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Forum for Epiphytic Myrmecophytes

Tillandsia caput-medusae

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Tillandsia caput-medusae E Morren published in La Belgique Horticole 30, 1880.  Common names Octopus Plant and Medusa's Head. DNA indicates it is sister species to ant-house T. paucifolia.  (Chew et al. 2010.)

  This is another species whose trophic association with ants was first suggested by Schimper as far back as 1888 (cited by Benzing 1970.)  Observations on this species and T. butzii in habitat provided compelling evidence that ants were helping to feed both.  (Benzing 1970.) Explorer botanist Werner Rauh (1979) merely noted that it “housed colonies of large biting ants

  Description: An attractive species with rosettes of thick, channelled leaves to 25 cm (9.8 inches) long emerging from a markedly inflated pseudobulb.  Flower-stalk bracts become bright red, while flowers are violet and pollinated by Hummingbirds.

  Habitats: From sea level to 2300 metres (7546 ft.)  In the northern parts of their range (Mexico), they often occur in very exposed locations in arid, tropical deciduous forests but to the south (hence closer to the equator) in shadier, wetter forests.  This distribution is reflected in leaf colour with northern forms being much whiter than southern, greener forms.  It is the only succulent Tillandsia occurring in the arid State of Sonora in north-west Mexico.  In some habitats, they cohabit with the ant-house orchid Myrmecophila christinae var. christinae.

  Range: Mexico and throughout Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.)

 The following bacteria were found living on the leaves of this species in Costa Rica. Aeromonas spp., Agrobacterium radiobacter, Bacillus brevis, B. cereus, B. circulans, B. pumilus, B. subtilis, Bulkolderia cepacea, Enterobacter agglomerans, Erwinia spp., Pseudomonas luteola, P. maltophila, Sphingobacterium multivorum, and Yersinia aldovae. (Brighigna et al. 2000)

  An easy to maintain, extremely drought tolerant species, offsetting readily and flowering from spring to early summer. In the wild, plants fall from their hosts after a few clonal generations because of ever-increasing weight; however, with appropriate care, they can be grown into very large clusters. Rosettes live for a few years after flowering while producing basal offsets.

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