En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - What are the grey-green plants on oak trees in San Marcos, TX?

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Saturday - March 12, 2011

From: San Marcos, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: What are the grey-green plants on oak trees in San Marcos, TX?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

The oak trees in the neighborhood in San Marcos, TX, are covered with clumps, or balls, of gray/green fluffy-looking plants. they remind me of bromeliads. You can pull and knock them off; after wind and rain, they fall to the ground. Right now, there are little or no buds on the trees, especially the limbs that have lots of these 'bromeliads' - the branches look dead. Are these plants parasites? Are they killing the oak trees?

ANSWER:

From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer, we believe that what you are seeing is Tillandsia recurvata (Small ball moss). This is an epiphyte or "air plant," not a parasite. It draws no nutrition from the tree, just uses it as a place to live. They are often seen on oaks, and are native to Texas and a few other states. Sometimes people think they are killing the oaks because they tend to grow on interior, old limbs, where they can get more shade. Here are some pictures and information from the University of Texas Image Archive of Central Texas Plants. They can be unsightly but do no harm. We have heard of people using them to make Christmas decorations.

You were correct in saying they look like bromeliads; they are, in fact, members of the bromeliad family.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Tillandsia recurvata


Tillandsia recurvata

 

 


 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Weak stems on asters and ironweed from Woodbridge ON
June 06, 2012 - My question is in regards to plants flopping over. My smooth asters and ironweeds never seem to have strong stems. Is because the soil is too fertile or maybe too shallow?
view the full question and answer

Native flowers from bulbs from Denton TX
March 26, 2014 - I am slowly converting my landscaping to as much native regional plants as possible. Are there any flowers from bulbs that you could recommend?
view the full question and answer

Poppies on Pflugerville, TX lake
April 26, 2008 - I live on the new Pflugerville Lake. We are trying to get wildflower seed to plant around the lake in the mitigation areas. Will Poppies grow here?
view the full question and answer

Problems with giant coneflower in Richardson TX
June 05, 2010 - Dear Mr Smarty Plants- I have had a giant coneflower in my garden for 2 years now. This year it came up like it always had..got lots of leaves and then withered..turned brown and died. It got plent...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating silverleaf nightshade from Albuquerque NM
June 07, 2014 - I have silverleaf nightshade in my yard and would like to eradicate it (yeah, I know, good luck!) or at least control it. Do you have any suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center