The Moss Gatherers
Moss curing, left, on posts, by a moss picker's cabin, possibly near Bayou Lacombe; right, in bundles.
Moss baled in anticipation of being shipped.
Two moss pickers' cabins in southeast Louisiana, possibly near Bayou Lacombe.
The link to this page is:  http://old-new-orleans.com/NO_Moss.html

Back to
  Old New Orleans Index

The Past Whispers
Moss being ginned.
A streetlight shines through the branches of a
moss-covered oak in New Orleans' Audubon Park.
Moss, loaded for delivery!
A moss gin.
Levee at New Orleans - unloading moss to be placed on steamers.
Moss-covered tree near St. Francisville, LA.
   Spanish Moss, which grew so freely on the ancient oak trees of southern Louisiana, was once in great demand.  It was an industry unto itself and there were people who depended on it to make a living, including the moss pickers who gathered it.  They used long poles to pull it off of the trees, in many cases, from a boat on the bayou.  Since cured moss was worth more money, they generally took on the slow process of aging it before taking it to market.  To do this, they would either hang it on fence posts or spread it out on the ground.  Curing took 3 or 4 months. 
   After it was gathered, cured and ginned, it was ready to be baled and shipped all across the nation.  Moss was used primarily in two ways.  It was used as a popular stuffing in furniture and mattresses; moss mattresses were cooler than other kinds of stuffing.  It was, also, used as a binder in mud clay for building houses.  In fact, it was used in the walls of the famous Cabildo, in New Orleans, which was built in 1795.  When it was found 165 years later in 1960, the moss was still in very good condition and had lost none of its resiliency!  The Old Absinthe House, also, in New Orleans, was built with moss as a binder and the same was true of moss found in its walls in 1959. 
   Spanish Moss grows mainly on oak, elm, gum and cypress trees, in areas along the southern Atlantic Coast and the Gulf Coast, but is much more abundant in the bayous of Louisiana and Florida than anyplace else.  It can still be found in these places, especially in areas away from well-traveled roads.  However, exposure to automobile emissions and other forms of pollution have destroyed much of the beautiful Spanish Moss.