Nizanda, Oaxaca is located in the Isthumus of Tehuantepec. It is primarily a tropical dry forest with some unusual limestone outcroppings. It is known for it's hot springs, caves and diverse plant populations. Several species are unique to this area and bear the locality name - Encyclia nizandensis, Agave nizandensis, Anthurium nizandensis and the not yet published Tillandsia nizandensis. Other plants in Nizanda are Ficus petiolaris, Ficus pertusa, Ficus ovals, Beucarnea sp., Busera excel, Plumeria rubra, Hechtia isthmusiana, Tillandsia concolor, T. ionantha, T. makoyana, T. schiedeana and T. caput medusae to name a few.
Of the several bulbous tillandsia speceis, T. seleriana is more widespread and variable than others. It is often called an ant plant. Myrmecophytes (ant plants) are species that provide shelter for the ants that colonize their bulbous shape and can also add some nutritional benefit to the plant. Don't be surprised if you find that ants have invaded your T. seleriana.
Tillandsia, due to their close proximity in their natural habitats, will naturally hybridize. Although not common, natural tillandsia hybrids can occur when one species of the genus is pollinated with the pollen of a nearby species. In order for a natural hybrid to develop the two differing species must be growing in fairly close proximity. Since pollination can be accomplished via hummingbirds, this distance can still be somewhat significant. But certainly you cannot have a natural hybrid of one species indigenous to Mexico and the other Brazil.
Charles Darwin came up with the term, "natural selection" to describe what he saw in nature and how his theories on the evolution of speciation developed. He compared natural selection to "artificial selection", which is the human intervention in plant or animal hybridization. Desirable traits and characteristics chosen by the breeder are promoted in hybridizing. Undesirable traits are discouraged from breeding programs. This term was later changed to "selective breeding". Therefore, these two terms are clear, a natural hybrid is one that occurs naturally in nature. An artificial hybrid is one that was intentionally produced through selection of the parents by the breeder.
It is easy to understand the origin of the hybrid when these terms are used correctly. Not only for the hobbyist but especially the taxonomist and biologist. The importance of natural hybridization is being recognized more than in the past. Clear documentation of natural Tillandsia hybrids; where they were found in nature and other species in their habitat is necessary. Many purists are not concerned about hybrids, only species. But a natural hybrid which originates in a mixed species population has it's place in the study of species.
We can't discuss hybridization without discussing one other type of hybrid. In your garden when a plant is found growing that you did not intentionally plant, or is not a native plant to your region, it is frequently called a "volunteer". The same is true in nurseries and private collections. Plants are growing in close proximity and the opportunity for hybridization is high. If one harvests the seed and grows it to maturity, chances are you will discover an "accidental hybrid". Only with an "artificial hybrid" (selective hybridization), or an "accidental hybrid (volunteer hybridization) is it possible to have a hybrid with one parent from Mexico and the other Brazil. This will not occur with a "natural hybrid".
I suggest that these terms be adopted properly. Lack of consistent terminology decreases the value of the hybrid. A "natural hybrid" is one that occurred naturally in nature. An "artificial hybrid" is one that was created by a breeder, usually through selection of desirable characteristics. An "accidental hybrid" is one that happened in a private collection, garden or nursery, but without intention. Alternatively one could adopt the terms, natural hybrid, selective hybrid and volunteer hybrid.
T. Curly Slim was created by Dr. Mark Dimmitt. The parents of this hybrid are T. intermedia and T. streptophylla. At the time that he made this hybrid, T. intermedia was called T. paucifolia var. vivipara. The correct term is pseudoviviparous, meaning that the plant produces vegetative pups on the inflorescence, as well as at the base of the plant. From my experience this hybrid will sometimes produce offsets on the old flower spikes, but not always. It can skip a generation or two, so you don't want to cut the spikes off too soon. If you do, you may never know if your plant is "pseudoviviparous". Thankfully, it always make pups at the base of the plant.
It certainly is named appropriately, as it is "Slim & Curly"! Grow it in high light to enhance the pink color in the foliage when the plant begins to bloom. A large specimen such as this, at four feet in length, makes an artistic addition to ones collection.
One of our customers recently asked, "What is the best way to grow T. pamelae ?"
T. pamelae, (yes, this one was named after me), like many large, tank- type tillandsias is a saxicolous species. This means that it is found growing on rocks. What you may not realize is that these larger tank type tillandsias, (T. pamelae, T. grandis, T. rauhii, etc.) are using their roots to anchor to the rocks faces. Their roots will enter crevices in the rocks and fix them securely to the steep cliffs. It can be very difficult to detach them once they are established. Mature specimens have been attached up to 15 - 20 years! The rocks not only provide reflective warmth from the sunlight, but also are a source of moisture.
Tillandsia latifolia is a variable species. New tillandsia collectors sometimes have trouble identifying the differences between the Tillandsia latifolia species. Here is some basic information about the species and how to recognize them.
T. latifolia species are found growing from Equador to southern Peru. They range in size from less than one inch to as much as six feet long. Most T. latifolia will produce offsets on the old bloom spike after blooming, some do not. All species of T. lalifolia pup near the base of the plant or at the base of the inflorescence. All varieties have spikes that are orange to orange-red in color. The bloom spikes can be glossy or lepidote (covered with fine scurf). Currently, the four recognized species are T. latifolia var. latifoila, T. latifolia var. major, T. latifolia var. divaricapta and T. latifolia var. leucophylla. There are several cultivars registered in the BSI Cultivar Registry, but I'll save their discussion for another post.
T. latifolia var. major, (pictured above) sometimes called "var. gigantea" can grow to become a very large specimen. This form has a caulescent (elongated stem) habit, and will twist and bend as it grows to a mature size of four to six feet in length. It will occasionally produce offsets on the old flower spike, but not always. It does produce pups at the base of the plant along the stem.
T. latifolia var. leucophlla, the easiest to identify, is a lithophytic (cliff dwelling) species which has thick semi-succulent leaves covered densely with tiny trichomes (scales) , making the plant appear almost white in color. It is the only variety with a pendent inflorescence. It does not produce offsets on the flower spike, but does at the base of the spike. It is easy to grow, and tolerates a wide temperature range. It has a limited range in Peru.
T. latifolia var. divaricata is primarily an epiphytic (growing on trees) species, found in both Peru and Ecuador. It has an open rosette with narrow, long leaves. Sometimes the leaves are smooth, sometimes they are covered with a scurf (trichomes). The inflorescence extends well above the rosette. It rarely pups on the inflorescence, but does make pups at the base of the plant.
T. latifolia var. latifolia, is found growing with T. purpurea, on the sand dunes in the coastal desert of western Peru. This harsh area is exposed to salty air and long periods without rain. The majority of the year, the coastal zone is immersed in fog. It is interesting to observe these plants in habitat, as they all grow in the direction of the Pacific Ocean, toward the available moisture. They vary in size tremendously, and as you progress north along the coastal zone you will see the size of each colony change. Some will mature at only one inch tall, others at six inches in height. They are caulescent and have thick leaves covered with tiny trichomes. All of these forms produce pups on the inflorescence as well as at the base of the plant. You can separate the pups from the old bloom spike and grow them separately, or leave them attached. The will grow either way.
T. latifolia var. leucophylla (top L), T. latifoia var. divaricata (bottom L), and two forms of T. latifolia var. latifolia from coastal Peru
The 16th Meeting of the Conference:
During the 16th session of the CITES conference, it was decided to to remove T. sucrei, T. kautskyi, and T. sprengeliana from CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) Appendix II. This removes the restrictions on international trade of these Brazilian species.
At the 8th meeting held In 1992, there was a proposal to list the entire genus of Tillandsia. This was unprecedented, as no other genus, in its entirety, had been listed before. The reasoning was "that it was too difficult to tell one species from another". I worked very closely with Harry Luther and the US representative to the Plants Committee to educate many of the nations representatives about the differences of the species, and recommended a short list of some that were possibly threatened. This list was expanded to include seven species, T. sucrei, T. kautskyi, T. sprengeliana, T. harrisii, T. mauryana, T. xerographica and T. kammii. Today the first three are removed leaving the last four species on CITES.
T. 'Samantha', created by Pamela Koide Hyatt, has won the FloraHolland Glass Tulip Award! The plant was entered by Ed Stofbergen of Stofbergen Plant Company. Congratulations! This is a great honor and comes on the heels of T.'Samantha' making the short list for 2012 'Plant of the Year' at the Chelsea Flower Show. Read More
Horticulturalist & Explorer Specializing in the Genus Tillandsia.