|T. bulbosa belize|
So I decided to try air plants, or tillandsias, again. I had killed the first ones I bought several years ago so this time around I did a little more research. Turns out they have a fascinating background.
Tillandsias originally were thought to be related to mistletoe as both grow on trees. Air plants, however, aren’t parasites the way mistletoe is. Their roots are only used to anchor the plant. They pull their moisture and nutrients from the air through their leaves, not the host.
They actually belong to the bromeliad, or pineapple, family. The name covers more than 500 different species, mostly in Central and South America. It includes the Spanish moss that hangs on trees in the southern U.S.
|T. ionantha van hyningii|
It honors Finnish botanist Elias Tillands (1640-1693) who got so seasick going the eight miles by boat from Sweden to Finland that he traveled 200 miles by land on the way back. Not surprisingly, Linnaeus chose a plant that can not bear to stay wet.
Air plants do need moisture, of course. They just don’t need roots to do it. In fact, putting an air plant in soil is a sure fire way to kill it.
There is agreement that air plants need lots of bright indirect light. So I’m putting them on a table next to a window that opens onto my westward-facing porch. I'm still looking for some way to supplement the paltry sunlight available this time of year.
|T. aeranthos clavelles|
There is one sad note – the flowers mean these plants are in their final stages of life. I’m hoping they will produce babies or “pups” at their base before they die. Those plants should then mature and produce "pups" of their own. Sort of a “circle of life” thing. Not unlike Avatar. Or was that another movie?
By Karen Geisler