Nature Photography Challenge: DAY SEVEN!

Well, all good things must come to an end. For the subject of this, my final nature challenge of the month, I decided to select this mysterious ball-shaped moss that plagues the branches of Texas trees. Literally every time I see these weird balls, I tell myself I should find out what they are… yet somehow over the last 4 years I have never actually figured out what they are or whether or not they are killing the trees with their smothering tendencies. So, for today’s challenge, I not only studied these moss balls through the lens of my camera, but also did a little bit of research to satisfy my curiosity! Here are my shots from the day, as well as some little tidbits of information I managed to dig up!:

Turns out I was pretty close with my “Moss Ball” title for this plant. Tillandsia recurvata, also known as Ball Moss, is a flowering plant that grows on larger host plants in areas with more humidity and low light (aka on the branches of Southern shade trees!).

They are not a TRUE MOSS or a parasite like mistletoe, but an EPIPHYTE (gets nutrition from the air) like Spanish Moss. So, it obtains only physical support, and not nutrition from its host. The only negative effect that this Ball Moss might have on its host trees would be that it may hinder tree growth by competing for nutrients and sunlight.

Ball Moss photosynthesizes its own food, getting water from the air and nitrogen from bacteria. It can range in size anywhere from the size of a golf ball to that of a soccerball. Here are a few close-up shots I took while studying a Ball Moss covered branch that had fallen on the ground:

Ball Moss is spread by seeds sprouting from bird droppings on stems and shrubs of trees (weird!), or from windblown seeds. It is sensitive to freezing–especially when it is a wet freeze.

Last cool fact: Ball Moss is from the Bromeliad family, so it’s related to a pineapple!

If you’re still thirsty for more Ball Moss knowledge, check out this website!

What a great way to wrap up the Nature Photography Challenge! And what a truly AMAZING and much-needed little plant that I can now include in my list of acquaintances! 🙂

Oh–one last note… Here’s what the sky looked like today:

So, it goes without saying that shadow-filled compositions are not happening today! Looks like that little assignment will have to wait for another challenge!

I hope you all enjoyed this challenge as much as I did. ‘Til next month, I will continue my posting of cool lesson ideas, inspirational environmental artists, and more!

Happy Monday, and may you have many artful explorations in nature this week!

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