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Family Bromeliaceae
Buhok ni Ester
Tillandsia usneoides Linn.

Scientific names Common names
Dendropogon usneoides (L.) Raf. Air plant (Engl.)
Renealmia usneoides L. Buhok ni Ester (Tag.)
Strepsia usneoides (L.) Nutt. ex Steud. Gray beard (Engl.)
Tillandsia crinita Willd. ex Beer Long moss (Engl.)
Tillandsia filiformis Lodd. ex Schult. & Schult.f. Old man's beard (Engl.)
Tillandsia trichoides Kunth Spanish moss (Engl.)
Tillandsia usneoides Linn. Wool crape (Engl.)
Strepsia usneoidesn(L;0 Nutt. ex Steud. is a synonym of Tillaldisa usneoides (L,)
Tillandsia usneoides (L.) L. is an accepted name The Plant List

Other vernacular names
FRENCH: Barbe grise, Cheveux d'ang, Cheveux du roi, Fille de l'air
SURINAM: Spaan mos, Adatima.

Buhok ni Ester is an epiphytic bromeliad with silvery gray, threadlike and hanging festoons, growing 2 meters or longer, sometimes as longer than 20 meters, hanging on tree limbs, cliffs, and wires. Leaves are scattered, narrow-linear, up to 7 centimeters long. Flowers are small, solitary in the leaf axils.

More botanical info
From: A Study of Tillandsia Usneoides by Frederick H. Billings / Botanical Gazette, Vol. 38, No. 2, Aug., 1904: Tillandsia usneoides is the most widely distributed representative of the tropical and subtropical family Bromeliaceae. If provides a conspicuous and characteristic landscape feature. Its growth on ornamental trees is regarded with concern because of the common impression that it lives parastically. Exam reveals it is in no way connected to the tree but merely wraps its dead, wiry stems around the twigs in order to support itself. . . An indirect cause of the popular belief in its parasitism is its preference for sunny exposures. Many a cultivated tree in perfectly healthy condition possesses too dense foliage to serve as host for Tillandsia, but if the supply of leaves is reduced, the light conditions make the presence of the epiphyte possible, which might suggest to the owner that the moss is cause rather than the result of reduced foliage.

- Ornamental cultivation, preferring warm climates with high humidity.

• Studies have yielded cyclopropane-containing triterpenes and a flavone glycoside.
• Phytochemical testing yielded cycloarterenol, 4,5-dihydroxy-3',7-demthoxyflavanone and a mixture of steroids stigmasterol, ß-sitosterol and campesterol.
• Extract of Tillandsia usneoides yielded 26 cycloartane derivatives, including the following novel ones:  (22E)-25,26,27-trisnor-3-oxocycloart-22-en-24-al, (24E)-3-oxocycloart-24-en-26-al, 24-hydroxycycloart-25-en-3-one, (23E)-25-methoxycycloart-23-en-3-one, (23E)-25-hydroperoxycycloart-23-en-3-one, 25,26,27-trisnor-24-hydroxycycloartan-3-one, methyl (24E)-26-carboxy-3,4-seco-cycloart-4(29),24-dien-3-oate, methyl (23E)-25-hydroxy-3,4-seco-cycloart-23-en-3-oate, methyl (23E)-25-methoxy-3,4-seco-cycloart-23-en-3-oate, and methyl 24-hydroxy-3,4-seco-cycloart-25-en-3-oate. (15)

• Air purifying, analgesic.
• Considered highly flammable, which makes it undesirable as a household plant or as outdoor plant in areas prone to wildfires. An additional risk is that when burned it generates methane which in itself if flammable.

Parts used
Roots and stems.

• No reported folkloric medicinal use in the Philippines.
• In south Louisiana, has been reportedly used for the treatment of diabetes mellitus.

• In Bahia, Brazil, decoction of the whole plant, "Sambambaia," is used for sexual weakness.
• In the Guianas, whole plant used to strengthen and make the hair more attractive. Surinam Arawak steep the plant in hot water until decompossed, and use the liquid to wash their hair to achieve a glossy shine. In the French Guiana juice of a tillandsia used to treat rheumatism.(19)
Bioindicator: Studies have shown it is a particularly reliable indicator of metal pollutants in the air.
Fiber: Yields a tough, elastic fiber from the non-living vascular tissues of the stem.
Gardening: Also used as mulch
, handicraft, and decorative handicraft.
Stuffing: Entire plant use as packing material. Cured stems use as stuffing material for furniture, cushions, etc. (13)
- Others: Used as insulation. Mixed with clay to strengthen plaster. Used to skim scum off cooking liquids. Fiber woven into floor mats, to make string, rope and sacks. Makes an excellent mulch. (14)

Extracts of Tillandsia usneoides have been found to reduce blood sugars in lab animals, an effect attributed to the compound HMG (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaric acid). (3) Study yielded four bioactive compounds, including HMG. HMG elicited significant hypoglycemic responses in fasting normal mice. Further evaluation of HMG and other potential HMGCoA lyase, for diabetes treatment is suggested. (3)
Biomonitor / Air Pollution: Neutron activation analysis applied to the determination of elements in the epiphytic bromeliad T. usneoides exposed in different polluted sites showed an accumulation of elements and indicated a promising potential of the species to serve as a biomonitor of air pollution.
Analgesic: Aqueous ethanol extracts of 17 medicinal plants in Brazil were studied for analgesic properties in mice by the writhing and tail flick method. Significant effects were noted in five plants, including Tillandsia usneoides. (2)
Antiedematogenic / Toxicity: Study showed an antiedematogenic effect and potent antioxidant activity.
No toxicity was reported. (5)
Pharmacologic Activities / Antibacterial / Estrogenic: Old studies have showed a weak antibacterial effect and estrogenic activities.
Air Pollution Biological Monitor: Study results showed T. usneoides incorporates anthropogenic elements reaching max levels after 6 to 10 weeks. Results from biomonitors agree with those from aerosol filters, and suggests T. usneoides can be employed a first approximation for insights on atmospheric pollution levels prior to a detailed study using filters. (9)
Flavonoid / Weak Antibacterial: Study isolated a flavonol type glycoside with weak antibacterial action against Staphylococcus aureus. (12)
• Monitoring of Strontium Environmental Pollution: Tillandsia species are known to be efficient biomonitors of air pollution. Study showed Tillandsia usneoides has considerable potential for monitoring Sr polluted environments through direct plant measurement for Sr contents or exploiting the leaf relative conductivity as indirect biomarker. (16)
• Trace Elements / Biomonitor Potential: Neutron activation analysis of epiphytic bromeliad Tillandsia usneoides for trace elements inn exposed polluted areas showed an accumulation of Al, As, Cr, Fe, Mo, Sb, Ti, V, and Zn. Results suggest promising potential as biomonitor of air pollution in Sao Paulo. (17)
• Antibacterial in Skin Infections and Wound Healing: Study evaluated the antimicrobial efficacy of various extracts of Tillandsia usneoides against skin infections in wound healing. Antibacterial assay showed high zone of inhibition for both methanolic extract (>23mm, >22mm, and >20mm) and ethanolic extract (>22mm, >22mm, and >17mm) for P. aeruginosa, S. aureus, and S. epidermis, respectively. Results suggest the methanolic extract of T. usneoides has great potential for antimicrobial and wound healing activity. (18)
• Biomonitor for Vehicular Pollution: Study evaluated T. usneoides as biomonitor aimed at verifying the effects of highway construction and its effect of atmospheric contamination. Results showed increasing concentrations of Ba, Cr and Z in the biomonitor after the inauguration of highways indicating that these elements originated from vehicular emissions. (19)
• Radiation Contamination and Remediation: Study showed T. useneoides was tolerated to high radionuclide Cs stress. With enhancement of Cs solution concentration, Cs concentration significantly increased in the plants, suggesting that plants can accumulate Cs quickly and effectively. Results show T. useneoides has significant potential for monitoring Cs-polluted environments. (21)


© Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., M.D.

Updated April 2018 / December 2015

Photos ©Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: / Line drawing / Tillandsia usneoides (L.) / Spanish moss / / USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 1: 456. / USDA

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Determination of trace elements in Tillandsia usneoides by neutron activation analysis for environmental biomonitoring / Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry / Volume 249, Number 2 / August, 2001 DOI 10.1023/A:1013274721149
Screening in mice of some medicinal plants used for analgesic purposes in the state of S~ao Paulo / Costa M Di Stasi LC Kirizawa M Mendacolli SL Gomes C Trolin G / J Ethnopharmacol (1989 Nov) 27(1-2):25-33
Identificatiion of 3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaric acid (HMG) as a hypoglycemic principle of Spanish Moss (T. usenoides) / K.M. Witherup, J.L. McLaughlin / Journal of Natural Products / Vol 58, No 8, pp 1285-1290, Aug 1995.
A Folk Medicine for Diabetes Mellitus / W J Keller et al / Summary Pharmaceutical Biology • 1981, Vol. 19, No. 2-3, Pages 49-51 , DOI 10.3109/13880208109070574
Evaluation of the antioedematogenic, free radical scavenging and antimicrobial activities of aerial parts of Tillandsia streptocarpa Baker – Bromeliaceae / R H Delaporte et al / Journal of Ethnopharmacology
Volume 95, Issues 2-3, December 2004, Pages 229-233 / doi:10.1016/j.jep.2004.07.022
The Use of Medicinal Plants in the County of Tanquinho, State of Bahia, North-eastern Brazil / Costa-Neto et al / REVBRAS.PL.MED 2(2): 1-8.2000
A Study of Tillandsia usneoides / Frederick H. Billings / Botanical Gazette, Aug. 1904, Vol. 38, No. 2, pp 99-121 / Chicago Journals / JSTOR
Tillandsia usneoides: An Indicator to Air Pollution / American Museum of Natural History
PIXE analysis of Tillandsia usneoides for air pollution studies at an industrial zone in Central Mexico
/ M.A. Martínez-Carrilloa, C. Solís, E. Andrade, K. Isaac-Olivé, M. Rocha, G. Murillo, Rosa Icela Beltrán-Hernández, C.A. Lucho-Constantino / Microchemical Journal, Volume 96, Issue 2, November 2010, Pages 386–390
Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish moss) / Kew Botanical Gardens
Tillandsia usneoides (L.) L. / Synonyms / The Plant List
A preliminary phytochemical study of Tillandsia usneoides L. (Spanish moss) / M. G. Webber†, W. M. Lauter and P. A. / ournal of the American Pharmaceutical Association, Volume 41, Issue 5, pages 230–235, May 1952 / DOI: 10.1002/jps.3030410503
Tillandsia usneoides / Use Tropical Plants
Spanish moss / Deane / Edible Raw Greens, Pot Herb, Medicinal, Miscellaneous Plants
Cycloartane Derivatives from Tillandsia usneoides / Gabriela M Cabrera, Mariana Gallo, and Alicia M Seldes / J. Nat. Prod., 1996, 59 (4), pp 343–347 / DOI10.1021/np960075+
Bioindicating potential of strontium contamination with Spanish moss Tillandsia usneoides. / Zheng G, Pemberton R, Li P / Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, Nov 2015, 152: 23-27 / DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2015.11.010 
Determination of trace elements in Tillandsia usneoides by neutron activation analysis for environmental biomonitoring / A. M. G. Figueiredo* M. Saiki, R. B. Ticianelli, M. Domingos, E. S. Alves, B. Markert / Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, Vol. 249, No. 2 (2001): 391–395
in Vitro  Antibacterial Activity of Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) Crude Extract Against Skin Infection in Wound Healing  / Faller EM, Kanes SN, Zajmi A, Ramli MD / International Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemical Research 2017; 9(10); 1344-1352 
Tillandsia usneoides (L.) / Medicinal Plants of the Guianas (Guyana, Surinam, French Guiana)
ASSESSMENT OF THE TRAFFIC-RELATED ELEMENTS BA, CR AND ZN DURING AND AFTER THE CONSTRUCTION OF A PERIPHERAL HIGHWAY USING TILLANDSIA USNEOIDES AS ATMOSPHERIC BIOMONITOR / Ana M.G.Figueiredo, Bárbara C. da Silva, Catarina C. Nievola, Edenise S. Alves, Marisa Domingos / 2013 International Nuclear Atlantic Conference - INAC 2013 Recife, PE, Brazil, November 24-29, 2013
Radionuclide Contamination and Remediation Through Plants / Dharmendra Kumar Gupta, Clemens Walther

It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page.

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