2/24/18 – Ball Moss Spreading Across Baton Rouge, Residents Concerned

2/24/18 – Ball Moss Spreading Across Baton Rouge, Residents Concerned

Note: The Advocate published a story on February 24 by Steve Hardy on this subject as well. Read it here. Below is a Baton Rouge Green press release.

February 15, 2018 – Baton Rouge residents are becoming increasingly concerned about the apparent spreading of ball moss across the city’s rich canopy. Baton Rouge Green has received numerous calls and emails on the subject.

What is ball moss? Ball moss is a flowering plant in the scientific genus of Tillandsia that is commonly found in the upper crown of the tree, especially in shade and relative higher humidity. Ball moss and its cousin Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) are native to our area. These plants are classified as epiphytes because of the benign nature of their interaction on their host. Ball moss photosynthesizes its own food and does not deprive its host of a significant amount of additional water. You might also notice it growing on non-living hosts like power lines and fence posts. Ball moss will take about 3 years to mature and flower and will bloom for the about the next 7 years. The seeds are spread by wind, rain and even animals.

However, ball moss coverage can reach a point on a host tree when it impedes the tree’s ability to bud out and produce new leaves, as well as capture the sunlight needed for photosynthesis. In these cases it can lead to the decline and potential early mortality of the tree.

Baton Rouge Green’s Program Director and Certified Arborist, Robert Seemann, provides the following information. “Ball moss removal can be undertaken in three ways. First, for smaller infestations at home, we recommend manual removal by hand when possible. A high-powered hose can also assist in removing some hard to reach portions of moss. After removal, bag the moss and debris, close the bag and discard. Not disposing of the moss properly can lead to further spreading. Removal of dead limbs on the effected tree is also encouraged.

Second, manual removal by a certified arborist with the proper equipment is also an option and several companies in Baton Rouge can provide this service. This can be costly in some instances, requiring around five to six man hours per one heavily infested 25-foot crape myrtle. However, tree services will have the necessary equipment to safely handle larger trees that are difficult or dangerous for homeowners to address.

Finally, a solution of baking soda and water can also be applied to treat ball moss. The difficulty with this method is that the liquid container requires a mechanical agitator to keep the baking soda dissolved into the water solution. This cannot be done by a typical spray rig or pesticide applicator and can cause damaged equipment when the baking soda settles and clogs or damages sprayers. Call your arborist to see if they have the proper equipment for this. A homeowner can make their own baking soda solution in a smaller spray bottle, but the tank must be constantly shaken to maintain the solution. Also keep in mind that the baking soda solution when sprayed can leave behind a white residue on cars and nearby surfaces. The suggested mixture for the solution is one half pound of baking soda per one gallon of water, or for larger treatments, five pounds of baking soda to 10 gallons of water. The best time to treat ball moss with baking soda is late winter to early spring (before spring rains start), when the trees are mostly bare. The baking soda will desiccate the ball moss, and kill it. It can take some time for weather and wind to knock dead epiphytes off the tree. Homeowners may help this process along by spraying off the dead remnants with a garden hose spray nozzle. The baking soda is non-toxic and typically not harmful to plants, animals or the environment. Spraying this solution can also be used in conjunction with manual removal.

Other copper-based fungicides have also been shown to be effective, but these can only be used by professionals with an Applicator’s license. Tree and yard maintenance firms, as well as pest control companies, may be able to assist with this method. The product should be labeled as effective in treating ball moss.”

Even if homeowners successfully remove the ball moss from their yard, the trees will be susceptible to further infestation if neighbors are affected. Even trees several hundreds of yards apart can infect each other.

Other suggested sources for information on ball moss include:

LSU AG Center:

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension:

Plant Answers (regarding removal of dead limbs):