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Tillandsia baileyi

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Tillandsia baileyi Joseph Nelson Rose ex John Kunkel Small, published in Flora of the Southeastern United States 246, 1903.  Common names, Reflexed Airplant and Giant or Bailey’s Ball Moss.  It is of course not a moss. Etymology is after American botanist L. H. Bailey.  The species was long confused with the superficially similar T. pseudobaileyi until the studies of Dr C. Sue Gardener (1984) now Dr Sill, separated them.  In addition, the ‘umbrella’ trichomes of these two species are morphologically very different to each other when viewed under a microscope.  T. baileyi is also closely related to other species from Florida and Northern Mexico. (Sill 2009.)

  Little is known about its natural history and I note that Dr Sill does not once mention ants; however, Olmsted and Dejean (1987) found that 30% of plants in habitat contained resident ant colonies.

  Description: Its partly hollow bases are not very rotund and it has less inflated leaves than T. pseudobaileyi but it has greater numbers of softer leaves.  It forms dense shoot clusters 20-40 cm (8-16") in diameter, reaching larger sizes when in flower with numbers of individual clones often forming each clump.  Stems are short, usually unbranched with 6-14 leaves in small, many-ranked rosettes.  Spring flowers are an attractive mix of red and purple, followed by dehiscing (splitting) dry fruits 2.5-4 cm long.

  Habitats:  Epiphytic on Southern Live Oak Quercus virginiana but primarily in densely shaded thickets of Texas Ebony Ebenopsis ebano near the Gulf Coast of Texas, USA and coastal Mexico at altitudes from 5-100 m (16-328 ft.)  Yet specimens mounted in full sun at a site in Texas “are thriving.” (Sill 2009.)  “Since all known wild populations are in areas influenced by the Gulf of Mexico, it seems likely that humidity is a more important factor than protection from increased sunlight,

  Range: Along the Gulf of Mexico from Kingsville, Texas to Tampico, Tamaulipas State, Mexico, primarily centred near the mouth of the Rio Grande.  Older reports from southern Mexico and Central America were due to past confusion with the more widespread T. pseudobaileyi.

  Its night opening flowers have proven to be self-fertile (Sill 2009.)



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