We came to our island initially because we wanted a beach, and a warm one at that. But, as many of you have probably also experienced when you moved to new areas, a whole host of things came to my attention, particularly in those first weeks and months after moving, that I have since grown to love as well.
Spanish moss is one of those things. Because the Midwest, where I came from, isn’t exactly a giant overgrowth of subtropical plants, its presence here on my island serves as a constant reminder to me of where I now am. It has mastered the look of languid elegance, I think, the way it drapes down from the branches of massive live oak trees, moving lightly in the breeze.
I’ve personally seen Spanish moss as far north as the northern part of eastern North Carolina, although some claim it can even be found farther north in coastal Virginia. As it is a subtropical plant, it is most prevalent in the coastal areas of the Carolinas. In terms of its territory within the U.S., it also extends throughout Georgia, Florida and the coastal areas of the Gulf States.
While Spanish moss is almost always found hanging from other plants or trees, it is not a parasite. It’s an epiphyte, which to me sounds like a word to describe a person who has experienced an epiphany. Instead however, it refers to plants that use other plants or trees as underpinnings, and they obtain their nutrients and water from the air.
Over time, Spanish moss has been used for everything from stuffing items like mattresses and reportedly, some of the first car seats ever made, to things like landscaping and even home décor. While it is popular and attractive as décor, it’s often recommended that you microwave it before using it inside your home, to kill off any chiggers that may be present. Maybe this is OCD having its way with me, or maybe it’s just using my brain the way it was intended to be used, I don’t know, but there’s something about the idea of potentially millions of chiggers quickly frying to death and passing on to the sweet chigger hereafter, right in my very own microwave, that kills the whole “my home is my respite” feeling I otherwise have.
Big Giant Tangent Here (without a transition) Included Just Because: One time last summer, I was sitting in a parking lot waiting for my husband, a frequent hobby of mine, and a large tree draped with Spanish moss caught my attention. I stepped outside my minivan and took several shots of the tree, and while doing this, a lady apparently stepped out of her nearby minivan and into the line of my pictures. She stopped, stood and stared at me while I returned to my vehicle. For a full two minutes afterward, I could see her standing there staring at my van, presumably wondering if I was taking pictures of her. She was shuffling her feet, moving back and forth a bit, like she didn’t know what to do. I debated about stepping out again to explain what I had been doing, but I was afraid that would startle her more. Yes ma’am, I’m a camera-wielding mother who drives around town in her minivan with three small people in tow, taking pictures of nondescript strangers exiting their vehicles to be used in various nefarious plots involving complete world domination and chocolate hoarding. I am truly sorry if I creeped her out, but I feel that the fact that she walked into my picture is an important distinction to make.
Confession Time Here (also without a transition): Last fall I admitted to my occasional urge to yell “Yee-haw!” as loud as I can. Well, I’m happy to report that there’s more where that done came from. Another more recent pastime favorite of mine involves me saying, “You just watch out for ‘em chiggers in that Spanish moss now, you hear?” in the raspiest voice I can manage whenever the small people go near the stuff or attempt to play with it.
It’s just another one of those weird things I do that will surely mortify them by the time they hit middle school.
So, the way I figure it, I’ve got 2.3 good years left to make the most of yee-hawing it up and making regular classy-like references to the chiggers.
Works for me.