The Q&A Archives: Moss Growing On Trees

Question: We have recently moved to the country, where there are a lot of oak trees. There is Spanish moss and Ball moss growing all over them. We have told that it will eventually kill the trees. Is this true and if so, what is the remedy?

Answer: Donna,

Spanish moss and ball moss are not a major threat to your trees. These plants are not parasites on the tree but rather use the tree for a place to attach and grow. Ball moss raises the most concerns from residents. It grows on the bark of a number of Texas shade trees; live oak, post oak, hackberry, tallow, cedar, and others.

Although often associated with plants that are in an advance stage of decline, it is not the cause of the decline. Yet in some areas the moss becomes so dense that it possibly is restricting normal bud development.

First I should say that not controlling ball moss is a valid option. It usually poses no real threat to a healthy tree. Ball moss is controlled by physical removal or spraying, which can be tedious and/or expensive. When sprays are deemed necessary, usually by a concerned homeowner, they can offer effective, although temporary, control of ball moss.

Ball moss is controlled with foliar applications of copper based products. Sprays of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) are also reported to be effective. However, to date I have not been able to locate a sodium bicarbonate product labeled for ball moss control.

Sprays are most effective when applied in late winter. The time between February and early May is suggested as the best period for treatment. A light rain following the spray application is necessary for maximum effectiveness. This is because it is speculated that the moss quickly takes in nutrients through its leaf like structures following rain or heavy dew.

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