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New plant taking over Baton Rouge trees, pushing Spanish moss aside

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BATON ROUGE - A new plant appears to be taking over trees in the Capital City. Where Spanish moss once lay, now you'll see something called ball moss.

“It was first introduced about 50 some years ago, but now it’s colonizing everywhere,” said Director of the LSU Plant Diagnostics Center, Dr. Raj Singh. “It’s displacing the Spanish moss.”

Ball moss is native to Texas and Florida, but Singh says here, it first showed up on campus.

“We don't know if it was accidentally or intentionally brought to LSU campus,” said Singh.

In the past couple of years, the plant has spread. Ball moss can even be found in the WBRZ parking lot, which is north of campus. Singh says it can attach to magnolias, crape myrtles and live oaks; even on the outside of buildings.

“It can prepare it’s own food. It’s using the pseudo roots to attach to a surface,” said Singh.

The problem is it’s causing some trees to lose their limbs.

“When it rains it gets heavy. [The ball moss] soaks up all the water, and all the branches that were colonized by it, they will break off and fall on the ground,” said Singh.

Singh says ball moss is not a parasite, nor pathogen. But it's easy to see how it takes over a tree. Branches without ball moss on it have a ton of leaves. Branches with ball moss on it don't have any new leaves.

“When there is no new growth that area is kind of dying back or declining, and it is not able to support the roots,” said Singh.

Singh says there are some ways to maintain the plant.

“Start picking it,” suggested Singh. “It's labor intensive but, if you see new plants on a tree, start picking it."

The Plant Diagnostics Center has also learned a mixture of baking powder and water will kill ball moss, but Singh is looking to do more research on how to maintain the species.

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