www.zinnysworld.com    Copyright 2000-2015 by Thomas Zinneman.  All rights reserved. Cardinal Airplant  Tillandsia fasciculata

The Cardinal Airplant (Tillandsia fasciculata), also known as the Common Wild Pine and the Quill-leaf Airplant, is an epiphyte and a member of the Bromeliad family.  As with other airplants, it does not require soil to grow.  It attaches itself to a host plant and obtains enough moisture and nutrients from the air and rain to support itself.  It is non-parasitic and does not harm the host plant.  The host plant is usually a cypress or older pine trees.  It is found throughout central and south Florida, the West Indies, Mexico, Central and South America.  It is considered endangered because of poaching, declining habitat, and the Mexican bromeliad weevil.

This perennial plant forms a rosette of stiff, green gray leaves.  The slender leaves, averaging 8-12 inches long, taper to a long-pointed tip.  The inflorescence consists of a cluster of flowering spikes, each 3-6 inches long, bearing numerous colorful red to yellow to ivory bracts.  Narrow purple flowers emerge from behind the bracts, but are only noticeable up close.  They can flower all year long, but especially in spring and early summer.

The leaves of an air plant have a funnel shape that directs water down to its roots. In the center of the plant is a water reservoir. This water attracts animals like frogs and insects, thus helping them to survive a long dry spell.

The top image was taken in March, 2009 at the Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve in Lee County.  The middle two images were taken in February, 2002 in Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Collier County.  The lower image was taken in May, 2002 at Hickey’s Creek Park in Lee County.

The distribution maps for the Cardinal Airplant are from the Plants Database of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).