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Tillandsia is a genus of around 650 species of evergreen, perennial flowering plants in the family Bromeliaceae, native to the forests, mountains and deserts of Central and South America, the southern United States and the West Indies.[2] They have naturally been established in diverse environments such as equatorial tropical rain forests, high elevation Andes mountains, rock dwelling (saxicolous) regions, and Louisiana swamps, such as Spanish Moss (T. usneoides), a species that grows atop tree limbs. Airplant is a common name for plants in this genus.[3] Most Tillandsia species are epiphytes – i.e. they normally grow without soil while attached to other plants. Some are aerophytes or air plants, which have no roots and grow on shifting desert soil.[4] Generally, the thinner-leafed varieties grow in rainy areas and the thick-leafed varieties in areas more subject to drought. Most species absorb moisture and nutrients through the leaves from rain, dew, dust, decaying leaves and insect matter, aided by structures called trichomes.

Tillandsia fasciculata.jpg
Tillandsia fasciculata
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Bromeliaceae
Subfamily: Tillandsioideae
Genus: Tillandsia

Over 650 species

  • Acanthospora Spreng.
  • Allardtia A
  • Diaphoranthema Beer
  • Misandra F.Dietr., nom. illeg.
  • Phytarrhiza Vis.
  • Pityrophyllum Beer
  • Platystachys K.Koch
  • Racinaea M.A.Spencer & L.B.Sm.
  • ×Racindsia Takiz.
  • Renealmia L.
  • Strepsia Steud.
  • Viridantha Espejo
  • Wallisia (Regel) E.Morren


Tillandsia schiedeana - MHNT



Tillandsia recurvata and another Bromeliaceae species on electric wires near San Juan de los Morros, Venezuela

Taking Care of Your AirplantEdit

Airplants are unique because they do not require soil. An airplant may be placed in an empty jar, cup, or on a shelf without consequence. Airplants enjoy well ventilated areas with lots of open space. Contrary to popular belief, airplants do not thrive in terrariums like succulents may.

Airplants enjoy indirect sunlight or filtered bright light. They do not require frequent watering. In fact, airplants need only be soaked for a few hours (or overnight) once a week. For thriving health, once a month add bromeliad fertilizer to the water that the plant is soaked in. Allow air plants to air dry fully before placing back in its container.[5]

Fruit of Spanish moss


The genus Tillandsia was named by Carl Linnaeus after the Swedish physician and botanist Dr. Elias Tillandz (originally Tillander) (1640–1693). Some common types of Tillandsia include air plant, ball moss (T. recurvata) and Spanish moss, the latter referring to T. usneoides in particular. The genus contains around 730 species,[6] traditionally divided into seven subgenera:[7]


Species of Tillandsia photosynthesize through a process called CAM cycle, where they close their stomata during the day to prevent water loss and open them at night to fix carbon dioxide and release oxygen.[9] This allows them to preserve water, necessary because they are epiphytes which can only absorb water in small amounts through their leaves. Temperature is not critical, the range being from 32 °C (90 °F) down to 10 °C (50 °F). They are sensitive to frost, except for the hardiest species, T. usneoides, which can tolerate night-time frosts down to about −10 °C (14 °F).[citation needed]


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