, La.
P. Blanchard ............-........... ...----- ....... Plaquemine, La.
ison Moss Company -........----------.-........... Morgan City, La.
;h David & Company, 411 Decatur St. -- New Orleans, La.
scent City Moss Ginnery, 3201 Perdido St.
.....................................---- New Orleans, La.
ilman Moss & Cotton Felt Mfg. Co., 3101 Chartres St.
-------------.-...... --....-............ New Orleans, La.
'ins for cleaning moss are made by the Johnson Iron
rks, New Orleans, La., and by Henry Nadler, Plaque-
'he following companies are among the leading dealers
idling Southern moss:
)orgwardt & Ernst Co., Chicago, Ill.
'orfeich & Co., Morgan City, La.
:eo. Giles & Co., Ocala, Fla.
,ouis Kohlman, New Orleans, La.
xeo. D. Luce, New Orleans, La.
Phoenix Furniture Co., Charleston, N. C.
E. Schloss, Baton Rouge, La.
'eptime L. Theard, New Orleans, La.
forley Cypress Co., Morley, La.
(Signed) LYSTER H. DEWEY.
si' U 4
. . . . .....
'ANISH MOSS-A FOREST BY-PRODUCT
By G. H. LENTZ, Special Investigator
Louisiana Division of Forestry
ie southern forests, particularly the hardwood and
ess forests, present a very unique and picturesque ap-
ance due to the festoons of Tillandsia or Spanish moss
1h bedeck them. This moss uses the tree as a support,
it is not parasitic and derives no real nourishment from
tree itself; it is a true epiphyte. Dr. Schimper, in his
t-Geography published in Oxford in 1903, makes the
wing statement concerning Tillandsia:
This most remarkable of all epiphytes, often completely
ring the trees in tropical and sub-tropical America,
ists of shoots often far more than a meter in length,
as thread and with narrow grass-like leaves, and only
irly youth fixed to the surface of the supporting plant
teak roots that soon dry up. The plants of Tillandsia owe
r attachment to the fact that the basal parts of their
twine around the twigs of the host.-The dispersal of
plant takes less by seed than by vegetative means,
ugh the transport of severed shoots, by the agency of
I or of birds."
n the patriarchal cypress these festoons of moss seem
e the heaviest, and, in some cases, are so dense that very
2 of the foliage of the tree can be seen. But this moss
occurs in great quantities on the hardwoods as well,
especially on the gums, live and water oaks, and pecans.
side from its aesthetic value the moss is of importance
to the role it plays as a harbinger of the cotton boll
vil, and in that it provides a merchantable product. The
on planters would well be rid of the moss, for here many
he weevils spend the winter, and cotton fields lying ad-
nt to moss-draped timber are more heavily infested
i the weevil. In a study carried on in southern Louisiana
;he Bureau of Entomology of the U. S. Department of
culture, it was found that 365 weevils, on an average
Lered in a ton of moss. As yet no means of combating
been obtained irom tMe owner. ln<
on by squatters, both white and r
pation, while for others the incon
has been only a side line.
The easiest method of collection:
to follow behind a logging opera
from the branches and tops that I
become a nuisance to the woods f
so anxious to get the moss from a
hardly wait for the sawyers to dr
eration in central Louisiana the
and cutting the timber has gran
rights in exchange for half of the
to do all of the gathering and curi
an old negro was granted the mo
entire family helping him gather
from the fallen tops. An old delal
cient mule, equally delapidated, n
ment. Three grown folks and thr
moss, and with the aid of the m
about a ton a day, the haul beir
cost in time or labor seldom seem
In the "Cajun" country, or the
River, where the Acadian exiles f
their abode prior to the Revoluti
woodsmen, fishermen, and trappe:
ing the closed season on hunting ai
employment is not at hand. The (
nals. lakes, rivers and bayous, ai
K~erLVU, 0. Lill
ne from the
g moss is fl
tion and pu
lave been le
*op it. On o1
ted the picl
ng. In this I
ss rights, a
nade up his
ule and wa
ig about a
s to enter i
rom Nova 1
rs often col]
country is a
or. Properly cured, the
"f W% A. T T e4lU r T 'IIr Wr T A t.r XL A T 1." rVIrL T r 4%rT
Special Agent FRANCIS E. SIMMONS
USES OR MARKETS FOR SOUTHERN MOSS
southern (Spanish) moss, Dendropogon usnecides, is
etable hair produced in the southeastern part of th(
ted States and widely used as a filler or stuffing in up
Ifn-?yt Plinfi +,rn 'Ph ] 'na4- rr ,o _- -i -a Q ;rl +v
loss-producing areas, traac
on in furniture upholsterii
to the National Associatic
- OO= XT 1i/r'.* '.* -Dh-,1.
nance of popular-priced furniture cotton linters or waste
comprise about three-fourths of the total quantity of up-
holstered furniture fillers.
The potential consumers of Southern moss are the indus-
tries producing upholstered furniture and other articles
listed above as requiring moss. Names and addresses of
such concerns can be secured from general trade directories
as Thomas' Register of American Manufacturers or Mac-
Rae's Blue Book and Hendricks Commercial Register.
SUBSTITUTE OR COMPETITIVE MATERIALS
Southern moss has a number of competitive materials or
substitutes, depending in importance on the use to be serv-
~-~~~.-~YI~ ~c~-~f':~.-- ,,~~~,,,,,,,,,
comes from African palm fiber or crin vegetal on a
basis and from high-grade long curled animal hair on
ity. Cotton linters and waste, while of tremendous im
ance in furniture upholstery, serve a somewhat diffi
purpose than does moss, dealers in the latter material
OCCURRENCE AND OUTPUT
Southern moss, Dendropogon usneoides, is not a true
but a plant belonging to the pineapple family, an epir
or non-parasitic growth found on trees in moist re;
from the Dismal swamp of Virginia along the coast to
ida and westward to Louisiana and Texas, according tb
Office of Fiber Plants, U. S. Department of Agricul
Other species extend southward in the Gulf region thr
Mexico to Central America. It is rarely found away
swamps or open water. Usnea barbata, a tree lichen f
in California and Oregon, is somewhat similar but too b:
for upholstery filler and like uses of Southern moss.
Despite its range of occurrence, Southern moss ei
commercial channels almost entirely from the state
Louisiana and Florida. There are no official figures on c
tity of moss produced, and a complete record of such v
be difficult to secure because of the small-scale and sca
ed production prevailing within the industry. The bie
Census of Manufacturers, covering about a dozen of
larger ginners, shows an output valued at $315,269 in I
$1,500,529 in 1929, $865,572 in 1927 and $1,068,564 in 1
Moss production was estimated at 18,800,000 poun(
1926 and 11,200,000 pounds in 1928, according to the
Tariff Commission.* Louisiana had an average of aboi
gins in operation during the three-year period 1931-33
turned out around 10,000,000 pounds of finished mos,
nually valued at approximately $500,000, it is estimate
one of the leading producers of that state. A promi
Florida producer states: "Two ginners in Florida and a
five in Louisiana account for 75 per cent of the total i
output, with the rest being distributed among abou
qmnllpr innprrs- "
P innPr Pnrinrrn
loss when crops or hunting and fishing are good. "Green
ioss," taken direct from trees, is said to constitute the bulk
F the supply, but dead moss collected off the ground or
rom swamps is just as satisfactory and may in fact be in
n advanced stage of curing. The policy of ginners may
ary, but usually they are willing to buy dry cured moss in
uantities ranging from one bale upward. Their price from
931-33 for this material was reported variously between
and 3 cents a pound.
The process of curing which is necessary before the
green" moss is ready for ginning consists of removing the
uter bark, thereby baring the hair-like material of com-
ierce. Piled in heaps 4 or 5 feet high, the moss is thor-
ughly wetted and then allowed to ferment for 3 or 4
reeks. At that time the pile is turned over, again wetted
nd left for a similar period. According to one authority,
the longer the moss remains in the pile to rot, the blacker
nd better the resulting fiber. Moss that has lain four
reeks is marketable, but only of second grade . ."
In the course of this curing process a reduction of from
5-80 per cent of the green weight occurs, and when the
ry cured moss is ginned the weight is again cut in half.
n other words, 1000 pounds of green moss would yield about
50 pounds of dry cured moss, which in turn would yield
25 pounds of ginned moss. The baled weight of ginned
loss, incidentally, ranges from 125 to 150 pounds.
Moss gins are simply constructed, consisting essentially
f a toothed cylinder revolving within a toothed concave
artially inclosing the drum. This loosens the moss, further
leans it, and generally prepares it for sorting, after which
t is graded and baled for the trade. A similar gin is used
y upholsterers to loosen the moss before it is put in place
n a piece of furniture or other article.
GRADES AND PRICES
Grades of Southern moss are not standardized but are
airly uniform and simple. They depend mainly upon the
are taken in curing and in ginning. According to their cur-
ng, mosses may be known as light brown, dark brown or
nixed, and black, and these may be single or double ginned.
readingg follows the color classifications; light brown being
equivalent to grade XX, dark brown or mixed to grade XXX,
,-A 1 ,ln1l-, 4-- V "VV CV 1n--r>.+T hn;yr> rf I-i rf ;m1 +r-o y-1-
Llbrary Boreao Cat No. 1137