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Tillandsia fasciculata.JPG
Tillandsia fasciculata
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Bromeliaceae
Subfamily: Tillandsioideae
Harms [1]

See text.

Tillandsioideae is a subfamily of plants in the bromeliad family Bromeliaceae. This subfamily contains the greatest number of species (about 1,400). 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.



Nearly all bromeliads have specialized cell groups called trichomes which form scales on the foliage. The trichomes occurring on Tillandsioideae may cover the plants so completely that they appear grey or white, like Spanish moss. In addition to absorbing nutrients, the trichomes may serve to insulate the plant from freezing weather.

Plants in this group have smooth or entire leaf margins, unusual color and markings, with many producing fragrant flowers. All their leaves are spineless (unarmed) and their fruit is a dry capsule containing winged seeds which are usually dispersed by breezes. Feathery seed plumes help them to adhere to a suitable epiphytic surface for germination. This subfamily is probably the most derived with special adaptations for survival in very dry conditions, with many described as xerophytes.


Phylogeny and classification

Tillandsioideae is the largest of the subfamilies of the family Bromeliaceae, with upwards of 1,400 species. Molecular phylogenetic studies from 1997 onwards repeatedly showed the monophyly of the subfamily. However, the division of the subfamily into genera has varied considerably. A 1997 monograph used six genera: Catopsis, Glomeropitcairnia, Guzmania, Mezobromelia, Tillandsia and Vriesea. Other genera were later segregated from Tillandsia and Vriesea, of which three, Alcantarea, Racinaea, and Werauhia, gained general acceptance. Molecular phylogenetic studies from 2001 onwards showed that Mezobromelia, Tillandsia and Vriesea in particular were not monophyletic, and that the circumscription of other accepted genera was problematic in relation to these three genera. A major monograph published in 2016 used plastid and nuclear DNA as well as morphological characters to produce a new phylogeny and classification for the subfamily. Their preferred cladogram is shown below. [2]

Noncore Tillandsioideae




Core Tillandsioideae



Vriesea s.s.







Cipuropsis s.l.


Cipuropsis - Mezobromelia complex




Pseudalcantarea s.s.






The 2016 study was unable to fully resolve the two genera Cipuropsis and Mezobromelia because the type species of Cipuropsis, Cipuropsis subandina , was not available for study. [2] In 2017, Gouda added a new species to Cipuropsis ( Cipuropsis asmussii ) and clarified the distinction between Cipuropsis and Mezobromelia, leaving the former with three species. [3] As of November 2022, the Encyclopaedia of Bromeliads accepted both genera, as well as the closely related Josemania, [1] whereas Plants of the World Online treated all three in the single broadly defined genus Cipuropsis – marked as Cipuropsis s.l. on the cladogram above. [4] Waltillia was not included in the 2016 study as a separate genus, but is accepted by both the Encyclopaedia of Bromeliads [1] and Plants of the World Online. [5]

The classification produced by the 2016 monograph uses four tribes, Catopsideae, Glomeropitcairnieae, Tillandsieae and Vrieseeae, the last of which is divided into two subtribes, Cipuropsidinae and Vrieseinae. [2]


Genera placed in the subfamily as of October 2022 by the Encyclopaedia of Bromeliads are listed below. [1] Plants of the World Online did not accept Josemania and Mezobromelia, sinking them into Cipuropsis. [4] Tribe and subtribe placements are from the 2016 monograph and the Encyclopaedia of Bromeliads. [2] [1]

ImageGenusTribe and subtribe
Gardenology.org-IMG 2198 rbgs11jan.jpg Alcantarea (E.Morren ex Mez) Harms.Vrieseeae: Vrieseinae
Barfussia Manzan. & W.TillTillandsieae
CatopsisBerteroniana AtSierraDeLema4836.jpg Catopsis Griseb. Catopsideae
Cipuropsis UleVrieseeae: Cipuropsidinae
Glomeropitcairnia penduliflora01.jpg Glomeropitcairnia Glomeropitcairnieae
Goudaea chrysostachys kz02.jpg Goudaea W.Till & BarfussVrieseeae: Cipuropsidinae
Gregbrownia W.Till & BarfussTillandsieae
Bromeliaceae03.jpg Guzmania Ruiz & Pav. Tillandsieae
x Guzlandsia Gouda (Guzmania × Tillandsia)Tillandsieae
Jagrantia Barfuss & W.TillVrieseeae: Cipuropsidinae
Josemania W.Till & BarfussVrieseeae: Cipuropsidinae
Tillandsia dodsonii BotGardBln 12052008A.jpg Lemeltonia Barfuss & W.TillTillandsieae
Vriesea splendens flower.jpg Lutheria Barfuss & W.TillVrieseeae: Cipuropsidinae
Mezobromelia capituligera.JPG Mezobromelia L.B.SmithVrieseeae: Cipuropsidinae
Tillandsia grandis (TS) 1-00149.jpg Pseudalcantarea (Mez) Pinzón & BarfussTillandsieae
Racinaea (or Tillandsia) fraseri (14298724244).jpg Racinaea Tillandsieae
Stigmatodon Leme, G.K.Br. & BarfussVrieseeae: Vrieseinae
Tillandsia tenuifolia 1.jpg Tillandsia L. Tillandsieae
Flaming Sword (Vriesea spp.) 1.jpg Vriesea Lindl. Vrieseeae: Vrieseinae
Starr 080117-1881 Tillandsia lindenii.jpg Wallisia (Regel) É.Morren Tillandsieae
Waltillia Leme, Barfuss & HalbritterVrieseeae: Vrieseinae
Vriesea williamsii 4.jpg Werauhia J.R.Grant Vrieseeae: Cipuropsidinae
Vriesea tuerckheimii BotGardBln07122011I.jpg Zizkaea W.Till & BarfussVrieseeae: Cipuropsidinae

Related Research Articles

<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.

<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 northern Mexico and south-eastern United States, Mesoamerica and the Caribbean to mid Argentina. Their leaves, more or less silvery in color, are covered with specialized cells (trichomes) capable of rapidly absorbing water that gathers on them.

<i>Guzmania</i> Genus of epiphytes

Guzmania is a genus of over 120 species of flowering plants in the botanical family Bromeliaceae, subfamily Tillandsioideae. They are mainly stemless, evergreen, epiphytic perennials native to Florida, the West Indies, southern Mexico, Central America, and northern and western South America. They are found at altitudes of up to 3,500 m (11,483 ft) in the Andean rainforests.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bromelioideae</span> Subfamily of bromeliad flowering plants

Bromelioideae is a subfamily of the bromeliads (Bromeliaceae). This subfamily is the most diverse, represented by the greatest number of genera with about 40. Most of the plants in this group are epiphytes, though some have evolved in, or will adapt to, terrestrial conditions. This subfamily features the most plant types which are commonly cultivated by people, including the pineapple.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pitcairnioideae</span> Species of flowering plant

Pitcairnioideae is a subfamily of the bromeliad family, Bromeliaceae. Traditionally, it was a large subfamily, comprising all those species with winged or more rarely naked seeds. Molecular phylogenetic studies showed that traditional Pitcairnioideae was not monophyletic, and the subfamily was more narrowly circumscribed. As of November 2022, the Encyclopaedia of Bromeliads placed five genera in the subfamily. Members of the subfamily are found from the Andes to the coast of Brazil, with one genus (Fosterella) found northwards to Mexico.

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

Glomeropitcarnia is a genus of the botanical family Bromeliaceae, subfamily Tillandsioideae. The genus name is from the Latin “glomero” and the genus Pitcairnia. It has two known species, native to Venezuela, Trinidad and the Lesser Antilles.

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

Mezobromelia is a genus of the botanical family Bromeliaceae, subfamily Tillandsioideae. The genus name is for Carl Christian Mez, German botanist (1866-1944). Some authorities treat Mezobromelia as a synonym of Cipuropsis.

<i>Pseudalcantarea viridiflora</i> Species of epiphyte

Pseudalcantarea viridiflora is a species of flowering plant in the family Bromeliaceae, native to Mexico and Central America. It was first described by Johann Georg Beer in 1856.

Mezobromelia bicolor is a plant species in the family Bromeliaceae. This species is native to Ecuador and Colombia.

Josemania truncata is a species of flowering plant in the family Bromeliaceae, native to Colombia and Ecuador. It was first described by Lyman Bradford Smith in 1954 as Tillandsia truncata. Plants of the World Online sinks the genus Josemania into Cipuropsis, treating this species as Cipuropsis truncata.

Josemania asplundii, synonym Tillandsia asplundii, is a species in the genus Josemania, native to Ecuador and Peru. It was first acquired by the 1842 United States Expedition in South America.

Josemania singularis, synonym Cipuropsis singularis, is a species of flowering plant in the family Bromeliaceae. This species is native to Costa Rica and Panama.

Cipuropsis is a genus of flowering plant in the family Bromeliaceae, native to the Caribbean, southern Central America and northwestern South America. The genus was first described by Ule in 1907.

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

Wallisia is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the family Bromeliaceae. It is also in the Tillandsioideae subfamily.


Pseudalcantarea is a genus of flowering plants belonging to the family Bromeliaceae. Its native range is Mexico to Central America. It was first described as the subgenus Pseudalcantarea of Tillandsia before being raised to a full genus in 2016.

Josemania is a genus of flowering plant in the family Bromeliaceae, first described in 2016.

Josemania delicatula, synonym Cipuropsis delicatula, is a species in the family Bromeliaceae, native to Colombia.

Mezobromelia hospitalis, synonym Cipuropsis hospitalis, is a species of flowering plant in the family Bromeliaceae, native to Colombia. It was first described by Lyman Bradford Smith in 1948 as Tillandsia hospitalis.

Mezobromelia magdalenae, synonym Cipuropsis magdalenae, is a species of flowering plant in the family Bromeliaceae, native to Colombia. It was first described by Lyman Bradford Smith in 1963 as Vriesea magdalenae.


Rokautskyia is a genus of flowering plant in the family Bromeliaceae, native to eastern Brazil. The genus was first established in 2017, and is placed in subfamily Bromelioideae.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Gouda, Eric J.; Butcher, D.; Gouda, C.S. (2022), "subfam. Tillandsioideae Harms", Encyclopaedia of Bromeliads, Utrecht University Botanic Gardens, retrieved 2022-10-26
  2. 1 2 3 4 Barfuss, Michael H.J.; Till, Walter; Leme, Elton M.C.; Pinzón, Juan P.; Manzanares, José M.; Halbritter, Heidemarie; Samuel, Rosabelle & Brown, Gregory K. (2016-10-13), "Taxonomic revision of Bromeliaceae subfam. Tillandsioideae based on a multi-locus DNA sequence phylogeny and morphology", Phytotaxa, 279 (1): 1, doi:10.11646/phytotaxa.279.1.1
  3. Gouda, E.J. (2017), "A new species of Cipuropsis, and some remarks about this recently resurrected genus", Journal of the Bromeliad Society, 66 (2): 75–86
  4. 1 2 "Cipuropsis Ule", Plants of the World Online , Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew , retrieved 2022-10-27
  5. "Waltillia Leme, Barfuss & Halbritt.", Plants of the World Online , Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew , retrieved 2022-11-01