In 1983 there a small hiccup when Werner Rauh introduced us to T. crocata var tristis and luckily this only lasted a year because in 1984 Walter Till (The Diaphoranthema expert) replaced it with T. caliginosa with its dirty yellow/ brownish flowers. Apparently Lyman Smith pointed out anomalies in 1935 regarding T. myosura but went no further! Such are the problems faced when you like botanists to be as accurate as possible. What is more annoying is that we do not have a full specific description of T. caliginosa. At the same time T. mandonii emerged which I call the poor man’s crocata because it has smaller flowers. This is not common in Australia. So there are identity problems at species level.
In Werner Rauh’s deliberations with his ‘tristis’ he mentioned an orange petalled T. crocata linked to Dr. Rutschmann. I contacted Renate Ehlers and ‘yes’ she knew about this plant and was growing it. So a few pieces got to Adelaide. It needed a name and the Germans seemed reluctant to treat it as a forma under T. crocata because it had garden origins - see following Email
"04 Dec 2006 Dear Derek and Eric,
As to the T. crocata ‘Orange’: This plant is not known from the wild, Juerg Rutschmann got it from a garden in Porto Allegre. But as far as I know in Rio Grande do Sul there is no T. caliginosa.
I registered the name ‘Rutschmann’s Orange’ but have no idea what they call the plant in Germany! It may be prudent to mention here that when I asked Luiz Filipe Varella, Tillandsia grower and intrepid explorer and Porto Allegre resident, what was the colour of T. crocata, he said Orange. It would therefore seem that the orange flowered form is more common than I thought.
This seems to be confirmed by reference to a plant named ‘Copper Penny’ by Mike Kashkin in California in the 1960’s but never registered until recently. To me the colour is more light orange. We do not know where this plant originated but assume Bolivia because this area is linked to Kashkin’s collecting zone.
This gives an idea of names at species level. Now to hybrids which are an intriguing subject. If you are a rose grower you would probably grow only hybrids with never a species in sight. All seem to be better than the species in colour of flower or vigour.
Many tillandsia hybrids seem to be brought into existence for want of something different to the hybridist rather than better. The first one to be registered in the BCR would have been ‘Tawny Yellow’ in 2001 which Rolly Reilly and myself worked out the possible parents to be (crocata x mallemontii). In 2011 we had Barry Genn’s ‘Gold Dust’ and in the following year ‘Nugget’. Then we had a period where Holm’s hybrids had been imported from Germany which circulated under parentage formula. The first one to be given a proper name and registered was in 2015. The only one that gave me concern regarding identity and similarity to species T. crocata circulated as either (crocata x caliginosa) or the reverse. If anyone has this name on the label it was registered as T. ‘Holm’s Wintersun’.