Airplants are incredible. Tillandsia or ‘airplants’ are a genus of plants with specialized leaves that absorb water and nutrients, allowing them to grow suspended in air. The ability to grow harmlessly on another plant or ‘epiphytically’ is not unique to Tillandsia but they have perfected it. Unlike parasites which draw nutrients from their host, epiphytes simply require physical support and provide for themselves with water and nutrients gathered from rain and air. Their roots are only for clinging to their perch while Tillandsia or ‘airplants’ gather all they need independent from the constraints of soil below.
Tillandsia are diverse with over 600 species featuring a dizzying array of shapes, colors, and blooms. They inhabit a wide range of environments from moist rain forests to dry deserts. Whether nestled amongst a cacti’s thorns, clinging to a bare rock cliff, or tucked into the crook of a towering tree airplants find themselves at home. They are only native to the New World, their range stretching from the southern United States through South America. Tillandsia are relatively recent evolutionarily and a member of the Bromelieacea family which also contain pineapples and many ornamental species. Adapting to a life above the ground has opened up countless niches for Tillandsia to thrive in nature while their charismatic form and beautiful blooms and foliage have made them a sought after addition to any plant lover’s collection.