Tillandsia recurvata

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Tillandsia recurvata
Tillandsia recurvata (Family Bromeliaceae).jpg
Scientific classification OOjs UI icon edit-ltr.svg
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Bromeliaceae
Genus: Tillandsia
Subgenus: Tillandsia subg. Diaphoranthema
T. recurvata
Binomial name
Tillandsia recurvata
(L.) L., 1762
Synonyms [1] [2]
  • Renealmia recurvataL.
  • Diaphoranthema recurvata(L.) Beer
  • Tillandsia monostachyaW.Bartram
  • Tillandsia unifloraKunth
  • Diaphoranthema uniflora(Kunth) Beer
  • Tillandsia paucifloraSessé & Moc.

Tillandsia recurvata, commonly known as small ballmoss [3] or ball moss, is a flowering plant (not a true moss) in the family Bromeliaceae that grows upon larger host plants. It grows well in areas with low light, little airflow, and high humidity, which is commonly provided by southern shade trees, often the southern live oak ( Quercus virginiana ). [4] It is not a parasite like mistletoe, but an epiphyte like its relative Spanish moss.

Tillandsia recurvata derives mainly physical support and not nutrition from its host; it photosynthesizes its own food, absorbing water that collects on its leaves. [4] It obtains nitrogen from bacteria, and other minerals largely from blown dust. [5] Though not a harmful parasite in the same sense as plants such as mistletoes that feed on the sap of the host, ball moss may compete with a host tree for sunlight and some nutrients, and by restricting available surface area for new branch sprouts; however, except on stressed host trees (e.g., in some urban settings) it rarely has a noticeable effect on growth or health. [4]

In habit, Tillandsia recurvata tends to form a spheroid ranging in size from a golf ball to a soccer ball, though this is actually a collection of multiple "pups" growing joined together. Several studies suggest that wind is the main agent of seed dispersal. [4] [6] [7] [8] It has not been demonstrated empirically that T. recurvata is capable of dispersal through animal-mediated vectors, such as epizoochory or endozoochory. Mature seeds have no apparent adhesive on the exterior, and very little nutrient supply to support sprouting, but, like many other epiphyte seeds, they are borne plentifully and are armed with fine, straight hairs that could well adhere to wet or clinging surfaces, such as rough bark, which would provide enough time for the seedlings to anchor themselves with their roots. [9] [10] In fact, as shown in the accompanying photograph, they even grow plentifully on fences and telephone wires, together with occasional other species.

Comparison of a Tillandsia seed (number 9) with seeds of some other American epiphytic species Schimper-Tafel6.jpg
Comparison of a Tillandsia seed (number 9) with seeds of some other American epiphytic species
Tillandsia recurvata growing on wires, together with another species, possibly Tillandsia usneoides Tillandsia recurvata on electricity cables Tamaulipas.jpg
Tillandsia recurvata growing on wires, together with another species, possibly Tillandsia usneoides

Ball moss is sensitive to freezing, particularly when moist. [11]

Ball moss is indigenous to the warmer regions of the Americas; it ranges from the southern United States to northern Argentina and Chile. [12] The northernmost limit of its natural occurrence is coastal Georgia (where it is listed as a State "Special Concern" species), although it has been introduced into coastal South Carolina on landscaping trees. [13] It has been reported in nature from Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, Mexico, most of Central and South America, and many of the islands in the West Indies. [2] [14] [15] In the United States, ball moss is considered unattractive by some, and many landowners attempt to remove these bromeliads from their trees using different chemical solutions.


Tillandsia recurvata can be used as animal fodder.[ citation needed ]

The Pima of Mexico occasionally eat T. recurvata and T. erubescens flowers due to their high sugar content. [16]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Epiphyte</span> Non-parasitic surface organism that grows upon another plant but is not nourished by it

An epiphyte is a plant or plant-like organism that grows on the surface of another plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, water or from debris accumulating around it. The plants on which epiphytes grow are called phorophytes. Epiphytes take part in nutrient cycles and add to both the diversity and biomass of the ecosystem in which they occur, like any other organism. They are an important source of food for many species. Typically, the older parts of a plant will have more epiphytes growing on them. Epiphytes differ from parasites in that they grow on other plants for physical support and do not necessarily affect the host negatively. An organism that grows on another organism that is not a plant may be called an epibiont. Epiphytes are usually found in the temperate zone or in the tropics. Epiphyte species make good houseplants due to their minimal water and soil requirements. Epiphytes provide a rich and diverse habitat for other organisms including animals, fungi, bacteria, and myxomycetes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bromeliaceae</span> Family of monocot flowering plants

The Bromeliaceae are a family of monocot flowering plants of about 80 genera and 3700 known species, native mainly to the tropical Americas, with several species found in the American subtropics and one in tropical west Africa, Pitcairnia feliciana.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spanish moss</span> Species of plant, Tillandsia usneoides

Spanish moss is an epiphytic flowering plant that often grows upon large trees in tropical and subtropical climates. It is native to much of Mexico, Bermuda, the Bahamas, Central America, South America, the Southern United States, and West Indies. It has been naturalized in Queensland (Australia). It is known as "grandpa's beard" in French Polynesia.

<i>Tillandsia</i> Genus of flowering plants

Tillandsia is a genus of around 650 species of evergreen, perennial flowering plants in the family Bromeliaceae, native to the forests, mountains and deserts of the Neotropics, from northern Mexico and the southeastern United States to Mesoamerica and the Caribbean to central Argentina. Their leaves, more or less silvery in color, are covered with specialized cells (trichomes) capable of rapidly absorbing water that gathers on them.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aerial root</span> Root which grows above the ground

Aerial roots are roots above the ground. They are almost always adventitious. They are found in diverse plant species, including epiphytes such as orchids (Orchidaceae), tropical coastal swamp trees such as mangroves, banyan figs, the warm-temperate rainforest rata, and pohutukawa trees of New Zealand. Vines such as common ivy and poison ivy also have aerial roots.

<i>Catopsis berteroniana</i> Species of carnivorous plant

Catopsis berteroniana, commonly known as the powdery strap airplant or the lantern of the forest, is an epiphytic bromeliad thought to be a possible carnivorous plant, similar to Brocchinia reducta, although the evidence is equivocal. Its native range is from southern Florida to southern Brazil. It generally grows on the unshaded twigs of trees, and has been shown experimentally to trap more insects in its tank than other bromeliads of comparable size. There are several other species in the genus, none of which is believed to be carnivorous.

<i>Phoradendron</i> Genus of mistletoes

Phoradendron is a genus of mistletoe, native to warm temperate and tropical regions of the Americas. The center of diversity is the Amazon rainforest. Phoradendron is the largest genus of mistletoe in the Americas, and possibly the largest genus of mistletoes in the world. Traditionally, the genus has been placed in the family Viscaceae, but recent genetic research acknowledged by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group shows this family to be correctly placed within a larger circumscription of the sandalwood family, Santalaceae.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tillandsioideae</span> Subfamily of family Bromeliaceae

Tillandsioideae is a subfamily of plants in the bromeliad family Bromeliaceae. This subfamily contains the greatest number of species. Most are epiphytic or lithophytic, growing in trees or on rocks where they absorb water and nutrients from the air. Spanish moss of the genus Tillandsia is a well-known species. Bromeliads in the genera Guzmania and Vriesea are the more commonly cultivated members of this subfamily.

<i>Ebenopsis ebano</i> Species of legume

Ebenopsis ebano is a species of flowering plant in the family Fabaceae, that is native to the coastal plain of southern Texas in the United States and eastern Mexico. It is commonly known as Texas ebony or ebano.

<i>Tillandsia balbisiana</i> Species of epiphyte

Tillandsia balbisiana, common name northern needleleaf, is a species of bromeliad in the genus Tillandsia. This species in native to Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, the West Indies, and Florida.

<i>Tillandsia erubescens</i> Species of epiphyte

Tillandsia erubescens is a species of epiphytic plants of the genus Tillandsia. This species is endemic to Mexico, found over much of the country from Chihuahua to Oaxaca.

Tillandsia violacea is a species of epiphytic flowering plant in the family Bromeliaceae. It is endemic to Mexico, particularly to the Central Mexican Plateau. This species' habitat is at elevations between 600 and 3,100 meters, and is epiphytic to large trees in humid temperate forests, primarily the species Abies religiosa, Quercus rugosa, and Quercus laurina. In particular, it is a common epiphyte of the temperate pine forests of Hidalgo state, including El Chico National Park. Its range extends to the states of Guerrero, Jalisco, state of Mexico, Michoacán, Morelos, Oaxaca, and Veracruz. Due to its high-elevation habitat, this bromeliad species has tolerance to sub-freezing conditions.

Tillandsia festucoides, commonly known as the fescue airplant, is a species of bromeliad that is native to the Greater Antilles, Mexico, the Cayman Islands, and Central America.

<i>Tillandsia flexuosa</i> Species of plant

Tillandsia flexuosa, the twisted airplant, is a species of bromeliad in the genus Tillandsia. This species is native to Central America, southeastern Mexico, northern South America and the United States (Florida).

<i>Tillandsia paucifolia</i>

Tillandsia paucifolia, the potbelly airplant, is a species of bromeliad in the genus Tillandsia. This species is native to Central America, central and southern Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, the West Indies, and Florida.

<i>Tillandsia schiedeana</i> Species of plant

Tillandsia schiedeana is a species of flowering plant in the genus Tillandsia. It was named for the collector Christian Julius Wilhelm Schiede. As an epiphyte it is found "growing in open tropical forests, and saxicolous, growing on cacti and burseras on steep dry slopes in semiarid regions in Mexico, Central America, West Indies, Venezuela, and Colombia at elevations of 750 to 5,500 feet."

<i>Tillandsia utriculata</i> Species of flowering plant

Tillandsia utriculata, commonly known as the spreading airplant, the giant airplant, or wild pine is a species of bromeliad that is native to Florida and Georgia in the United States, the Caribbean, southern and eastern Mexico, Central America, and Venezuela.

<i>Tillandsia variabilis</i> Species of plant

Tillandsia variabilis, the leatherleaf airplant, is a species of bromeliad in the genus Tillandsia. This species is native to Bolivia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, the West Indies and southern Florida.

<i>Tillandsia baileyi</i> Species of flowering plant

Tillandsia baileyi, commonly known as the reflexed airplant or Bailey's ball moss, is a species of bromeliad that is native to southern Texas in the United States and Tamaulipas in Mexico. It is found along the Gulf of Mexico from Kingsville, Texas to Tampico, Tamaulipas. Preferred host plants for this epiphyte include Southern live oak and Texas ebony.

An ant garden is a mutualistic interaction between certain species of arboreal ants and various epiphytic plants. It is a structure made in the tree canopy by the ants that is filled with debris and other organic matter in which epiphytes grow. The ants benefit from this arrangement by having a stable framework on which to build their nest while the plants benefit by obtaining nutrients from the soil and from the moisture retained there.


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  2. 1 2 Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, Tillandsia recurvata
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  11. Hagar, CF (1990). The effect of water content, cooling rate, and growth temperature on the freezing temperature of 4 Tillandsia species (Masters thesis). Texas A&M University.
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  15. Biota of North America Program, 2013 county distribution map
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