Derek the Hybrid Detective

DD0617 Tillandsia ‘Cocoensis’ and T. ‘Moraisensis’
by Derek Butcher 6/2017

You will not know much about these names because they are in my ‘nyp’ files (Not yet published) but these names are fairly well known to Tillandsia growers especially T. ‘Cocoensis’.
It must have been around 1990 that I started corresponding with Renate Ehlers in Germany. She was forever making trips to mainly Mexico collecting Tillandsias. Many were new to Science so she was forever describing such plants in great detail (In German!). I helped her translate these to English and had to quickly learn botanical German – yes, it is different to normal German! We each learnt a lot by swapping opinions. I still have many of these translations waiting for publication and many will stay there for various reasons. Some like T. ‘Cocoensis’ and to a lesser extent T. ‘Moraisensis’ just love to offset and are safely preserved in cultivation with no need to grow from seed with the worry of hybridisation.

Both these plants are linked to T. tenuifolia in the broad sense but whether they are worthy of species status has yet to be decided.
T. cocoensis was originally found by Reinhold Thieken in 1983 in Brazil, Estado Rio de Janeiro close to the border to Espirito Santo, north from Campos, Morro do Côco, as a lithophyte.
T. moraisensis was originally found in Brazil, State of Rio de Janeiro, North and to the east of Nova Friburgo, Trajano de Morais EB8113 and Santa Maria Madalena, by. Klaus and Renate Ehlers, August, 1981, EB8114.

T. ‘Moraisensis’ differs from T. ‘Cocoensis’ by plant being bigger, much shorter stems however plant 2 - 3 times as wide. Leaves longer, Blade much longer and more narrow with long tapered tip, less succulent. Petal edges less wavy.

Are the plants still alive in habitat? Nothing seems to have been reported by Brazilian botanists in this 36 year long hiatus or did they consider them as being T. tenuifolia. There are over 500 specimens listed in REFLORA as T. tenuifolia, but I could find none linking to Morro do Coco or even Santa Maria Madalena!

As far as cultivation goes T. cocoensis arrived in Australia in 1991 followed closely by T. moraisensis in 1993. They certainly liked Adelaide conditions because they flowered and offsetted.
Somehow, T. cocoensis found its way to Rainforest Flora in California and is freely available in the USA.

The future may see these plants described under ICN rules with obligatory herbarium specimens but at the moment the names are recorded as cultivars in the BCR. If this ever happens the ICN naming would take precedence. So in the meantime they should be referred to as Tillandsia ‘Cocoensis’ and T. ‘Moraisensis’
Renate Ehlers, cocoensis-left, moraisensis-right
T. Cocoensis plant
T. moraisensis as 'Maria Magdalena', Len Colgan

Updated 04/04/21