By Derek Butcher July 2013.
Tillandsia ionantha Planch. var. zebrine Bert Foster, J Brom Soc. 32(4): 164, 172. 1982
Treated as T. ionantha v. ionantha in DeRebus I 1994 but continues under the Cultivar name of T. ‘Zebrina’.
A var. ionantha foliorum laminis pulchre zonatis differt.
This variety differs from the species in its beautifully banded leaf blades. Collected in Guatemala and cultivated by Bert Foster, 1975, Type US.
In 1975, we spent our Christmas vacation in Guatemala and had an interesting time, but I do not recommend visiting there in that season because Latin American countries seem to close down for at least 2 weeks at Christmas time. On one of our side trips, we drove to Rio Dulce. Approximately 75 miles beyond the outskirts of Guatemala City, we made a comfort stop along the road. While meditating behind a large cactus, I happened to look up and was pleased to see what Dr. Lyman Smith now calls Tillandsia ionantha var. zebrine. Despite the fact that we never intend to make any of our South or Central American visits bromeliad collecting trips, we always acquire a few plants. In this case too, collecting a few of these plants seemed the natural thing to do.
A short time after we left Guatemala, the great earthquake occurred, and these specimens of T. ionantha had been collected along the fault line involved with the earthquake. As far as I know, that area was totally destroyed.
In the ensuing 5 years, I have managed to increase the original 5 plants to 50 plants of varying sizes, however, I do not have any plants for sale at this time.
In 2012 Dennis Cathcart of Tropiflora advised that he has a clone of ionantha with zebra stripes but it is not the same clone as 'Zebrina'. The old 'Zebrina' is a fairly typical Guatemalan clone; very fuzzy and gray. Our plant is a Mexican clone that is much less scurfy. We call it Zebrina Mex.
So you may come across this plant. No doubt there are other ‘ionantha’s’ that have this ‘zebra’ trait that cannot be considered the original clone!