Tour to the largest grower of airplants
On Thursday, September 27, Ceres Garden Club members took a tour of the green houses of Tillandsia International in Coarsegold, CA. Founder and owner, Frank Messina, shared his vast knowledge of the genus tillandsia, with about 730 species of evergreen flowering plants in the family Bromeliaceae.
Native to the forests, mountains and deserts of Central and South America, the southern United States and the West Indies, tillandsia are epiphytes (also called aerophytes or air plants). They normally grow without soil while attached to other plants. What looks like roots are actually anchors. Tillandsia grow through a process where they close their stomata during the day to prevent water loss and open at night to fix carbon dioxide and to release oxygen. Moisture and nutrients are gathered from the air (dust, decaying leaves and insect matter) through scale like structures on the leaves called trichomes. Temperature is not critical, the range being from 90 down to 50 degrees. The thinner-leafed varieties grow in rainy areas and the thick-leafed varieties in areas more subject to drought. Propagation is by seeds or by offsets called ‘pups’. Not grown for their flowers, some bloom with a spectacular inflorescence. Some flowers will change color; some flowers are very fragrant.
Everyone was amazed that Spanish Moss is actually a tillandsia and was being grown in the green houses. Frank stated that he propagates by division, not by seed, yet when we looked closely, there were plants that had propagated themselves and were growing attached to the frame structures in the green houses. Frank pulled these off and gave each Ceres Garden Club member a free tillandsia, much to the delight of everyone.