Friday, September 24, 2010

Lycaste cruenta--Orchidaceae and Spanish Moss

This lovely yellow orchid is in bloom now in the Orchid House at the UC Botanical Garden. It needs high humidity, so there is a reason it is not growing outside. One of the wonderful things about the Bot Garden is that it can provide the special conditions that some of these exotic plants need.

Behind the orchid, that blue-gray hanging plant is Spanish Moss, Tillandsia usneoides. It is not Spanish, it is native to the southern US. And it is not a moss, it is a flowering plant, although the flowers are tiny and inconspicuous. It is named after Usnea, which presumable grows in Spain, since it grows all over the world, but is also not a moss, but a lichen. According to Wikipedia, Spanish Moss has been used for building insulation, mulch and packing material. It has also been used to stuff car seats, couches and mattresses. It is now use decoratively in bouquets and arrangements. Sometimes it is used on fences like a vine to provide privacy. Birds like to use it for nests. Many more interesting details about this plant are available here:

It has no roots and instead captures what it needs from the air around it.

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