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Epiphytic Tillandsia cossonii

Epiphytic Tillandsia cossonii

Order : Sweet grass (Poales)
Family : Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae)
Subfamily : Tillandsioideae
Genre : Tillandsia
Scientific name

The genus Tillandsia , eingedeutscht Tillandsia called, with over 550 species , the most diverse in the family of bromeliads called (Bromeliaceae) or short bromeliads. This purely neotropical genus is widespread from the southern USA to almost the southern tip of South America. The species have adapted to the most varied of habitats.


Illustration by Tillandsia araujei ; over the years it forms a more or less long “stem”.

Vegetative characteristics

Tillandsia species are perennial herbaceous plants . Some of the species grow, like the majority of the bromeliad plants, as funnel bromeliads, the stem axis of which is compressed. The leaves are then close together in rosettes, the lower areas of the leaves overlapping, creating a funnel to collect water. In another part of the species, the shoot axes are also compressed, but no collection funnels are formed. There are also species in which the stem axes are not compressed, these species form "stems" (caulescent), so they have more or less long stems on which the leaves are alternately distributed. One extreme of these elongated shoot axes is found in Tillandsia usneoides . The parallel- veined leaves are very different in size and shape.

Generative characteristics

The often brightly colored bracts of the inflorescences have a long shelf life in many species. The inflorescences can be unbranched or branched. The hermaphrodite flowers are threefold with a double flower envelope . The three free sepals are symmetrical and pointed.

There are fruit capsules formed. The seeds have a "parachute" similar to that of the dandelion .

The ant plant Tillandsia caput-medusae , in culture
Tillandsia fuchsii var. Fuchsii f. gracilis W. Till 1990, in Culture

Characteristics of the habitus of some species

Some Tillandsia species are ant plants (Myrmecophytes). They host colonies of specialized ant species . The adaptation of the Tillandsia species to this community is differently pronounced. They are mostly species with a bulbous base, i. H. the leaves of these species are very close together and form a kind of bottle, the so-called "false onion". The individual chambers that are created remain dry all year round. The ants build their nests in these chambers and, in return, fend off predators of the host plant. It is also believed that an additional benefit for the tillandsia is fertilization from the ant droppings. Examples are Tillandsia caput-medusae , Tillandsia seleriana , Tillandsia streptophylla and Tillandsia bulbosa .

Some Tillandsia species develop bulbs . The leaf base is heavily thickened and is used to store water. The epiphytic way of life of the plants results in the special feature that these bulbs are not in the ground, but hang in the air on branches. Examples are Tillandsia argentea , Tillandsia fuchsii , Tillandsia filifolia , Tillandsia atroviridipetala , Tillandsia plumosa .

Way of life

Tillandsia live primarily epiphytically , i.e. on other plants (mainly trees or cacti). But there are also species that live lithophytically , i.e. on rocks (but also on roofs and even telephone wires). Few species live terrestrially (on the ground).

Tillandsia can be divided into "green" and "gray" types:

Tillandsia excelsa , a green funnel bromeliad with green leaves and a drooping inflorescence on site

Green tillandsia

The green species with their demand for a cool and humid climate mostly live more in the shade terrestrial or in the lower levels of the forests. There are hardly any suction scales in the green species, but there are at least some inside the leaf funnels.

Gray tillandsia

In contrast, almost all gray Tillandsia species live in areas with little rainfall and high humidity. They prefer full sun and can therefore be found in the upper levels of the forests, on rocks or (less often) on the ground. Many of the gray tillandsia are epiphytes. Some species are more or less strongly xeromorphic .

As largely rootless plants, they have a very special and highly specialized way of life. Their gray appearance results from the fact that their shoot axes and leaves are densely covered by tiny suction scales ( trichomes ). These are complex hairs that are formed on the outer skin ( epidermis ) of the leaves, but die off immediately afterwards. The dead cells of these shed hairs fill with air so that light is reflected and the plants appear almost white. The more (or larger) suction scales the plant is, the whiter it is.

The function of the suction scales is similar to that of blotting paper . As soon as they have soaked themselves with water, the green assimilation tissue below the suction scales becomes visible again, and the plant "turns green". Now the plant can absorb more light. When the sun dries the plants, they turn white again. The suction scales not only serve to absorb water, but also as protection against evaporation and sun. Thanks to this special survival trick, plants can immediately soak up fog droplets, but also rainwater, even without roots, and thus meet their water needs. These plants obtain the minerals they need from the small amounts that are contained in the dust that is blown in and that have dissolved in the water absorbed in this way. So Tillandsia do not live parasitically .

The roots (in most Tillandsia species) are only used for attachment and therefore have no root hairs through which minerals and water would be absorbed.

Multiplication and life cycle

Tillandsia ionantha with Kindel.

Tillandsia can - like other bromeliads - reproduce in two ways:

  • The first is the "normal" one through pollination and seed formation. Since tillandsia are not self-fertile, the pollen must come from another plant of the same species. It takes many years for a tillandsia to flower. With the fruit formation, the life of the individual tillandsia plant has come to an end. Seeds or children are still formed, then the mother plant perishes.
  • The second propagation variant is the so-called Kindelbildung . Here, new plants sprout, often on the trunk of the mother plant. This also usually happens after flowering.

Distribution and habitat

Epiphytic tillandsia plants

The Tillandsia species are distributed from the south of the USA to almost the southern tip of South America. They grow:

Use as an ornamental plant

Group of several species of tillandsia on a tree disc, as they are often available in shops

Epiphytic gray tillandsias are said to be relatively undemanding to care for, but some basic conditions that are required for these plants should be observed.

If there is enough light - they need a sunny location, so they should stand directly at the window - and regular spraying with decalcified water or rainwater, they can also thrive in the room.

The popularity of the tillandsia is also due to their bizarre appearance and their often attractive inflorescences. You can often see them in flower shops or hardware stores with garden departments.

One problem, however, is that some of the plants offered come from wild stocks, although their home countries prohibit export. In some easily accessible areas, some species have therefore already disappeared from the wild. However, efforts are aimed at ensuring that the common species are cultivated in nurseries in the countries of origin and then exported with valid export documents. In Germany, too, there are now said to be a few nurseries that are dedicated to cultivating tillandsia. When buying, you should therefore always pay attention to the label “from culture - not from wild stocks”.


The genus Tillandsia was established in 1753 by Carl von Linné Species Plantarum , 1, p. 286. Tillandsia utriculata L. was specified as the lectotype in 1920 by Nathaniel Lord Britton and Charles Frederick Millspaugh in Bahama Flora , p. 64. The scientific genus name honors the Finnish botanist Elias Tillandz (1640–1693). Fernald tells in Gray's Manual of Botany , 8th edition, 1950, p. 391 that Tillandz became seasick while traveling and that he therefore managed the long way back on foot. Linnaeus chose the generic name because he thought that the tillandsia also do not tolerate water. Synonyms for Tillandsia L. are: Renealmia L. , Caraguata Adanson , Bonapartea Ruiz & Pav. , Acanthospora Spreng. , Misandra F.Dietr. , Dendropogon Raf. , Buonapartea G.Don , Strepsia Nuttall ex. Steud. , Allardtia A.Dietr. , Anoplophytum Beer , Diaphoranthema Beer , Platystachys K. Koch , Phytarrhiza Vis. , Pityrophyllum Beer , Wallisia E. Morren , Viridantha Espejo .

The genus Tillandsia belongs to the tribe Tillandsieae in the subfamily Tillandsioideae within the family of the Bromeliaceae . A small number of species were included in the genus Racinaea M.A.Spencer & LBSm. outsourced.


Types (selection)

A list of all species of the genus Tillandsia can be found under Systematics of Tillandsia .

Here is a selection of Tillandsia species that are more frequently available on the market: T. aeranthos , T. araujei , T. baileyi , T. balbisiana , T. bulbosa , T. caput-medusae , T. circinnata , T. dyeriana , T. fasciculata , T. festucoides , T. flabellata , T. flexuosa , T. ionantha , T. juncea , T. meridionalis , T. pruinosa , T. recurvata , T. setacea , T. streptophylla , T. stricta , T. tectorum , T. tenuifolia , T. usneoides , T. utriculata , T. xeropgraphica .


In the past, species of tillandsia had a very stimulating effect on science, which wanted to find out how the plant gets its nutrients in the first place. The French researcher Kervran said he had found out that it could only do this through biological element conversions, and he believed that these had been proven. However, according to the current state of science, this thesis is no longer tenable.

More pictures



  • Werner Rauh (with the assistance of Elvira Gross ): Bromeliads: Tillandsias and other bromeliads worthy of culture. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1990, 3rd, revised and expanded edition, ISBN 3-8001-6371-3
  • Elvira Groß : Beautiful tillandsias. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-8001-6501-5
  • Wolfgang Kawollek: Tillandsia - species and culture. Verlag Naturbuch Verlag © 1992 Weltbildverlag GmbH Augsburg ISBN 3-89440-038-2
  • Elvira Groß : Tillandsias for rooms and winter gardens. Ulmer, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-8001-3222-2
  • Klaus Labude: Tillandsia. Tetra-Verlag, Bissendorf-Wulften, 2002, ISBN 3-89745-155-7
  • Tania Chew, Efraín De Luna, Dolores González: Phylogenetic Relationships of the Pseudobulbous Tillandsia species (Bromeliaceae) Inferred from Cladistic Analyzes of ITS 2, 5.8S Ribosomal RNA Gene, and ETS Sequences. In: Systematic Botany , Volume 35, Issue 1, 2010, pp. 86-95. doi: 10.1600 / 036364410790862632
  • Lyman B. Smith , RJ Downs: Tillandsioideae (Bromeliaceae). In: Flora Neotropica , Volume 14, 2, 1979, p. 665.
  • Michael HJ Barfuss, Walter Till, Elton JC Leme, Juan P. Pinzón, José M. Manzanares, Heidemarie Halbritter, Rosabelle Samuel, Greg K. Brown: Taxonomic revision of Bromeliaceae subfam. Tillandsioideae based on a multi-locus DNA sequence phylogeny and morphology. In: Phytotaxa , Volume 279, Issue 1, October 2016, pp. 001-097. doi : 10.11646 / phytotaxa.279.1.1

Individual evidence

  1. First publication scanned at biodiversitylibrary.org .
  2. Jason R. Grant An Annotated Catalog of the Generic Names of the Bromeliaceae , In: The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 1998. (Origin of the generic names in the family of the Bromeliaceae in English)
  3. ^ Tillandsia at Tropicos.org. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, accessed September 9, 2013.
  4. ^ A b Tillandsia in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), USDA , ARS , National Genetic Resources Program. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
  5. ^ In "Species Index" click on Tillandsia in Eric J. Gouda, Derek Butcher, Kees Gouda: Encyclopaedia of Bromeliads , Version 3.1 (2012) . Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  6. ^ Harry E. Luther: An Alphabetical List of Bromeliad Binomials , 2008 in The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens , Sarasota, Florida, USA. Published by The Bromeliad Society International .
  7. C. Louis Kervran (1901 - 1983) ( Memento of the original of October 7, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.lasarcyk.de

Web links

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