I’m really sorry for not posting to this blog more often. I get all caught up with my botanizing at work and sometimes just forget about sharing various fun botany stories on this blog.
Anyway, I’m posting again after a long break mostly because swamibooba bullied me into it (naaawwww! Just kidding, however, I tend to do whatever he tells me to do. Today we’re looking at a species of Tillandsia, also known as the air plant. This plant is a member of the bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae). The most prominent member of this family is probably the pineapple plant, which produces sweet and delicious fruits made from the fusion of multiple flowers…we’ll have to discuss this in depth another time. The family itself is quite diverse and in addition to soil dwelling plants like pineapples, various species can also live up in trees epiphytically.
A lot of people get confused with the term epiphyte, which is used to describe plants that grow up on the branches and leaves of other plants (usually trees). Epiphytes only depend on other plants for support and do not steal nutrients or energy as a parasite would. My Tillandsia sp. is one such organism. It has no roots and is mostly just a ball of little leaves that are covered in little white trichomes/scales. This plant absorbs all it’s water and nutrients through it’s leaves. When water is scarce, the leaves dry and the trichomes go white and serve to reflect light away from the plant in order to conserve water. When water is present, the white surface goes translucent and the leaves go quite green, which allows photosynthesis to proceed.
Aside from leaves, these plants often reproduce by budding off. They’ll send out a little trailing stem (you can see one runner climbing up the back wall of the glass container) that eventually forms a new cluster of leaves at the node. This trailing stem is a new thing for me and I’m quite excited. Hopefully a new leafy structure will form soon!
Tillandsia have become quite trendy. And since knowledge is also trendy (right?) that makes Tillandsia knowledge doubly trendy (right?). But seriously, the more you understand how these plants grow in the wild the better you’ll be able to care for them in your home. If you would like one of your own and are coming for a visit soon, the Shop in the Garden has a beautiful selection of them. And if you’re still unclear as to how to care for them, just ask one of the Shop employees. They’re super knowledgeable about these plants. ~AR