Symbiotic Relationship Between Spanish Moss & Trees

A close-up of spanish moss reaching down from the branches of an oak tree over a bog.
••• Caleb Harper/iStock/Getty Images

Symbiotic relationships involve an organism that lives on another and thereby derives some advantage, which may or may not be mutual. The relationship between Spanish moss and the trees it colonizes is an example of symbiosis.


A close-up of spanish moss and tree bark on trunks.
••• John Archer/iStock/Getty Images

Spanish moss is a type of epiphyte, a plant that lives on another. Epiphytes are distinct from parasitic plants in that they make their own food, so they do not harm the host tree; the host tree neither gains nor loses by their presence. Ecologists call this kind of relationship commensalism.


Spanish moss billowing down in a cypress tree forest.
••• Sally Llanes/iStock/Getty Images

The Spanish moss plant does not have any roots; it wraps itself around the branches of the tree and collects water through special scale-like structures on its leaves. Its favorite hosts are oak and cypress, although it sometimes grows on other trees as well.


An abundance of spanish moss covers a tree.
••• Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Like other green plants, Spanish moss is a photosynthesizer. Although it is not a parasite, it can upon occasion harm the host tree, especially if the plant grows to the point where it blocks light from reaching some of the tree's leaves or becomes so heavy the branch breaks beneath its weight. Occasional trimming should be sufficient to avert both of these problems.

Related Articles

Is Spanish Moss Poisonous?
Characteristics of Aquatic Plants
Five Types of Ecological Relationships
Facts About Symbiotic Relationships
Symbiotic Relationship of the Orchid and Tree
Scrub Oak Information
How to Find the Slope of a Nonlinear Line
Animals That Live in the Tropical Forest That Are Omnivores
Relationship of Mutualism Between a Mushroom & a Tree
Poplar Tree Identification
How to Find the Radius of a Cone
What Kind of Tree Has Cones?
How to Compare Vascular & Nonvascular Plants
How to Find The Slope of a Line Given Two Points
Types of Swamp Grass
How to Calculate CFM to MPH
What Plants Live in Rivers & Streams?
Test Your Knowledge on Middle School Science
How to Calculate the Diameter of a Circle From a Linear...