Tillandsia arhiza
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Tillandsia arhiza
See notes below concerning Tillandsia retrorsa
Ken Woods, 10/04.
Peter Tristram, 10/10.
John Olsen, 12/13.
Bruce Dunstan 11/17

Peter Tristram's comments from Tillandsia discussion group ...
"Those of us who have been around a while will remember the various plants imported as T. arhiza. No doubt many will still carry this name despite their (certain) Brazilian origin whereas T. arhiza is from Paraguay. Broms are very conscious of borders! It is difficult to distinguish between T. paleacea, streptocarpa, arhiza, reichenbachii, graomogulensis (kurt-horstii), etc without provenance, a lot of time, magnifying glass and scalpel and so on, even though thousands of km separate some of these.

The mother load (in cultivation) seems to be at one of the German botanical gardens I visited. I was lucky enough to score a couple of bits. Lots of Lotte’s plants are in this collection. The differences between it and graomogulensis and streptocarpa are fairly obvious (long scape oops stem for one) but to some paleacea forms are less obvious. There is plenty of interesting reading on the Derek's dvd. Note the label on the plant says ‘arhiza var. rupestris’ so that is what I called the images.

Derek Butcher 12/13 ... "For several years now we have had at least two forms of the T. streptocarpa complex that have been called Tillandsia arhiza.
The true T. arhiza is a small plant from Paraguay and is rare in Australian collections but is filtering in via Germany.
About 20 years ago Daniel Brewer and Paul Isley found a T. streptocarpa in Minas Gerais in Brazil.
It looked like a large T. arhiza and Harry Luther decided it was T. arhiza not T. streptocarpa.
In the intervening 20 years no plant has been reported as a link from the endemic T. arhiza in Paraguay.

In 1931 there was a T. retrorsa Silveira that was collected in Minas Gerais and its description is a much better fit than that of T. arhiza.
I have convinced Eric Gouda that we are better served calling the plant from Minas Gerais T. retrorsa than a questionable T. arhiza.

So if you have this plant from the USA I suggest you change the name to T. retrorsa. If you have it under the old name 'Breweri' all to the good.
From now onwards you will find detail of this American identification under T. retrorsa on the DVD.
I always try to make things simple!"

Mark Supple ... "Derek, so the T. arhiza I got from you is in fact T. retrorsa then? Just asking as it is not what I call a small plant."
Derek Butcher ... "You have it in one Mark. This plant came from Harry Luther and I had been arguing with him ever since!!
In other words T. retrorsa is closer to T. streptocarpa sensu L B Smith than T. arhiza sensu Luther"
John Olsen ... "I have a small plant from Peter labelled T. arhiza Paraguay which is flowering. (As attached.) Flowers are smaller than my streptocarpa varieties."

T. retrorsa habitat photo from Derek Butcher. "Tillandsia retrorsa Coleta PE Rio Preto - S. Gongalo do Rio Preto - MG"

Tillandsia retrorsa Coleta PE Rio Preto - S. Gongalo do Rio Preto - MG

"Tillandsia breweri" by Derek Butcher in J Brom Soc 46(6): 247-249. 1996
This could be called "the plant that never was", because this is the name in use in Australia for a plant imported from Rainforest Flora in Los Angeles to Melbourne in 1992. Apparently the plant had been collected by Daniel Brewer and Paul Isley in Minas Gerais, Brazil.
The Melbourne plant is owned by Brenton Cadd and recently flowered. It was a topic of discussion on the Internet during May, 1996. Parts of the plant were sent to me in a "herbarium" state. I found dissecting it to be a new challenge because I usually work with live material. I can now understand why so many of the old descriptions are vague about stamens and stigmas because these fall to pieces very easily. However, I did have coloured photographs to help me with my work sheet.
The key in Smith and Downs shows that Tillandsia arhiza (as well as T. paleacea) has a long stem with leaves mostly shorter than the stem, whereas T. streptocarpa has leaves much longer than the stem.
Remember that Smith and Downs also suggests that T. streptocarpa and T. paleacea are conspecific which clouds the "key" difference even more.
Comparing the written descriptions of T. arhiza and T. streptocarpa I found only a few minor differences:
T. arhiza
T. streptocarpa
to 60 cm long
to 10 cm long
shorter than stem
longer than stem
7-9mm wide, 20cm long
to 15mm wide, 8-50cm long
nearly glabrous
Scape bracts
tubular involute, sublanceolate
mostly simple
rarely simple
short & stout
connate, 3mm
free to very short connate
Comparing my worksheet with both descriptions, "T. breweri" seems closer to T. streptocarpa than to T. arhiza.
From a horticultural perspective one outstanding feature was not mentioned in either description. While the leaf sheaths completely enclose the stem, the leaf blades diverge sharply at 90 degrees, almost like rungs on a central pole ladder.
Could this have been caused by growing the plant erect rather than allowing it to sprawl as it would likely do on rocks in its habitat?
T. streptocarpa is very widespread, having been reported from Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, and comes in many forms, whereas T. arhiza seems to be endemic to a small area in Paraguay. There should therefore be strong suspicions that any plant found in Brazil might be T. streptocarpa.
Investigation into the naming of this plant brings the following questions to my mind:
1. Why hasn't T. streptocarpa been made a synonym of T. paleacea as suggested by Smith & Downs over 15 years ago?
2. If this had happened then the amended description would make it very difficult for T. arhiza to stand alone. However, it would be just as difficult not to ignore T. kirschnekii, T. kurt-hortstii, T. reichenbachii, and T. duratii. This whole problem is just waiting to be solved by some doctorate dissertation.
3. A small step in the logical approach was made by Till when he described T. paleacea subspecies apurimacensis in J. Brom. Soc.43(l):7-10. 1993 but this could just as easily have been called T. streptocarpa ssp. apurimacensis - an intriguing situation to the non-botanist.
4. Where do most of the T. arhiza plants in cultivation come from? Is it Paraguay, Brazil or even Bolivia where Lotte Hromradnick reports plants having been found near Rio Chico?

In July 1996 on my trip to the world conference in Orlando my bag was full of questions and "T. breweri" was discussed with Harry Luther. Apparently most of the plants called "T. breweri" are in U.S. collections as T. arhiza, which runs counter to my Australian findings. I also found out that T. streptocarpa prefers being an epiphyte and is fragrant whereas T. arhiza is a lithophyte and is not fragrant. This allayed my curiosity for a while.

However, in a seminar on Brazil presented at the same conference, a slide was shown depicting T. streptocarpa growing on rocks! To jump up and query the situation would have been embarrassing, even to an Australian, so I sat and pondered.
Why am I telling you all this? I always enjoy trying to unravel problems and sometimes succeed, but felt I just had to share the saga of the plant that never was.

Tillandsia ‘Breweri’ / arhiza revisited By D Butcher 1/2008
The Tillandsia arhiza I got from Harry Luther in 1996 has flowered again. The delay may have been because I nearly lost the plant due to mealie bugs! To digress. If you do have a Tillandsia where the leaf sheaths really encircle the stem beware mealie bug. Their presence can be detected by ant activity!
I have many more details of old descriptions than I had in 1996 and after some years of experience as cultivar Registrar I now realise I should have pushed for the acceptance of ‘Brewer’ as a cultivar name. (see J. Brom Soc. 46(6): 247-9. 1996). I wonder if this plant is still alive in Australia and if Brenton Cadd is still growing it, and under what name! The plant called Tillandsia breweri was apparently collected by Daniel Brewer and Paul Isley in Minas Gerais, Brazil and I had a strong feeling that the plant I got from Harry had been originally received from Paul Isley!

Lyman Smith treated T. streptocarpa as a widely dispersed species from Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Brazil, where the plants were short caulescent with leaves much longer than stem, whereas T. arhiza comes from Paraguay and is long caulescent with leaves mostly shorter than the stem.

In 1987 Werner Rauh described T. kurt-horstii and in 1999 Walter Till considered it was identical to T. graomogulensis ( a misspelling of T. graomogolensis in Smith & Downs) which had been treated as a synonym of T. streptocarpa by Lyman Smith. Because T. graomogolensis A Silveira, had been published earlier then that name prevailed. So, here we have a synonym successfully removed from Lyman Smith’s concept of T. streptocarpa.

In 1931 A Silveira also described T. retrorsa and my translation follows:
Tillandsia retrorsa A Silveira, Floralia Montium, 2: 25. 1931
Treated by S&D as a synonym of T. streptocarpa but treated by Luther as a synonym of T. arhiza even though this seems only endemic to Paraguay
Root fibres dark brown in new specimens, when adult often none.
Stem ascending, the upper part erect, simple or branched, clustering, forming more or less extensive colonies, about 5-8mm thick, up to 50cm long.
Leaves triangular at the base almost enclosing the stem and very long subulate, spreading at almost 90º, above concave channelled, both sides dense lepidote, in the lower part the lepidotes are long ligulate, the lower ones are without a point or ligulate, the ligules below are recurved pointing backwards, above appressed, 2cm wide at base, 1cm wide at the middle, 25-30cm long.
Inflorescence many flowered, made of a panicle with branches often with 3-4 distinct bracts, the sheaths of the bracts totally enclose the scape, lanceolate at the base, the upper part long linear-subulate, pale green, the outside lepidote, decreasing in length to the top.
Floral bracts ovate, acute.
Flowers not seen.
Capsule cylindric, acute, 3cm long.
Seed fusiform, many, brown, the tip caudate, tails 2mm long, at the base silky white hairy nipple-like coma to 20mm long.
Habitat in a flat, sandy, rocky area in Serra Geral, between Diamantina and Serra, very frequently in extensive colonies scattered on quartzite rocks, July 1926; no. 794 in Silveira Herbarium

Differs from T. streptocarpa mainly in :
Long stem.
Size of lepidotes on leaves and others.

The length of stem of this plant does not sit comfortably under T. streptocarpa sensu Lyman Smith and in Harry Luther’s opinion should be synonymous with T. arhiza. However he has not published his reasonings on this or to expand the habitat area, for it to be subject to peer review.

Clearly ‘Breweri’ and the plant I got from Harry have greater links to T. retrorsa than to T. arhiza sensu Smith. As such I will be putting T. aff. retrorsa on the label of my plant which, by the way, has a strong scent like T. duratii according to the chief scenter of the Butcher family. As I pointed out in my 1996 article Walter Till was of the opinion that T. arhiza was not scented I do not intend going to print on this subject, leaving that to the academic taxonomists, but felt you should know a bit of this history.

Updated 11/01/18