Was sind Tillandsien?

What are tillandsias?

Strange but true! They literally live on air and love

We are talking about tillandsia or tillandsia , also called " air plants " in German.

Air plants are amazing. This particular genus of plants has specialized leaves that absorb water and nutrients without relying on roots. Tillandsias have perfected the ability to grow on top of other plants or " epiphytically ". Unlike parasitic plants such as mistletoe, which steal nutrients from their host, epiphytes require only structural support and are self-sufficient in water and nutrients obtained from rain and air . Tillandsia roots are purely adhesive roots that anchor them to the ground.

Tillandsia on branch in natural habitat


Air plants are very diverse: there are over 600 species with a dizzying variety of shapes, colors and flowers. In nature they are found exclusively on the American continents from the southern United States to South America . There, however, they inhabit a wide range of environments, from humid rainforests to arid deserts . Whether nesting among the thorns of a cactus, clinging to a bare rock face, or nestling in the curve of a tall tree, air plants are at home here. Tillandsias are relatively young in evolutionary terms and belong to the bromeliad family (Bromeliacea), which also includes pineapples and many ornamental plant species. Adapting to life above ground has opened countless niches for tillandsias to thrive in nature, while their charismatic shape and beautiful flowers and foliage have made them a coveted addition to any plant lover's collection.

Tillandsia pulk on tree


There are two different types of plants:

Green tillandsia

The green species prefer a rather cool, humid climate and mostly live in the lower floors of rainforests. They have almost no discernible "suction scales". They can also be found living on the ground.

Green tillandsia

Gray tillandsia

The gray species, on the other hand, live almost exclusively in low-precipitation areas with high humidity. They love more light or full sun. They are rarely found near the ground but mainly in the upper tree levels or on rocks and other plants.

Gray Tillandsia

It is characterized by a highly specialized way of life.

Their gray appearance comes from being very densely covered with tiny " sucking scales " (trichomes). You can think of these as small scaly hairs that form an air cushion around the plant. This reflects more light and makes the plants appear bright. The more or the larger the suction scales are, the whiter it appears.

The suction scales work like blotting paper . They suck up water from the humidity/mist. When they have saturated themselves, they become transparent and the plant "greens". Now the plant can absorb more light. The sun dries the plants again and they become white again. The suction scales not only serve to absorb water, but also as evaporation and sun protection.

Pretty clever strategy! 😉

Thanks to this grandiose survival trick, tillandsias can absorb fog droplets and rainwater directly even without roots and thus cover their water requirements. They get the nutrients they need from the small amounts that are contained in the dust that is blown in and that have dissolved in the water. So tillandsia do not live parasitically, but literally from the air - hence " air plants ".

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