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How To Control Ball Mossball moss

When autumn arrives, naturally it means that the leaves begin to fall from trees. When they do, many folks will begin to notice undesirable ball moss that has grown on their trees.  Not to worry, ball moss is not a parasite or a threat to your trees in any way. Even then, it may be unsightly and you may want it gone.

Ball moss (Tillandsia recurvata) is a harmless non-parasitic epiphyte - a plant that grows on the surface of other things, especially trees. It does not do any damage to the tree but rather absorbs its water and nutrients from the atmosphere.

Aside from trees, ball moss can also be found growing on electrical wires, screen doors, wooden fences, and various other places in the environment.

The flower of the ball moss is incredibly small with single purple petal. Once pollinated each flower can produce 70 to 100 seeds with as many as 50 to 60 flowers per mature clump of ball moss. While flowering occurs mostly during springtime, ball moss can flower during any time in the growing season. The seeds dispersed by the dried flowers resemble those of the common dandelion. As small bits of white fluff, they are carried from tree to tree by the wind.

Ball moss is usually spread by squirrels and birds. Ball moss have an affinity for shade and high moisture content - both of which it can find plenty of beneath a tree. As trees grow, their lower limbs die out due to increased shade which provides for an ideal spot for ball moss to gather and reside.

While the moss is harmless, trees that are heavily infested with ball moss may be deprived of UV light which can cause the immune system to decline making it them more susceptible to insect damage and disease. Ball moss control is not easy but it is possible and we here at Solutions Pest and Lawn can show you how it’s done and the best products to use for this weed.

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How To Get Rid of Ball Moss: 3 Step Solution

Ball moss can be quite difficult to control. While it may be possible to physically remove the majority of the moss off of a single tree, removal of the seed left by the ball moss may not be practical. Ball moss on neighboring trees will release seed before long can re-infest the tree. In such cases it would likely be best to use a fungicide to treat the ball moss stop its spread. Below you will find our recommended steps in carrying out ball moss control.

Step 1: Start off with a thorough inspection of the ball moss to see where they are most concentrated and if possible you can very well just remove them by hand. If you are not entirely sure if what you see is ball moss or not, we can correctly identify it for you. Simply take a photo and send it our way and we will not only properly ID the plant for you, but will provide recommendations of products that will properly neutralize it.

Step 2: The best way to take care of ball moss outbreaks is through chemical control measures. At Solutions Pest and Lawn, we have a number of different quality chemical concentrates which do a great job in taking out ball moss outbreak. What’s most important when dealing with ball moss though is timing. We recommend spraying ball moss in very early spring around late February or March to successfully kill off all ball moss from a tree. Mix the product well with water in preferably a hand-pump sprayer. Follow the instructional label for proper mixing and usage rates.

Step 3: The next step after all the ball moss is gone is prevention. Maintaining a good lawn care routine and keeping a close eye on your tree for any changes will ensure that ball moss will stay away from your property. Though they cannot be completely wiped out and are likely to return, staying persistent and diligent with your yard care routine will keep those harmless eyesores at a minimum.


Learn More About Ball Moss

Ball moss is an issue that appears to only be a Texas thing, as it appears only on trees found in the Lone Star State, so for some this problem may be hard to understand. Tillandsia recurvata is the botanical name of this epiphyte.


Epiphytes are plants that cling themselves on to limbs, tree trunks, power lines, fences, and many other structures with what appear to be roots but they are not really since they do not absorb water and minerals; they merely attach the plant to an aerial structure. Since epiphytes do not take nutrients and water from these aerial structures, they are not parasites; therefore, ball moss is not a parasite.


Ball moss related to Spanish moss and like the bromeliad or the orchid or the pineapple, it derives its nutrient needs from the air and its rooting structures are just so it could have a place to hold on. Ball moss resides in trees such as post oak and various other trees and can only appear on non living structures such as power lines.


There are heavy infestations of ball moss which can be found in areas in Texas such as San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country as well as parts of Houston.


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Is Ball Moss Really Harmful To A Tree?

You may hear from other resources and people that ball moss harms the tree or that ball moss is a parasite. Now, obviously the tree which ball moss grows on is usually growing through a period of stress or decline which is why it has all the ball moss on it. But the unlearned are quick to jump to the conclusion that it must be the ball moss’s fault that the tree is doing poorly, which is not really the case.


If anything, ball moss is kind of one of those neutral growths on a tree which neither harms nor helps the tree’s health. They can appear in large numbers on trees which are distressed but it isn’t necessarily the cause of the stress.

A tree which may encounter ball moss, such as the post oak, is of a sensitive species and the appearance of ball moss may indicate the presence of poor soils. Trees also tend to not like a lot of root disturbance in their root zones (driveways. Turf grass and irrigation systems).

Ball moss enjoy residing in environments which do not receive a lot of sunlight intensity and can get very humid. The interior canopy of trees (such as those possessed by live oaks) provides a perfect environment for ball moss. These interior limbs die from a lack of sunlight; then the ball moss plants colonize these branches. So in essence ball moss takes over when the tree is already suffering from poor conditions working against it.

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Mechanical Means of Removing Ball Moss

Ball moss can be successfully controlled using a combination of three methods: picking, pruning and spraying fungicides. Doing any of these options on their own may not be enough to control the ball moss population especially if you have a heavy outbreak on your tree.


Picking involves physically pulling each plant off the tree. This method can be very effective, but can take quite a while to pull off on it’s own, especially if there is a lot on your tree. It can also be quite dangerous without the use of a cherry picker. Please be careful and utilize proper safety techniques and use helpful mechanical equipment if you decide to take on this laborious task.


Pruning consists of cutting and removing the dead, interior limbs from the tree and/or lightly thinning the tree canopy. You will find that most of the ball moss on your tree is growing on the dead or old weakened limbs; as a result, by removing these limbs, you physically remove the majority of the ball moss.

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As mentioned earlier, ball moss likes to stay in areas where the sunlight is low and not as intense. Light thinning of the canopy (if necessary) allows more sunlight to reach the interior of the tree, discouraging future infestation. When pruning oaks, make certain to paint all pruning cuts immediately to reduce the risk of oak wilt.

We do want to note that it is practically impossible to pick or prune an entire tree of all the ball moss that is on it, especially if its a large infestation. It can’t be done without cutting off a lot of branches which will remove a lot of tree leaves which is not something you want.

Tree leaves photosynthesize--they use the sun to create food. That is how plants eat and receive nourishment so in the efforts of trying to remove ball moss mechanically, you could end up hurting the tree itself and messing with the production of leaves.

You don’t want to put your tree in harms way all for the sake of removing ball moss, no matter how insightly it is, because the harm it does to the tree is questionable at best. Ball moss should be at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to issues which can be a detriment to your tree.

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Chemical means of Ball Moss Control

Spraying fungicide on your tree may be the most convenient and effective way to removing the ball moss outbreak on your tree. For instance, copper fungicide such as Kocide 3000 Copper Fungicide can be a great help in reducing ball moss.

The ball moss should die in a matter weeks after spraying a fungicide to your tree. What happens is that the ball moss will turn dark gray and remain attached to the tree. The holdfasts which grip the tree will eventually decay and the grip will weaken and they will just start to fall off.

Fungicide applications work best if you spray the product three years in a row to get the lasting control you need. We recommend spraying in the winter time when it is cold and preferably wet or drizzling at the time of application.

Better Safe Than Sorry: Equip Yourself With Protective Safety Equipment Before Spraying

Ball Moss Prevention and Conclusion

Combining fungicide spray with picking off or pruning the tree of ball moss should eliminate your ball moss problems. One thing to note that it may be wise to not haul off picked off ball moss and discard them but use it for it’s nutritional benefit to your yard.

Ball moss is very high in nitrogen and is considered a nitrogen fixer. Once picked off you could mow over the ball moss and leave it laying in the grass.

Aside from that, to prevent ball moss from returning, you will need to get the tree healthy. Give it the nutrition and setting it needs for your particular tree to thrive. Fertilize and deeply water trees after applying fungicide treatment.

When your tree is thriving, ball moss will stay far away. It is only when your tree is not feeling well and is going through periods of stress and poor health that ball moss will rear their ugly spiky little heads.

Additional Resources:

Ball Moss - AgriLife Extension County Offices - Texas A&M AgriLife

Manage Forests and Land | Ball Moss: FAQs Texas Forest Service

Ball moss - good or bad? | Native Plant Society of Texas

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