From mini to mega, Tillandsia usneoides is a somewhat eccentric houseplant with lively green, grey and red spears. Why is it eccentric? Well, it lives on air.
Colours and shapes
Tillandsia usneoides has flexible, curled, elongated leaves that are 2 to 6 cm long and grow together like a chain. The larger specimens provide a long grey veil which allows light through, but still mutes bright outdoor light. A small Tillandsia usneoides works well in places where you wouldn’t expect to find the plant: you can happily hang one off a light fitting or anywhere you find a little spot for it to hang from, since they require neither soil nor pot. As an air plant this hanging plant has no roots, but absorbs moisture and nutrition through special scales on the curled narrow leaves.
The plant can reach a length of 2 metres and there are also varieties that fit inside a light bulb.
According to a Native American legend, Tillandsia usneoides is the hair of a princess who was murdered by enemies on the day of her wedding. The heartbroken groom cut her hair off and hung it in a tree, from where the wind spread it across the land. In the southern United States, Tillandsia usneoides is a popular element in the dramatic Goth culture and the preferred filling for voodoo dolls. In Europe it was primarily a pragmatic filler for mattresses, and served as padding for transporting breakable items.
In the wild Tillandsia usneoides hangs in long veils from tree branches in areas of high humidity from the United States to Argentina. The plant is an epiphyte; it lives on the trees without drawing nutrients from them. This means it can also live on rocks and even power cables. Tillandsia usneoides is a member of the bromeliad family, and flowers with small inconspicuous green flowers that have a wonderful scent. This hanging plant mainly propagates through pieces of the plant which are blown away or carried off by birds and get stuck on another tree. Tillandsia usneoides is also known as Spanish moss.