There is something appealing about the weird sputnik shape of ball moss/Tilandsia recurvata . Although I have never seen them used I am sure that branches with ball moss colonies would make a very mod, very cool floral arrangement or sculpture.
When I find the balls on the ground I take them home and put them to a more mundane use. They make good ‘mulch’ over the soil in pots of bromeliads. Ball moss is itself a bromeliad.
Now don’t that look natural?
There is no consensus about what ball moss is doing up there in the trees. Some say that it is a true parasite that will suck out the life of the tree. This scary-looking crepe myrtle has a bad case of ball moss:
Some say it is a benign epiphyte which simply prefers the more open canopy of a sparse tree. I am not an arborist but I have an opinion anyway. Ball moss is not a murderer or a sunbather, but gets established on a tree that can’t thwart it because it is already weak or sick. For example, here is the root flare of the same crepe myrtle above:
It looks like damage from a line trimmer used to cut the grass next to the trunk, followed by an infection in the wound. I would bet my Felco’s this happened before the first ball moss showed up.
Some healthy looking trees have a small stable ball moss population. But the association of prolific ball moss and really sick trees looks as if ball moss is not merely using the branch as a perch. Science, anyone?