|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.
|A streetlight shines through the branches of a
moss-covered oak in New Orleans' Audubon Park.
|Moss, loaded for delivery!
|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.