Derek the Hybrid Detective

DD1113 Tillandsia capitata 'Peach' & 'Guatemalan Peach'
by Derek Butcher, September 2013

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. 10 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 this species and 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 T. 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 T. riohondoensis which was going to be published by Renate Ehlers in Germany but she decided not to because of the identity problems of T. capitata in the broad sense. The name ‘Rio Hondo’ was duly registered but I would suggest there are still plants around with these other names on the labels.

Now to phase 2 where a plant had been circulating as T. capitata ‘Peach’ also from the early 1990’s and which originated from Bird Rock Tropicals in California as T030.
Originally this was collected in Mexico. This was not registered.

Meanwhile there was plant collected in Guatemala which was also called T. capitata ‘Peach’. We do not know who gave it that name but we do know it is being sold in Florida under this name. The plant does have leaves that have that furry covering like a Peach which is also shared by ‘Rio Hondo’ but the plant is 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 we have decided to coin two new names for the Register –‘Capitata Peach’ and ‘Guatemalan Peach’.

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

Tillandsia 'Peach' & 'Guatemalan Peach'

capitata 'Peach'. Photo Pamela Hyatt.
capitata 'Guatemalan Peach'. Photo Dennis Cathcart.
* Note from Chris Larson... "I think one qualification that should be run with this article, if run in newsletters.
The Mexican clone of T. capitata Peach that Peter & others have been selling over the years are probably in the minority.
A large majority of plants sold in vast numbers in Australia as T. capitata Peach were the plant we recognize as T. capitata Rio Hondo or as Derek is proposing (I think) T. capitata Guatemalan Peach.
This plant has been brought into the country in large numbers for over 20 years and most plants in collections as T. capitata Peach, in Australia, would be this plant. I also remember the plant we are growing as T. capitata Rio Hondo being brought in by smaller importers such as Keith Golinski in the early 90’s.

Updated 02/11/13