Great Balls of Moss!

Quixotic inventor Jeff Kaplan's latest creation is an herbicide that rids the world of the terror known as ball moss

Sinister indeed.

Of course science is an ongoing endeavor. Both studies suggest more work needs to be done to answer the question: ball moss, friend or foe? Kaplan maintains that the prevailing orthodoxy has quashed any interest in seeking the truth. "It's like saying Columbus discovered America," he says. "He didn't discover America, but it's in every book. People tend to get lazy, they don't want to fight the establishment."

Now Kaplan freely admits he is no botanist and all his evidence is of a commonsense nature. "I am going on what I see, what I dig up, and by talking to people in the business."

Building a better moss trap: Jeff Kaplan and his sworn enemy, Tillandsia recurvata
Building a better moss trap: Jeff Kaplan and his sworn enemy, Tillandsia recurvata

And botanists, some of whom chuckle knowingly at the mention of his name, think there's a perfectly good explanation for all this. "In the case of ball moss and Spanish moss, the moss is simply clinging to the bark of the tree," says Robert Black, a consumer horticultural specialist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. "The only time you could have a problem with it is if you have enough ball moss on a tree that it would be intercepting the nutrients from the canopy of the tree that is recycled into the roots."

Really thick infestations of ball moss could prevent falling leaves from reaching the ground, where they are recovered as nutrients by the tree itself. But that's a concern only in trees that are sickly anyway, says Black. A moss covering is a symptom of ill health, not the cause. "Because the tree is not healthy, the canopy thins out, opens out and more light comes in. That is where the ball moss comes in," he says.

So it's a question of which came first, the ball moss or the dying tree. Kaplan is on one side of the equation, virtually the entire horticultural community on the other. And if they're all wrong and he's right, Kaplan is poised to roll out Epizine to an eager world. For now he's holding off on marketing it until he can get science to see things his way.

If that doesn't happen, well, he's working another deal to import and distribute carbonated milk in a can. It's called White Soda. "It's terrific," he says. "I had a company fly me some from Japan. It tastes like lemon-lime soda; it's clear, with a foamy head, but it's 100 percent milk."

Contact Bob Whitby at his e-mail address:

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