53. KRULIK, GERALD, Dear Jerry, PUP TALK (Saddleback Valley Bromeliad Society), 15(9) p. 8,
September, 2008.

By Jerry Krulik

Dear Jerry

I have a problem. I can’t seem to help myself. Everywhere I go I find myself looking for “freebies”.
This includes offsets, seedlings, cuttings, runners, sprouts, etc. I have plastic bags in my purse,
right next to the box cutter for quick separation of babies from parents. I even find myself
“accidentally” knocking down an especially attractive but otherwise blameless plant, in the hope
of breaking off a viable piece, and then being pressed by the owner ‘to take it, since it broke off’.

(signed) Light fingers

Dear Kleptomaniac

There are really at least two sides to this. Do you take plants when you visit commercial
greenhouses and other outlets? If so, remember that jails are not pleasant places to be. And you
might get barred from coming back to some of your favorite places.

Having established that theft is theft, from a commercial store, we turn to people who don’t
actually sell plants. If it has no commercial value or price, and you take a small piece, is this really
stealing? Governments think so, since they now claim ownership of all animals, plants, rocks,
bacteria, viruses, on their territory, whether they are known or unknown. I am surprised they don’t
try to tax air too, on some obscure basis. But back to your ‘friends’ and their collections.

Would they allow you back if they were fully aware of your habits? Don’t think that repeated
acquisitions go unnoticed by a skilled gardener. Eventually they will pin the thefts on you, even if
it takes a while. And while they may not actually say anything or bar you from the greenhouse, you
may not be allowed to wander around anymore without a keeper.

Have you considered something radical, like asking? Most excellent gardeners are in an
uncomfortable position. They grow their plants well, thus the plants spread and offset. There is a
limit as to how many bromeliads will fit into a given volume of space. Thus we experienced
gardeners are always looking for novices who have just started collecting, who have lots of spare
space, and who enjoy taking all the excess plants from us and giving us room for new acquisitions.
You might be surprised at the number of plants you are freely given. When the grower has
propagated six identical clones already, even the rarest plant may be offered. And you can both
hold your head high and show off the plants immediately.

Not quite blameless myself

54. KRULIK, GERALD, Varieties of Spanish Moss , PUP TALK (Saddleback Valley Bromeliad Society),
15(10) p. 5-7, October, 2008.
November-December 2008, 272-274.

Varieties of Spanish Moss

By Jerry Krulik

Spanish Moss, or Tillandsia usneoides, is a locally common plant throughout its range. This
bromeliad has the largest natural distribution of any bromeliad. It ranges from the coastal plains of
the southern US, as far north as Virginia or Maryland, all the way down to Argentina in South
America. (1)

Throughout this vast range, there hardly seems to be any variation. The flower color is greenish-
yellow. One pure yellow form exists in Peru, and is rare in cultivation. Note that blue and red
colored flowers, as noted elsewhere on the internet, are hoaxes. There does not even seem to be
a white flowered form, the normal default color for plants that lack colored pigment. I suspect that
the natural pollinators are beetles rather than the more normal, for Tillandsias, moths or
butterflies or hummingbirds, due to this obligate greenish yellow color and the small flower size
with a flat shape. Californian cultivated plants in my collection, which are outside of the normal
range of this species, do not seem to set seed very well, so this may be further evidence for a
specialized pollinator. I have dozens of clones from Florida, Louisiana, and unknown sources, so
there is plenty of opportunity for cross-pollination. Other plants in this grouping of close relatives
(Diaphoranthema; see my article Relatives of Spanish Moss (2)) such as T. recurvata set abundant
seed in my collection. Some people claim that the tiny flowers are very sweet smelling. I have not
been able to smell anything myself. This could also be a natural variation between clones, or
between humans.

The plant body itself does show some variations. There is supposedly one very rare, light reddish
colored plant in cultivation (per Jeff Sorenson). However, no scientifically named varieties or
subspecies seem to exist. The Florida Bromeliad Council taxonomy web site (3) does not mention
any named varieties or subspecies. The one exception is a photo with trivial name descriptions of
some types. Other so-called varieties and subspecies I have stumbled across do not seem to be
validly published. There are many slightly varying forms of this plant. If you take the most extreme
forms and just look at them, you might think that they are distinct. However, any large collection of
different clones will show continuous variations in form, eliminating any nameable differences.

Here are 4 extreme forms from my own collection, illustrated by a single plant of each. I have given
them trivial hobbyist names, just to keep them separate, as is standard among enthusiasts.

These plants look more different when seen in their normal form, as continuous chains of plants.

There is one other source of variation in Spanish Moss. This is the existence of hybrids. For
example, here is one from my own collection. This is a cross between the common T. recurvata
and T. usneoides. I suspect that such crosses are not particularly rare. Backcrosses or segregates
from a mass of seedlings might even account for plants such as the
form ‘macro’ shown above.

One internet site references another hybrid with T. mallemontii, which is not a member of the
Diaphoranthema. Uncle Derek’s notes mention that this hybrid was probably made in the 1960’s in
Australia. Some growers list this for sale also. It is interesting that the Bromeliad Cultivar Registry
website does not list any usneoides named hybrids. (2) I expect that other hybrids will either be
made, or be identified, in the future. T. usneoides is a popular parent for other Tillandsia crosses
with plants outside of the Diaphoranthema group.

For those people impatient with the normal cultivation methods of raising or searching for hybrids
and other variations, there is an alternative. You can easily make your own Spanish Moss
varieties! Here is a photo of some of the novel varieties I made in my garden, and exhibited at our
meeting a few months ago. The centermost plant is un-dyed Spanish Moss. It is best viewed in
color on my website,

The outer covering of Spanish Moss is quite absorbent, taking up to ten times its weight in water.
This makes it an ideal substrate for craft work or for startling your visitors. It is easy to dye by just
immersing the plant in liquid and then allowing it to drip dry. I make all colors from grey and green
to red, orange, yellow, and purple, from just the standard 4 colors from liquid food coloring. These
colors do not harm the plants, but unfortunately are not waterproof and quickly fade.

One last gardening reference:

BC, Wed Jul 2, 12:00 AM ET



2. KRULIK, GERALD, The Relatives of Spanish Moss, PUP TALK (Saddleback Valley Bromeliad
Society), 15(7)p. 5-7, July, 2008.