Viviparous Tillandsias

True vivipary- where an embryo develops within the fruit and grows to a size before dispersal, such as mangrove, occasionally tomatoes.

Pseudovivipary- plants produce plantlets in the place of sexual reproductive structures.  This is asexual reproduction.  This is really the correct term for what Tillandsias do.

For Tillandsias the term viviparous is commonly used to describe those plants that produce offsets on the flower spike.  There are several plants that do this as a matter of course but there is also the potential for a plant to offset viviparously as a freak occurrence in one generation.

Tillandsia secunda is currently flowering and pupping all over the nursery.  T secunda is a soft green leaved Tillandsia that grows well mounted on a tree or potted. When potted it can reach a large size.  It produces a tall flower spike with striking deep purple flowers and masses of pups along the spike,

Tillandsia flexuosa was known as T flexuosa var vivipara, the correct term now is T flexuosa, there are varying forms based on locality which have variations in banding on the leaves or a twisted shape but they are all the same species.  This plant grows long flower spikes and offsets along the spike, not quite as prolifically as T secunda.  We have found that more pups are produced when the plant is grown on a tree, perhaps because the long bendy spike has more support or more filtered light.

T. somnians is another one with a very long spike that produces offsets on the spike and has green to purple leaves depending on the form and light levels.  This is another one that does well in a pot.

Of the smaller Tillandsias, T baileyi Halley’s Comet is one that regularly produces viviparous offsets.  This cultivar of T baileyi tends to produce smaller plants that T baileyi and lots of viviparous pups.  Currently we also have a T Inca Gold, which is probably a natural hybrid of uncertain parentage producing viviparous offsets.  This is interesting as for us, it produces plenty of vegetative offsets without flowering regularly at all. 

I have also seen reports of T filifolia and T tectorum producing viviparous offsets so perhaps all Tillandsias have the potential to do so.

These plants make a great addition to Tillandsias collections and are fun to watch as they bloom.

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