Is Ball Moss Killing My Tree?

1000001047.jpg I get asked this question very often. Ball moss is something that we’ve all seen and are all familiar with, but there are still plenty of questions surrounding it and what it does.

To answer the age old question, you need to understand what ball moss is and what it isn’t. It is not a parasitic plant that is pulling nutrients out of your tree. It is in the Bromeliad family (so are pineapples). Ball moss is actually an epiphyte, similar to many mosses, lichens, algae and even ferns. It can grow pretty much anywhere…trees, power lines, on a wall, gutter or even that old car that has been sitting in your driveway for a couple of years now. Epihpytes derive their nutrition from the air and only need physical support from their host. Ball moss spreads by tiny seeds, which are carried through the air by wind, rain, squirrels and birds, which makes it near impossible to completely stop the spread of it.

Ball moss has been know to cause some minor physical damage to its host (trees). If allowed to grow unchecked for a long period of time, ball moss can grow so thick that it inhibits leaf production. Basically ball moss blocks leaves from forming, so the tree then has a limited amount of foliage that it is relying on, which in turn means less food for the tree. Aside from that, ball moss causes no damage or harm to your tree, other than it being unsightly.

The best course of action with ball moss is to have it taken out of the tree when you have your regular maintenance pruning done. This should typically be done every couple of years, just depending on what species of tree you have. By simply removing dead limbs in the tree, you’ll get quite a bit of the ball moss out (usually 60-70%). If that isn’t enough for you, then talk to your arborist and let him/her know that you’d like as much of it taken out as possible. Just keep in mind that ball moss is not killing your tree and in 90% of cases, there is no action needed aside from regular maintenance.

11 thoughts on “Is Ball Moss Killing My Tree?”

  1. Okay you dealt with how to get rid of it from trees…but how can I get rid of them fon power lines. I work at an electric utility and I am exhausted in finding a solution ? Any help ? Please

    1. Obviously, spraying utility wires is out of the question. And, I suppose hand picking isn’t appropriate either. I would suggest building a tool that would clam around the wires and slide easily. You could install it on one end of the wires and pull it down the power line with a tether. Taking all proper safety precautions of course. That’s the best idea I can think of off the cuff. Good luck.

  2. What are the small white “puff balls” on the bottom side of the leaves in my oak tree. They have fallen all over the yard and are still on the tree. Thanks.

    1. Sounds to me like you’re seeing “galls”. These are formed primarily after an insect, usually a small wasp, deposits its eggs into the trees tissue. The tree then swells and develops a growth, or gall, where the larva matures, eating the gall tissue as it grows.

      Galls can also be caused by other things such as fungi and bacteria, but the ones we typically see here on our oaks are caused by insects/wasps. Either way, they’re not typically harmful and you don’t need to take any preventative measures.

  3. It seems like a contradiction to say that this moss isn’t killing trees but it chokes the life out of them by blocking nutrients and sunlight to them. Whenever I see a tree loaded with moss, the branches they attach to are dead and the rest of the tree is being taken over by it. The stuff scares me, it’s so agressive.

    1. Ball moss doesn’t in any way “choke” the life out of a tree, nor does it block nutrients. The harm it causes comes in the way of getting in the way of new growth, which isn’t something that happens that often. It has to have been growing unchecked for years upon years.

      I understand that it may look like it is killing branches, but that just isn’t the case. It grows where the environment is suitable, which is usually under the canopy of the tree, which is also conveniently where dead branches are located. So it may look like ball moss is killing those limbs off, but that’s just the natural growth of the tree.

      Ball moss can be used as an indicator of tree stress. When over stressed, a tree may lose more water from its leaves than normal, causing an abnormal amount of ball moss to grow on the tree.

      Ultimately, if you have a question or concern about ball moss, get a qualified certified arborist out to look at the situation and advise you on the best course of action.

  4. What does this paragraph, taken from above, mean then??

    Ball moss has been know to cause some minor physical damage to its host (trees). If allowed to grow unchecked for a long period of time, ball moss can grow so thick that it inhibits leaf production. Basically ball moss blocks leaves from forming, so the tree then has a limited amount of foliage that it is relying on, which in turn means less food for the tree. Aside from that, ball moss causes no damage or harm to your tree, other than it being unsightly.

    1. I think the reason Micah included that particular language is probably because the only potentially valid argument for ball moss being bad is the suffocating effect theory. All educated and seasoned arborists know that ball moss isn’t hurting trees. I know Micah, and I know he is on this wave-thength.

      If you have a tree that is suffering from some other ailment, ball moss might contribute some negative effect. However, certainly, the that tree would only get better if the other ailment was addressed. Ballmoss is NOT a big enough factor to kill a tree.

  5. Well I live in Hunter’s Creek in Orlando, Florida and this “ball moss” is most definitely sucking the very life out of every single tree we have in our community. Our oaks are bad enough and so are our magnolias but you should see the suffocating effect on our carpe myrtles. Hundreds and hundreds of them are about completely DEAD.

  6. The ball moss on our old oak tree has taken over so many limbs that there are few leaves left. How can we get rid of it? Does it need to be sprayed with Baking soda solution? do you know a reputable company near Kerrville ?

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