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Mistletoe, Ball moss, Spanish moss, and Lichens in Trees

Mark C. Black, Extension Plant Pathologist, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Uvalde

Biological interactions Neutralism - fitness of one species has no effect

on fitness of other (unlikely!) Commensalism epiphyte benefited, tree neither

benefited or harmed Mutualism (symbiosis)- species derive a mutual

benefit Parasitism - one organism takes from the host for

a long time Hemiparasitism - takes water and nutrients from

the host, but is photosynthetic and makes some products

Competition one species limits space, sunlight


Class Magnoliopsida Family Viscaceae, 2 genera in Texas Diversity Trans Pecos > Edwards Plateau >

rest of Texas

Arceuthobium (dwarf-mistletoe) Phoradendron (mistletoe)

Phoradendron tomentosum, injerto, Christmas mistletoe

Mistletoe relatives Commandra

umbellata, bastard toadflax

Euonymus americanus, brook euonymus


Plant Epiphytes Autotrophic Derive only physical support, not

nutrition from the host May damage the host Attach to their host high in the

canopy Large epiphytes occur most

abundantly in moist tropical forests, but mosses and lichens occur widespread as epiphytes with trees.

Costa Rica

Ball Moss

Class Liliopsida Family Bromeliaceae, 2 genera in Texas Diversity S, E Texas > N Texas Hechtia (false agave)

Tillandsia (ballmoss,spanish moss)

Tillandsia baileyi, Bailey ballmossTillandsia recurvata, small ballmoss

Close relatives

Tillandsia baileyi

Gulf Prairies and MarshesSouth Texas Plains


Tillandsia recurvata

Ball moss

Water from condensation on extensive foliar trichomes.Trace minerals from dust.

Part of their nitrogen from decomposition of insects.

Pseudomonas stutzeri, nitrogen-fixing bacterium isolated from interior of T. recurvata.

Ball moss control

Hand removal Chemicals Kocide 3000

sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)potassium bicarbonate (Kaligreen, Arysta; MilStop, BioWorks)

Spanish Moss Class Liliopsida Family Bromeliaceae Tillandsia usneoides, spanish moss, blackmoss,


Light fragrance at night

Leaves covered with cup-like, permeable scales that 'catch' moisture and nutrients from the air. In extreme dry spells, the plant becomes dormant until moisture returns.

The plant is not parasitic, but it can sometimes damage the host tree by over-shading the leaves, thus reducing photosynthesis, or by weighing down and breaking the branches.

Up to 20 feet long.


Host preference?

Spanish moss commonly adopts oak or cypress trees as hosts, but less common on pine, etc.

Chiggers (redbugs) are common residents in Spanish-moss on the ground.

Interactions among epiphytes Nonvascular epiphytic species (lichens) affect the

quality of host tree for T. usneoides (spanishmoss)

T. usneoides grew faster on live oak with a dominant lichen than when lichen was hand picked

Extract of lichen common on poor hosts reduced T. usneoides seedling survival and growth compared to other lichens and rainwater

Lichens increased T. usneoides seeds and strands that adhered to Ilex opaca (poor host) but not Q. virginiana

Lichens "Lichens are fungi that have discovered agriculture"--

lichenologist Trevor Goward Spores Non-sexual reproductive packages Breakage when dry to blow, wash away, be carried Able to shut down metabolically during unfavorable

conditions Very slow growth, often < 1 mm/yr; some may be

among oldest living things on earth Environment (fix N), wildlife (tundra), people (dye, etc.) Indicate good air quality

Lichens Composite organisms consisting of a

symbiotic association of a fungus with a photosynthetic partner, usually a green alga and/or cyanobacterium. The morphology, physiology and biochemistry of lichens are very different to that of the isolated fungus and alga in culture.

The algal partners are far less numerous than fungal partners.

Each lichen species contains a different species of fungi (20% of all) and so it is according to the species of fungi that lichens are classified.

13,500 to 17,000 species



Foliose and Fruticose


Mistletoe, Ball moss, Spanish moss, and Lichens in TreesBiological interactionsMistletoeMistletoe relativesSlide Number 5Plant EpiphytesSlide Number 7Ball MossClose relativesSlide Number 10Slide Number 11Slide Number 12Slide Number 13Ball moss controlSpanish MossSlide Number 16Slide Number 17Slide Number 18Interactions among epiphytesLichensLichensSlide Number 22Slide Number 23Slide Number 24Slide Number 25Slide Number 26Slide Number 27Slide Number 28Slide Number 29


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