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Tillandsioideae is a subfamily of plants in the bromeliad family Bromeliaceae. This group contains the fewest genera (9) but the greatest number of species (1,277). Most are epiphytic or lithophytic, growing in trees or on rocks where they absorb water and nutrients from the air. Spanish moss of the Tillandsia genus is a well-known variety. Bromeliads in the genera Guzmania and Vriesea are the more commonly cultivated members of this subfamily.

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

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Nearly all bromeliads have specialized cell groups called trichomes which form scales on the foliage. The trichomes occurring on Tillandsioideae may cover the plants so completely that they appear grey or white, like Spanish moss. In addition to absorbing nutrients, the trichomes may serve to insulate the plant from freezing weather.

Plants in this group have smooth or entire leaf margins, unusual color and markings, with many producing fragrant flowers. All their leaves are spineless (unarmed) and their fruit is a dry capsule containing winged seeds which are usually dispersed by breezes. Feathery seed plumes help them to adhere to a suitable epiphytic surface for germination. This subfamily is probably the most derived with special adaptations for survival in very dry conditions, with many described as xerophytes.


The 9 genera are:

Image Genus Number of living species
  Alcantarea 23 species
  Catopsis Griseb. 18 species
  Glomeropitcairnia 2 species
  Guzmania Ruiz & Pav. 207 species
  Mezobromelia 9 Species
  Racinaea 61 species
  Tillandsia L. 609 species
  Vriesea Lindl. 261 species
  Werauhia J.R.Grant 87 species


  • BSI - Bromeliad Info - Taxonomy
  • Black, Robert J.; Bijan Dehgan. "Bromeliads". Electronic Data Information System. University of Florida IFAS Extension.
  • "Superorder Commelinanae". Texas A&M University Bioinformatics Working Group. 1999-04-03.
  • Luther, H. E. (2008) An Alphabetical List of Bromeliad Binomials, Eleventh Edition The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota, Florida, USA. Published by The Bromeliad Society International.

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