Derek the Hybrid Detective
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DD0506 Tillandsia Laurie
by Derek Butcher.

In May 2002 Laurie Mountford of Ballina, northern NSW, sent me a Tillandsia he was growing that he had obtained without a name. Ken Woods of Sydney was also in the plot but was unable to give any clues either. Clearly the plant had T. schiedeana in its make-up because it had yellow petals and blue at the base. This species seems to love hybridising with any blue petalled Mexicans but which one? Ken and I decided to call the plant ‘Laurie’ because he had brought this unnamed hybrid to our notice.

April 2006 I was checking Tillandsias to photograph and noted two plants that were coming into flower and looking very similar. They were ‘Laurie’ and one with brachycaulos x schiedeana on the label. I had always assumed that the formula plant was a natural hybrid because I had got my plant from Len Colgan who thought it originated with Pam Koide of BirdRock Tropicals in California. Chris Larson also tells me that the plant with this formula has been in Melbourne for many years originating possibly in Europe. Nobody has reported doing this hybrid in Australia. Whatever the situation, this plant has been in Australia for many years but depending on where it was being grown had various plant shapes, and sometimes the leaves turn red as in T. brachycaulos, although the inflorescence seemed comparable. Here we had ‘Laurie’ and brachycaulos x schiedeana growing under similar conditions so even I could not be confused.
Little has been written about this natural hybrid and even Meilleur in J. Brom. Soc.29: 217. 1979 just said he had found it in Mexico. Renate Ehlers tells me she has not found it on her innumerable exploration trips to Mexico. As far as I am aware, no other reportings have been made but if you are aware of a location please advise.

The plant is about 30cm in diameter with a slender scape from 7cm long. The inflorescence is almost capitate, 3cm long by 2cm wide, polystichously compound with about 5 branches each with two flowers. Primary bracts had a sheath 2cm x 6mm with a 4cm long filiform blade. Certainly in the specimen I examined these branches were somewhat odd because there was a short rhachis where the bottom flower was at anthesis but the next flower up was not even thinking about it! Petals were 4cm long, mainly yellow but with a blue tinge next to the red sepals. Pollen was hard to find!

So if you want a quick way to write brachycaulos x schiedeana on the label I suggest you use ‘Laurie’ instead! By the way I have also seen this plant erroneously called schiedeana x xerographica.

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Updated 02/05/06