Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - February 05, 2011

From: Middleburg, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Pests, Trees
Title: Weird growth on oaks in Middleburg FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants; I have this plant/fungus that grows on my trees here in northeast Florida & nobody has been able to identify it for me. It looks like a clump of pine needles growing on the bark of the trees, not pine trees but mostly Live Oaks. I have a couple of pictures of one that fell to the ground but I don't see where I can attach a photo. Please advise.

ANSWER:

We suspect that what you have is not a fungus at all, but 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 Florida as well as 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.

From Floridata, here is some more information on Tillandsia recurvata relevant to Florida.

 

From the Image Gallery


Small ball moss
Tillandsia recurvata

Small ball moss
Tillandsia recurvata

Small ball moss
Tillandsia recurvata

Small ball moss
Tillandsia recurvata

More Pests Questions

Problems with Shumard Oaks and Crepe Myrtle in Cooke Co. TX
September 07, 2013 - I have a Shumard Oak Tree that has been in the ground approx. ten years. It has done great, even passing up some of my older Shumards. In August it began to lose its leaves at an alarming rate. They a...
view the full question and answer

Hibiscus plants being attacked by powdery mildew, or maybe mealy bugs in Austin, TX.
August 10, 2011 - I have three hibiscus plants planted outside about a foot apart from each other. The one that gets most of the sunlight is the worse off of the three. However, all three of them have white powdery stu...
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of Lantanas
August 06, 2008 - Here at work we have 4 beautiful yellow Santanas(should I say had), the leaves have started to turn brown and no longer blooming. Appears to have a fungus or disease. Please help!
view the full question and answer

Dealing with aphids on milkweed plants in Alloway, NJ.
July 11, 2012 - I planted milk weed for the Monarch butterfly. Every year it gets orange aphids that seem to suck out the juices and eventually kill the plant sooner than I like.
view the full question and answer

Dog-proof grass from The Woodlands TX
April 26, 2013 - I am looking for a hardy grass that can tolerate female dogs urine. Zoysia was suggested but I am concerned about it being invasive. Any suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.