Category: Education Blog

Become a Certified Georgia Master Naturalist!

Become a Certified Georgia Master Naturalist!

By Ruth Mead, Director of Environmental Education

As we look for stress relief in our busy lives, we need to look no further than our natural habitats for experiences beyond belief. Become a member of an exciting team through a 10 week Georgia Master Naturalist course offered through Phinizy Swamp Nature Park and discover some of the many wonders of our natural world.

Phinizy’s Master Naturalist program includes a series of all-day field trips which explore ecological topics such as basic ecology, wetlands, field ornithology (bird watching), spring wildflowers, rock outcrop geology, lichenology, forestry, stream ecology, mammalogy, and more. Light the woods on fire with us on our forestry day. Examine skulls and pellets as we discover more about our native mammal populations. Float the canal as we examine the health of our local waterways. Each week’s field trip seems to outdo the previous week!

The course starts with an evening introductory program on March 8 with the field trips starting March 9 and continuing every Thursday through May 18 (no field trip Master’s Week). Here’s what past participants have said:

“This course opened my eyes to a new way of looking!”

“This has been one of the most interesting programs I’ve ever done and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in understanding our place on this planet”

“One of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I thought I was familiar with nature only to find that I am just beginning to learn. This will initiate a whole new appreciation for what I experience in nature”

“I’ve been what I thought was an “outdoor nature enthusiast” but this course made me look outdoors in a much deeper way.”

“The perfect course for aspiring naturalists!”

Georgia Master Naturalist is an adult environmental education program of the Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources and the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. For more information or to register go t0: 

The Tress are Full

Red-winged Blackbirds

Jen McGruter, Environmental Educator

How many of you evening park visitors out there have been witness to this lately? The seemingly chaotic, loud chatter you hear high in the trees above the wetlands just so happens to be the evening return of our beloved Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus). The sight of the every-morning mass exodus of this species is just as enthralling to watch as well, if you ever get the chance to come to the nature park closer to sunrise.

Every day these birds leave their roosting spots in the wetland grasses and shrubs in search of better foraging grounds for the day, sometimes traveling up to 50 miles away! Each string of birds in flight almost seems like one of the most coordinated events that you might ever see in your life, almost as if the Marching Band Leader has given the signal and every single individual thereafter knows exactly when to take flight and follow along in the miles-long parade. And there seems to be just one parade after the other for what seems like forever. We estimated there to be about 3,500 band members in the multitude of parades the morning of our Christmas Bird Count last month!

I imagine the heeds of birds split off to take advantage of different foraging areas throughout the state, but when leaving the nature park they all seem to be heading in the same direction – West to Southwest. I’ve even spotted one of the parades marching high in the sky above the town of Hephzibah around 7:30am on my way to take my son to school. If they are traveling in that direction up to 50 miles away, they could be flying all the way to Macon, GA (by my uncanny estimation of straight flight distance on googlemaps) and back again every single day!

This time of year Red-winged Blackbirds are known to forage on ‘weedy seeds,’ like ragweed and cocklebur, but at the nature park they seem to love the sweetgum balls still hanging from the American Sweetgum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua). The last time I walked down the sidewalk from the campus buildings toward the front parking lot and passed a sweetgum tree with a slurry of Red-winged Blackbirds hanging out above me, I had to stop a moment. It took me a long minute to realize that it wasn’t beginning to rain and that the sound I was hearing, that sounded almost exactly like rain drops falling in forest, was just the falling of leftover seed trash uneaten by the birds overhead. Yet another amazing, mind-blowing experience that the birds have given me! Oh, how I love the gifts of nature.

For anyone that hasn’t experienced the amazingness of our Red-winged Blackbird population here at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park, I encourage you to find the time to take a walk in the early morning or late afternoon to take part. These birds, just like many, are just wonderful!


Pond Sliders

Species Profile: Pond Sliders

by Aaliyah Ross, Environmental Educator 

If you’ve spotted a group of turtles basking in the swamp at Phinizy, chances are pretty high that they were pond sliders. Pond sliders are the most common species of turtle at the Nature Park, and are very common throughout the Southeast in general. They are found in all aquatic habitats throughout the Park, and can frequently be seen from the Floodplain Boardwalk basking on stumps or logs.

Pond sliders have yellow bands on the carapace (upper half of shell), most commonly in younger specimens. Many individuals darken with age, obscuring markings on the skin and shell. The plastron (lower half of shell) is yellow with black markings around the edges. Males have long claws that are used to grip the female during mating.

There are two subspecies of pond sliders: Red-eared sliders and yellowbelly sliders. Many, but not all, red-eared sliders have a broad red stripe behind the eye. Yellowbelly sliders often have a yellow blotch in the same location, but this mark is often obscured in older, darker turtles. Yellowbelly sliders are native to the East coast, whereas red-eared sliders are native to the Midwest, from Illinois and Indiana south to Texas and Louisiana. Red-eared sliders are one of the most popular turtles in the pet trade, which has resulted in this species being exported throughout the world. Red-eared sliders can now be found living in the wild on every continent except Antarctica. They have also been found here at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park.

The release of red-eared sliders outside of their native range is highly discouraged. They have been found to outcompete other species, including our native yellowbelly sliders, for food, basking areas, and other resources. Research also suggests that these two subspecies have mated in the wild, further complicating the issue.

Sliders are less conspicuous this time of year, as cold temperatures force these ectotherms to seek refuge in the mud or underneath stream banks. They often come out of hiding to bask when temperatures rise, and go back once it gets cold again. Occasional, brief warm periods in the middle of winter are fairly common in Georgia. On the next sunny, [relatively] warm day, you’re likely to spot pond sliders basking throughout the swamp.

Swamp Treks – Getting Children & Teens Outdoors

Swamp Treks – Getting Childrens & Teens Outdoors

By Gina Lusignan, Park Events and Volunteer Manager

We hear it often, “children need to spend less time in front of screens and more time being active”. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 3 and up should spend no more than 1 to 2 hours in front of a screen. Instead of screen time, the AAP suggests children should engage in play: walk or run the family dog, ride a bike, take a nature walk, or skateboard with a friend. The benefits of play for kids is very substantial; it builds energy, invites creativity, relieves stress, and creates healthy habits.

Growing up, some of my best times were spent exploring the small creeks and nature paths next to my home. Along with a friend or cousin, I would spend hours looking for secrets paths, interesting rocks, and racing leafs down the water. That might be part of why I now work at a nature park, but besides instilling a love for nature, it was great for my physical and mental health. Young children and teens thrive outdoors. Due to their brain development, teens succeed when they are taught through active learning alongside peers. They value their friends and are able to think creatively, solve problems, and connect new information, together.

Knowing how important it is for children and young teens to interact with and enjoy nature, I, along with my coworker Kim, have created a program called Swamp Treks to help your 3rd – 8th grade student step away from the screen and get outdoors with their friends. Every 3rd Saturday of the month starting in November, Kim and I will lead children on a nature hike through Phinizy Swamp Nature Park. After the hike we will focus on a few nature based activities ranging from camping survival, nature printing, terrarium making, and animal communications.

We would love to have your 3rd – 8th grade child join us! For more information and to register, please visit



Lorain, Peter. “Brain Development in Young Adolescents, Good News for Middle School Teachers” (2002) National Education Association.

Robb, Marina and Mew, Victoria. “Learning with Nature.” (May 2015). Edutopia.


Red-Winged Blackbirds

A Message From The Park:  

If you come to the park over the next few weeks you may hear the noise of airboats out in the wet cells. The airboats come annually (from Louisiana) to push down the vegetation in the wet cells. This occurs to deter the Red-winged Blackbirds from roosting in the vegetation over night and then flying out in the morning, and again in at night, directly across the flight path of the airplanes coming into and going out of Augusta Regional Airport.

Read More about the Phinizy Red-wing Blackbirds below

Red-winged Blackbirds 

By:  Ruth Mead, Sr. Environmental Educator

The Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), one of the most abundant land birds in North America, is a member of the troupial family—named for their habit of gathering in large flocks—or troupes. They can be found in wetlands from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

While the genus name Agelaius means “belonging to a flock,” the species name phoeniceus and common name refer to the distinctive coloring seen on the adult males, which are mainly black with red shoulder patches, or “epaulets”. This coloring can be seen when the bird is flying or displaying. A pale yellow wingbar is also visible on perching males. Females, which are slightly smaller than the males, are mottled brownish with a sharp, pointed bill. Immature birds typically resemble females.

Red-winged blackbirds feed mainly on plant materials, including seeds from weeds and waste grain such as corn and rice. About a quarter of their diet consists of insects, such as dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, moths, and flies, but they also consume snails, frogs, eggs, carrion, worms, spiders, and mollusks.

During summer months, red-winged blackbirds roost in small flocks. In winter, they form huge congregations of several million birds, which flock together to roost in the evening and disperse each morning.

The History of Red-Winged Blackbirds in Phinizy Swamp

Red-winged Blackbirds have used the nearly 7000 acres Phinizy Swamp and surrounding Savannah River floodplain for hundreds of years. These wetlands provide excellent habitat for roosting, breeding, and foraging. In winter months, millions of blackbirds have been known to use these wetlands. Twice daily the skies are filled with blackbirds as they disband in the morning for daily foraging and return in the late afternoon for roosting.

From November through March these large flocks of blackbirds have caused concern for Augusta Regional Airport, located directly adjacent to Phinizy Swamp. As birds create a flight risk to the planes, several accommodations have been made to keep passengers and crew safe. No plane activity is allowed for 20 minutes during dawn and 20 minutes during dusk, around the time that the birds usually fly over the airport. Although this approach is effective, it’s also too passive to change the behavior of the birds.

The Constructed Wetlands and Red-winged Blackbirds

Construction of the man-made wetlands, housed within Phinizy Swamp Nature Park, began in 1996. These wetlands were built SOLELY as the tertiary treatment for Augusta’s wastewater. As the constructed wetlands became established red-winged blackbirds, as well as many other birds and animals, discovered the wetlands as wonderful habitats and moved in. Even though the birds were in the area long before the constructed wetlands were built, their use of the wetlands has created a liability for Richmond County.

In recent years there have been attempts to discourage red-winged blackbirds from roosting in the vegetation in the constructed wetlands. These attempts include plowing down the vegetation in several wetland cells with airboats and burning the vegetation (which proved unsuccessful as the burning windows were too narrow and the fires extinguished quickly).

In December 2008, the marshy grasses of every wetland cell were flattened with airboats. Noise-making devices were placed in the constructed wetlands in an attempt to scare off the blackbirds and discourage them from returning. The noisemaking devices are set to go off in the morning and late afternoon/evening, during the red-winged blackbirds normal flight patterns.

So far, the recent efforts to remove the blackbirds from the constructed wetlands have been effective. A mere 200 blackbirds were counted during the 2008 Christmas Bird Count, while past counts have been over 3 million birds. The red-winged blackbirds are still in Phinizy Swamp and surrounding river floodplains, but the liability of the birds in the constructed wetlands seems to be under control.

Most of the airports around the world are located near wetlands—which we know are important habitats for migrating birds as well as other wildlife. What responsibility do we share for the flight-interruption dilemma and what is the best solution?

The Healing Power of Forests

The Healing Power of Forests        img_4674

By: Dr. Oscar Flite

Dr. Dick Dunlop, a retired internist turned plein air painter, flagged me down on the way into the park the other day.  He was excited to share an article that he recently read in Time Magazine, called The Healing Power of Nature (July 25, 2016 issue).  Dr. Dunlap and I have talked a lot about science and about nature over the past few years but this was the first time we were able to really connect the two topics.  While there have been many studies showing the healing power of nature, such as the study in the 1980s that showed surgery patients recovered quicker if given a room with a window view of nature as opposed to a window view of a brick wall (Ulrich, 1984), or another that showed mood and self esteem were more improved by weekly walks through the countryside and urban parks versus weekly trips to a social club swimming pool (Barton et al., 2012), this article pointed to a potential underlying reason why.

It is well known that trees inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen.  Oxygen that trees exhale originates from water molecules that the tree pulls from the ground.  Carbon dioxide that trees inhale from the air is converted to organic molecules like sugars and other carbon-based chemicals.  Some of those carbon-based molecules are gases, like the carbon dioxide that they resulted from originally, are then exhaled by the tree; those carbon-based gases are called volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

A group of those tree-derived volatile organic compounds, generally known as phytoncides, have been shown to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties and help trees protect themselves against bacterial, fungal, and viral threats ( Li, 2008).  In essence, a tree protects itself by making its own “insect repellent” which it “sprays” throughout the forest.  As we walk through the forest, we inhale those chemicals too.  Over the past two decades, there has been an increase in scientific evidence that phytoncides have considerable health benefits to humans as well.

Phytoncides have been shown to decrease the amount of stress hormones in humans giving people an overall calming effect after walking through a forest.  Furthermore, protective cells within the human body, that are important for our own defense against viruses, bacteria and tumor cells, have been shown to increase in numbers and activity within the body as a result of phytoncides (Li, 2009).  It was found that the effects on protective cells lasted up to 30 days after a walk through the forest.  When compared to an equivalent walk through the city, they found there was no response on the numbers or activity of the same protective cells, in fact, the city air was found to be completely devoid of phytoncides!!

As a result of over nearly 4 decades of research showing the positive health  effects of walking through the woods, Japanese researchers have coined the term “forest bathing”, or shinrin-yoku, for the therapeutic practice of spending time in the woods.  What is really going on is that the trees are breathing life back into us, literally.

Given the positive benefits of phytoncides on human health and that a stroll through the woods at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park is free, our new saying at the park is, “A stroll a day will keep the doctor away”.  Please take the challenge of trying it out for yourself for the next month; let us know if you feel better as a result.

Being a Colorblind Birder

Being a Colorblind Birder

By Liam Wolff, Phinizy Research Intern

Can you picture the flaming orange throat of a Blackburnian Warbler? The vibrant rufous on a Hermit Thrush’s tail? The purple iridescence on a Lesser Scaup’s head? These are all sights a color deficient birder like myself will never be able to experience, or at least fully appreciate.

Colorblindness confuses many people. Often times when I tell someone about my colorblindness, their response is usually somewhere along the lines of, “so you can’t see any color at all?” Of course, like any decent troll, I tell them, “no, I see in black and white.”

But that’s a lie (or a bit of deadpan humor). Colorblindess, or more accurately, color deficiency, is not necessarily the total loss of color vision. There are many types of colorblindness, monochromacy (total color loss) included, that are caused by a faulty or absent cone cell in the retina. Since the cone cell in my eye that senses red light is malformed, I have Protanomaly and have a hard time distinguishing reds in other colors. For instance, what most people see as purple, I see as dark blue; pinks appear diffused and grayish; oranges are yellowish; and rufous is a light brown. Reds (e.g. scarlet) themselves are only less vibrant to me.

To illustrate what I see, I have added this comparison collage of a Hermit Thrush. Since I’m the colorblind one, please understand that the photo may not be 100% accurate.

Left: HETH with red tones decreased Right: HETH with red tones untouched I see no substantial difference between the two photos.

Left: HETH with red tones decreased
Right: HETH with red tones untouched
I see no substantial difference between the two photos.

So how does colorblindess affect my birding? To be perfectly honest, it’s not much of a crutch. Regarding North American birds, the only genera I really have trouble with are Cathartes, Icterus, and Selasphorus. As I commented earlier, I have difficulty seeing rufous, which is one of the most reliable ways to differentiate Allen’s and Rufous Hummingbirds or Hermit and Gray-cheeked Thrushes. So how do I get around these problems? Other field marks and assistance from other birders. For example, Hermit and Gray-cheeked Thrushes can be distinguished by the density of the spotting on their chest and Rufous and Allen’s Hummingbirds can be differentiated by the shape of their tail feathers when extended. However, if I cannot see the chest of a Cathartes thrush, or if a Selasphorus hummingbird doesn’t extend its tail, I won’t be able to identify them as I should be. This is when I have to seek aid from my normal vision friends, who can help me identify the birds properly.

In the end, I do feel like I’m missing out on something, but it doesn’t affect my desire to find or identify birds. As amazing as birds would be in normal color, I don’t mind seeing them the way I do. Still, for those of you who are not color deficient, don’t take your ability for granted. Appreciate birds to the fullest!

Good birding!

(See original article here.)

Wetland Plant Series: Lichens

Wetland Plant Series: Lichens

By Aaliyah Ross, Environmental Educator

This installment of the wetland plant series focuses on an organism that isn’t actually a plant. In fact, it isn’t even a single organism. Although they are often studied alongside nonvascular plants like mosses and liverworts, lichens are their own distinct and very unique group of organisms.

What is a Lichen?

Reindeer moss, a fruticose lichen, on the ground near the Beaver Dam Trail.

Reindeer moss, a fruticose lichen, on the ground near the Beaver Dam Trail.

Lichens evolved as a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and another organism that produces food through photosynthesis (called a photobiont). The photobiont in a lichen can either be an algae, cyanobacteria (also known as blue green algae) or both. The photobiont provides a source of food while the fungus provides protection by enveloping the photobiont within its tissues, and provides moisture to the photobiont by transporting water directly into its cell walls. Therefore, a lichen can be considered an extreme example of symbiosis because the photobiont (either algae or bacteria or both) lives within the fungus’s tissues. It is a true composite organism.

Where do Lichens Live?

Foliose lichen on a cypress tree, Phinizy Center campus.

Foliose lichen on a cypress tree, Phinizy Center campus.

Lichens cover approximately 8% of the Earth’s surface. They live on trees, rocks, and soil, as well as on manmade objects like concrete and wooden surfaces. They are found everywhere from the poles to the tropics and from intertidal zones to mountaintops. They are abundant throughout Phinizy Swamp Nature Park as well. The next time you’re on a walk, take note of how many lichens you can see. Once you start paying attention to lichens, it can be hard not to notice them!

What do Lichens Look Like?

Brightly colored lichens cover the ground at Heggie’s Rock Preserve in Appling, GA.

Brightly colored lichens cover the ground at Heggie’s Rock Preserve in Appling, GA.

The appearance of lichens is incredibly diverse; some are dull green, gray, slate blue, black or brown, while others feature bright red, orange, or yellow colors. Lichens can be grouped into three categories based on body form: Foliose lichens have leaf-like lobes, fruticose lichens are “shrubby” in appearance, and crustose lichens have a crust-like form that is often tightly embedded onto trees, rocks, or manmade surfaces.

What can Lichens Tell us about Air Quality?

Crustose lichen on a tree branch, Beaver Dam Trail.

Crustose lichen on a tree branch, Beaver Dam Trail.

Lichens are extremely sensitive to air pollution because they rapidly absorb compounds from the air and rainwater. If a pollutant even slightly damages one component of the lichen, the partnership will quickly break down and the lichen will die. The more of a lichen’s surface is exposed to the air, the more sensitive to air pollution it will be. Lichens are completely absent in the zone closest to a source of air pollution. Farther away, pollution tolerant crustose lichens begin to appear. Fruticose lichens are generally most sensitive to air pollution; a high abundance of fruticose lichens in area is an indicator of good air quality.

Wetland Plant Series: Common Duckweed

Wetland Plant Series: Common Duckweed

By Aaliyah Ross, Environmental Educator

Duckweed completely covers the water’s surface in one area of the swamp near the Boardwalk.

Duckweed completely covers the water’s surface in one area of the swamp near the Boardwalk.

If you’ve been to the park this summer, you’ve likely noticed the bright green floating mats covering the water’s surface in many areas of the swamp. Is it pollen? Is it algae? No, it’s duckweed!

What is Duckweed?

Duckweeds are a subfamily (Lemnoideae) of floating freshwater plants that are among the smallest flowering plants in the world. There are many duckweed species; the common duckweed (Lemna minor) is found in slow-moving freshwater throughout North America and is abundant in Phinizy Swamp Nature Park. The plant consists of 1-3 leaves with a single root extending into the water. Like many wetland plants, it contains air spaces (called aerenchyma) between its tissues that hold oxygen, allowing it to stay afloat.

Duckweed aerenchyma: A microscopic image of duckweed leaves showing the aerenchyma (air spaces) between its tissues that allow it to stay afloat. Source:

Duckweed aerenchyma: A microscopic image of duckweed leaves showing the aerenchyma (air spaces) between its tissues that allow it to stay afloat. Source:

Although duckweed can produce tiny flowers, the plant primarily reproduces asexually. As leaves grow, the plants divide and become separate (but genetically identical) individuals. Duckweed is often spread to other bodies of water on the feet of waterfowl.

A Bane to Some, a Boon to Others

Duckweed can be a nuisance in garden ponds, fishing ponds, and other calm bodies of water used primarily for recreation. It thrives in water with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, which can come from animal waste, lawn fertilizer runoff, leaking septic systems, and decomposing plant material. Although it is native, it can behave like an invasive species, reproducing quickly and forming large, thick colonies. This can block sunlight from other aquatic plants and deplete the water of oxygen.

A small handful of duckweed contains dozens of individual plants.

A small handful of duckweed contains dozens of individual plants.

Despite this, duckweed is extremely beneficial to many species. Its dense mats provide cover for small aquatic animals, including juvenile fish, insects and other macroinvertebrates. It also provides a nutritious food source for many waterfowl and fish. In fact, duckweed is cultivated for use in livestock and fish feed due to its high growth rate and protein content. It has also shown potential for use in biofuel production (Cui and Cheng, 2015).

A Natural Cleanser

Over 40 years of extensive research on duckweed has supported its potential for use in phytoremediation—the use of plants to remove pollutants from water or soil. Duckweed has been shown to remove nitrogen and phosphorus from swine wastewater (Chaipraprat et al., 2005), uranium and arsenic from mine drainage (Mkandawire et al., 2004; Mkandawire and Dudel, 2005), and even pharmaceuticals from wastewater (Brain et al., 2004, 2006)!

Pharmaceuticals (such as antibiotics, painkillers, birth control, and other hormone treatments) enter wastewater through the excretions of consumers, and also when expired medications are flushed down toilets. Most pharmaceuticals are not removed by current wastewater treatment methods, and as a result end up in streams. Some drugs can alter hormonal activity in aquatic organisms, causing detrimental effects such as sterility, developmental abnormalities, and death. Pharmaceuticals present a unique challenge for wastewater treatment because they persist in the environment and are active at extremely low concentrations. Additional treatment of wastewater with duckweed may prove to be an effective solution to this problem.

Wetland Plant Series: Spanish Moss

Wetland Plant Series: Spanish Moss

By Aaliyah Ross, Environmental Educator

Spanish moss on Bald Cypress trees, Floodplain Boardwalk

Spanish moss on Bald Cypress trees, Floodplain Boardwalk

Long, wispy strands of gray-green moss draped over Live Oak branches is a familiar scene often associated with the Southeastern US. But although Spanish moss is one of the most recognizable plants at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park, its history and ecology are often misunderstood. Here are some interesting facts about this unique wetland species:

What’s in a Name?

The common name “Spanish moss” is a misnomer—the plant is neither Spanish nor a moss. Its native range extends from Argentina and Chile north through Virginia. Indigenous tribes called the plant itla-okla, i.e. “tree hair”. French explorers named the plant barbe espagnole, or “Spanish beard”, after the long beards worn by many Spanish conquistadores who were also in the Southeast at the time. The strange name stuck, and evolved over time into “Spanish moss”.

Trichomes on a strand of Spanish moss, which help the plant absorb and retain water. Source:

Trichomes on a strand of Spanish moss, which help the plant absorb and retain water. Source: Clemson University Extension,

Spanish moss is a bromeliad, the same family of plants that pineapples belong to. In fact, looking at a strand of Spanish moss under a magnifying glass reveals a pattern of overlapping scales (called trichomes) similar to that of a pineapple rind!

An Epiphyte, not a Parasite

Spanish moss is an epiphyte, which is a plant that grows on another plant for physical support. Contrary to popular belief, it does not remove water or nutrients from its host tree. Rather, the trichomes covering its strands are specialized to trap water from rain, fog, and water vapor in the air. This adaptation is why Spanish moss does not need roots. The relationship between Spanish moss and its host tree is best described as a commensalism; an ecological relationship in which one species benefits and the other is neither helped nor harmed.

Red Alert

Another common misconception is that Spanish moss contains chiggers, also known as red bugs. The biting larval forms of these tiny arachnids (adults don’t bite) often hang out in pine straw and tall grass, waiting for a passing host. They may also inhabit Spanish moss that has fallen to the ground, but Spanish moss on trees is unlikely to harbor chiggers.

Two Forms of Reproduction

Spanish moss produces small, inconspicuous flowers that are pollinated by wind.

Spanish moss produces small, inconspicuous flowers that are pollinated by wind.

On school field trips, one of the most common questions we get about Spanish moss is “How does it get in the tree in the first place?” Like many plants, it has two forms of reproduction. New Spanish moss plants are created when wind-dispersed seeds land in crevices in the bark of trees. It can also reproduce asexually when growing portions are broken off and carried by wind or birds to new trees, where they continue to grow.

On your next visit to the park, stop and take a minute to appreciate the incredible survival skills of this beautiful bromeliad!