the traveling gardener

Bromeliad Heaven!

air plants in the wild

By Kate Bryant January 19, 2011

Look closely on the right-hand pine trunk, about 3/4 of the way up. Most of the Tillandsia I caught sight of were at this height on the trunks of pine trees, always on the north side of the tree. There seemed to be more than one species but since most of them were about 10 feet off the ground, it would be hard to say…

One of the most amazing things about searching out plants in the wild is that crazy feeling you get when you spot some familiar garden or house plant growing in its native habitat and you say to yourself, "What is that doing here on this remote hillside?"

No matter how many times you’ve found familiar garden plants in the wild, there is still always this surprise at seeing something you know and love from your own garden or windowsill popping up in nature.


A lovely, silvery-leafed Tillandsia, latched on to a pine trunk and laced with dried pine needles.

This happened to me a lot on a hike I took up a mountain called La Bufa in the Sierra Madre Occidentale in Jalisco Province a couple of weeks ago. (More plant details on that hike to come, soon.)


I nearly missed seeing these brightly colored air plants, so high up in the tops of oaks were they! But their foot-long sprays of bright, rosy-red flowers were impossible to miss when I remembered to look up instead of down at the plants on the ground…

For now, let me just present to you some of the air plants (bromeliads) that I spotted in the trees during the course of this whirlwind journey undertaken both on foot and in the back of a pick-up truck, (the latter mode of transport thanks to a friendly Mexican family).


Hopefully this close up isn’t too out-of-focus to see the hot pinkish-red cascade of flowers – and the baby plants (not flowering) in neighboring tree branches.

There were orchids aplenty, too, and lichens and mosses up in the trees, but it was the bromeliads that stole the show. Whether they were in flower or not, I kept having the surreal feeling that I was looking at terrarium escapees! Clearly, I was ready for that vacation…

PS If anyone knows the name of this air plant, do share – I would love to know it!

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