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Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is a flowering plant that grows upon larger trees, commonly the Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) or Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) in the southeastern United States.
The plant’s specific name usneoides means “resembling Usnea”, and it indeed closely resembles its namesake Usnea, also known as beard lichen, but in fact Spanish moss is not biologically related to either mosses or lichens. Instead, it is an angiosperm in the family Bromeliaceae (the bromeliads) that grows hanging from tree branches in full sun or partial shade. Formerly this plant has been placed in the genera Anoplophytum, Caraguata, and Renealmia.2 Its natural range is from Virginia Beach, Virginia in the southeastern United States to Argentina, growing wherever the climate is warm enough and has a relatively high average humidity. It has been introduced to similar locations around the world, including Hawaii and Australia.