Definitely a lichen. Looks like there are a few different kinds there. The one with the red tipped "appendages" appears to be Cladonia cristatella or the "British soldier" lichen. The other tufts of blue-gray around the edges of the picture appears to be another type of lichen commonly referred to as reindeer moss. I could be wrong on that thought; it looks like the reindeer moss that lives along the sides of the roads here. That green (in comparison to the gray) stuff in the middle of the top right corner is also some sort of lichen but I have no idea what it is.
Maybe some one a little more adept in mycology can give us a little more info and probably prove me wrong on a few things. Regardless very nice find! Were those pictures taken near you? Don't normally see reindeer moss that far south... so yet again I could be wrong.
Pretty cool though! -J.P.
Last Edit: Jan 1, 2008 4:54:06 GMT 7 by edaxflamma
Good morning and happy New Year everyone. J.P. what you call reindeer moss we here in northwest Florida call deer moss. The picture was taken near the Calhoun County line in northeast Bay County. Just before Christmas my girlfriend and I went to Crystal River to swim with the manatees. In a little nature park toward Homosassa, which is about 350 miles south of where this picture was taken, there was also some deer moss and some of the lichen with the red blooms. I think the red tips are the flowers of the plant. They may be called something else but are not always present so I think they may be the flowers. Since the lichen was blooming down south I thought I could find some blooming up here and I did. I appreciate your help and thank you for replying. Have a nice day, BoGHead
Wow! Nice find! But same idea, reindeer moss - deer moss, tomato tomAto etc etc. ;D
You are correct about the red "hats" on the British soldier lichen. Those red balls are the fruiting bodies of lichens (basically same idea as a flower). Lichens are a symbiotic relationship between fungi and certain types of photosynthetic bacteria. The fungi get food via the photosynthetic bacteria and the bacteria get minor protection and an abundant water supply from the moist fungi. But when the get ready to reproduce, seeing as it is a symbiotic relationship, both parts of the lichen must be... um... dispersed isn't the right word but I think you get it .
Because they are such a moist (and actually nutritious) meal. When it snows, the deer will dig them up for nourishment when the area is otherwise devoid of food. Now I know you guys get massive amounts of snow fall up there in Florida so... haha, thats why I was surprised to see it in such a warm climate.
As a side note it is supposedly edible if steamed. I myself haven't gotten up the nerve to try it yet and don't know that I ever will unless I get lost in the woods somewhere...
Hey J.P., I've been lost in the woods a time or two and tempted to drink water out of a ditch several times but never hungry enough to eat moss. That time may come but I hope not. I always thought the moss was a food source of last resort because I have seen it thoughout the woods without evidence of animals feeding around it. on a side note I guess you know that Spanish moss is neither Spanish or moss but do you know its closest relative in the plant kingdom? Just a little trivia I picked up on a boat tour on Pepper Creek, in case you or anyone else might know or want to know, I'll post the answer I was given later.
Haha yeah... I would probably need to be lost for a few days/weeks to be that desperate... I know that Spanish moss is a type of air plant in the Tillandsia genus. Thats about it really... I have wanted to try to grow some for the longest time but can never find any good sources... I have also heard that in the wild it can be full of mites so... It would be awesome to have growing on wooden rafters in a green house!!
Hey J.P., Spanish moss used to be used to stuff furniture, pillows, mattresses, car seats and other things which now use foam rubber, feathers, styrene beads and other such fillers. It can indeed be infested with chiggers, mites, spiders or other creepy crawlies which maybe where the saying don't let the bed bugs bite came from. The tour guide said its closest relative is the pineapple which is hard for me to believe but maybe true. Live and learn I say but double check your sources, George
The picture above shows a cypress tree with spanish moss on the limbs and a osprey nest in the fork. Have a nice day, George
Hey JK, I have gotten conflicting information from rangers before and expect I will get some more. Last March one ranger at Wakulla Springs said the springs in Florida are a constant 65 degrees. At Manatee Springs north of Crystal River there was a sign at the state park that said the spring was 72 degrees. On New Years day we went to Wakulla Springs and another ranger driving the tour boat said the spring was 69 degrees so I know someone is wrong. The spanish moss and pineapple being related is believable but being the closest relative makes me doubt the tour boat driver's knowledge. Here is a picture of an air plant or parasite which I think must be more closely related to spanish moss than the pineapple.
I'm not sure what the northern boundary for this plant is but I have not seen it in the wild north of Ocala. I have seen it on the east and west coast of Florida and for sale with bromeliads as a floral decoration in Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot and other stores. Thanks for the feedback, BoGHead
Good morning J.P., These air plants or parasites grow similarly to spanish moss, usually attached to tree limbs and trunks of deciduous trees. They maybe parasitic because the limbs they grow on often die, break off and litter the ground under the trees. Sometimes the spanish moss and this plant are growing on the same limbs. I don't know how often they bloom, but many of the ones I saw were blooming. Have a nice day, BoGHead
I don't think your tour guide was either exaggerrating or incorrect. He just gave limited information. 'Related' was the term used but it wasn't qualified by 'closely related' or 'distantly related' or something in between. All bromeliads are related by being in the same family, Bromeliaceae. All Tillandsias are more closely related to each other by being in the same Genus,Tillandsia. Pineapples are in the genus Ananas. Most bromeliads are, like a lot of orchids, epiphytes (epi- relating to 'on' and -phyte relating to 'plant' (there are some terrestrials) Parasites are different because they directly obtain nourishment from the host, for example mistletoes are parasitic.
Hello Gareth, Thank you for your clarification about epiphytes and parasites, but your 2nd and third sentences are wrong. The boat driver did indeed say "the closest relative of spanish moss is the pineapple". The mistletoe we see in the winter after the leaves fall here in northwest Florida looked similar from a distance to the airplant J.P said looked like grass seeded in a rotten tree hollow. The airplants were thick and numerous in the tall trees and looked like clumps of mistletoe in the leafless treetops at first, but when zoomed in on I could tell the difference. 40 years ago I used to sell mistletoe around Christmas time after removal by 22. Have a nice day, BoGHead