The Ball Moss

It was a bit windy over the weekend and after raking up a few leaves and broken branches, I found a small epiphytic bromeliad on a broken twig.

I remember reading about the medicinal properties of a similar plant in our newspaper some years ago.

An Epiphyte is a plant that fastens itself for support upon a structure or another plant.  It is not a parasite since it gets its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and sometimes from debris accumulating around it.

We have several of these epiphytic bromeliad plants growing on our cherry tree.epiphytic bromeliadThe epiphytic bromeliad is actually one kind of bromeliaceae plant growing in our yard; the other bromeliaceae plants that I know we have are the pineapple, and the ball moss.

The ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata) is also known as old man’s beard in Jamaica; it is the only kind of epiphyte plant that grows on utility wires. We have two small ball moss plants growing on the telephone wires at our home. ball moss on telephone wireI read that the ball moss is a nitrogen fixer. This plant is able to convert atmospheric nitrogen (which is unusable to plants) into a form that plants can use. Most plants, with the exception of the legumes, cannot do this.

Also, when the ball moss falls to the ground, it actually fertilizes the soil for other plants.The ball moss is boiled as a tea in Jamaica, and can be combined with other herbs such as the guinea hen weed (purchase it here).

The ball moss plant has been proven to destroy cancerous cells in humans and it appears to be effective against HIV (read about our Jamaican cancer research in our newspaper article here and an update in this second article). I read that over time, ball moss plants can become heavy and dense causing trees to bud less and less. They may also cause some branches to break.

Ball moss infestations can become unsightly, creating an unattractive garden.


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