Sunday, February 28, 2016

Tillandsia albida: The Desert Dweller

Tillandsia albida, which means White Tillie, is so very, very white, you might think it's dead....
Tillandsia albida, ready to bloom. MRobb
But that is because it lives in one of the hottest, roughest, toughest deserts in the world. The Chihuahuan Desert of Northern Mexico is high elevation, and dry, dry, dry, as it is what is known as a "rain shadow" desert sandwiched between two mountain ranges. This Tillie, in its native habitat, gets a wee bit of water in June or July, and that's about it. So the intensely white, thick trichomes reflect harsh sunlight and retard water loss. The leaves are exceptionally tough and hard. It was named by intrepid naturalists Mez and Purpus in 1916.

My T. albida does just fine with a weekly soak along with my other Tillies.  The plant grows along a central stalk and blooms from the same stalk. It then grows several new stalks from the sides of the main stalk. The total length can be about 30cm, and the leaves grow to about 6-12cm. If you grow it in less intense sunlight, it will darken up slightly, but not much. It's quite the roughty-toughty Tillie!

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