Tillandsia capitata and its identity problems

Tillandsia capitata and its identity problems

by Derek Butcher in Die Brom 2015 (2): 62-64. 2015

Tillandsia capitata came into being in 1866 with a plant found in Cuba. In the intervening 147 years many plants have been found throughout the Caribbean and mainland Central America and been given this species name, but come in all shapes and sizes. Ten years ago it

seemed that a Cuban botanist was going to come to the rescue and give some meaning to the prevailing chaos, but alas nothing has eventuated even from DNA studies which seem to take front stage in botanists current deliberations. Let us now look at cultivars linked to T. capitata. We should remember that nature abhors a vacuum and so too do nurserymen. Therefore plants get given ‘common’ names and sometimes these are registered so all growers of bromeliads are aware. While it costs nothing in monetary terms to register it does take precious time to take the trouble.

This is a story about only part of the T. capitata identity crisis which some growers will heed and some not, but at least we try.

Let us go back to the Journal of the Bromeliad Society 56:. 64 (2006) where I tried to solve certain naming problems for a plant found in Guatemala which looked like a Tillandsia capitata but was sufficiently different to warrant a new name. To summarise, in the early 1990’s we had a plant variously called, T. xerographica x capitata, T.’Maya’ , T. sphaerocephala Guatemala, T. harrisii, Tillandsia capitata ‘Yellow Rose’ (in New Zealand), and a name that I coined: T. ‘Rio Hondo’. The latter name was based on the name T. riohondoensis, a name that was used by Renate Ehlers, Germany in preparation of a publication of that new species. But at that time she decided not to publish this species because of the identity problems of T. capitata in the broad sense. The name ‘Rio Hondo’ however was duly registered but I would suggest there are still many of these plants around with these other names on the labels.

Now to phase 2: there is a plant circulating as Tillandsia capitata ‘Peach’, also from the early 1990’s, which originated from Bird Rock Tropicals in California / USA under their inventory number ‘T030’. It was originally collected in Mexico, but was never registered under that name.

Meanwhile there was a plant collected in Guatemala, which was also called Tillandsia capitata ‘Peach’. We do not know who gave it that name, but we do know, it is being sold in Florida under this name. This plant has leaves that have that furry covering like a Peach, which is also shared by T. capitata ‘Rio Hondo’, but the plant is significantly smaller. Because we do not know the source of either plant we can only surmise, they are closely related.

If you are a grower who prides himself/ herself on having a keen interest on plant identity you will be pleased to know that we have decided to coin two new names for the Register – Tillandsia ‘Capitata Peach’ and Tillandsia ‘Guatemalan Peach’.

We leave it to you to decide, which name best fits your plant and suggest to others, who sell these plants, to use the new names, including ‘Rio Hondo’ if applicable.

In this issue, Renate Ehlers finally publishes Tillandsia riohondoensis because in the many years since the first introduction nothing moved forward in identifying and classification of all these many plants called T. capitata. So she decided to go the first step and publish this outstanding plant. So from now on you can label your plants as T. riohondoensis.

Note: Filed on Derek´s Treasure under the name “Triohondoensis history”. Oscar