Savannah's Moss Curtain

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Savannah's Spanish Moss:
A Postcard On Every Corner

By David Gignilliat

 

 

 

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Few images evoke Savannah’s natural beauty and mystique better than its most photographed flora, the Spanish moss. Often mistaken as detritus from its host, the live oak, it is actually an epiphyte, or “air plant.” Spanish moss does grow vegetatively in many areas (planted in soil), but propagates mostly as fragments blow in the wind and stick to tree limbs. Spanish moss is not parasitical, borrowing the stout trunk of the live oak only for structural support without denying the tree its nutrients.

Thin, curly heavily scaled leaves link the plant and can often cascade up to several meters in length. Curiously, Spanish moss is neither “Spanish” nor “moss.’ A perennial flowering plant native to the American South, it thrives in humid climes like Savannah and the Low Country.

The moss politely guards Savannah’s black-and-white paved streets, its shades of grey forming a thread-like lattice overhead. Clinging to the leaves and limbs of the live oak, Spanish moss drapes lazily on nearly every city street, a vagrant complement to the precise geometry of Oglethorpe’s planned downtown squares.

Its silky, snake-like garlands have charmed scores of movie directors, a ready-made icon of the Gothic South straight out of Central Casting.

On windswept fall days, the moss personifies caprice and whimsy, shimmying like a feather boa on a burlesque performer. On warmer days, it’s an obliging moss curtain, a protective shade that blankets our unique city from heat and the heavens, from the fulsome effluvium of man and machinery.

A postcard on every corner – the backdrop for a romantic walk in Forsyth Park or a picnic in the tranquil serenity of Bonaventure Cemetery -- it is a refreshing tonic to the sterile, natureless steel that has seized many of this country’s urban landscapes.

Spanish moss, a true jewel of the South indeed.

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Questions? Comments? Editor@SavannahBest.com
Photos by Bob Wisener

 

 

 

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