Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Attack of the Bromeliads Part 3, Revenge of the Needle!

This beauty is what really got me thinking about bromeliads:

Tillandsia setacea: Southern Needleleaf
This is Tillandsia setacea: Southern Needleleaf, and it has some of the most striking flowers out of something related to Spanish Moss I've ever seen.

T. setacea, showing seeding flowers
And this isn't when it's even all that pretty!
When it's in full flower, the flower is purple, I'll keep an eye out, supposedly this is the time when they bloom. Unfortunately, they've never been reported north of Georgia, and according to the USF Plant Atlas of Vascular Plants, has only been "vouchered" in Florida in counties south of and including I-4. There have been collections made in a few counties around Tampa, north of I-4.

Crimsoned triad breaks
Sending seeds into the wind
Planting in the air

From the underside
Of the Live Oak branch it grows
Needing only air.

I haven't found any information about commercial uses of this plant, nor have I found any folk medicinal uses. Mostly, it is pretty to look at, and scrubs the humid air under live oaks. That's not a bad lot in life.

There are a lot more different types of Tillandsias and there's even more different genera. In all there are sixteen native to Florida species, and there's two hybrids that occur naturally. One of the biggest dangers that they face is from an imported insect, the Mexican Bromeliad Weevil, Metamasius callizona. First reported in FL in the mid 1990's, the weevil quickly discovered that Florida's bromeliads are tasty. Many of the plants they feast upon have become uncommon or endangered as a result of their depredation. Fortunately for T. usneoides, T. recurvata, and T. setacea the weevil does not for now, find them tasty. The link above that describes the weevil problem also details a program started in 2007 to control the weevil population using a parasitic fly.

I've written these three articles on these common plants because I learned something while looking at them. Next time I'll share some interesting realizations I had while seeking flowers along the branches of a live oak tree.

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