Spanish moss and fall colors decorate the limbs of bald cypress and water tupelo on the bank of Merchants Millpond, NC.
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The natives called it “tree beard” – the epiphytes that drape from bald cypress and live oak, an iconic symbol of the southern states. French settlers called it “Spanish beard” after the hirsute Spanish conquistadors. (The French pride themselves on their haute couture even in the wilderness.) As the year winds down toward the winter solstice, the water tupelo and bald cypress lose their leaves. Only the Spanish moss remains like some dark foliage in a mythic landscape.
But for a few weeks before the millpond loses its leaves, when days lose their summer heat and nights become brisk, the tupelo turns scarlet and bald cypress the color of rust and banked flame. In those few weeks it’s like standing at the foot of Yosemite’s Horsetail Fall when the setting sun in February illuminates the falling water. It’s like padding beneath a firefall.
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