dweller by the river

sojourner of earth attempting to understand the journey home

Tag: T. ionantha

NoID Plant—Stages

Plants go through stages in life just as we do. With some, like the Tillandsia sp. ionantha, the stages are really, really short.

Remember this little guy?


My very first tilly. I’ll always have a soft spot for it, even after its time. The clock is ticking, because about a year after I brought it home, it’s flowered and I’m now waiting for it to pup. The little guy has grown a lot and become a real beauty. I’m just sorry that I couldn’t give it a position where it got the amount of sunlight that would’ve enabled it to reach its full blooming potential in terms of colour.

The jury’s still out on what sort of ionantha it is. I’m gunning for Ron, because of the gorgeously long, slender and curling leaves, but they aren’t quite dense enough to convince the community. *shrug*

This plant flowered in late June, which was when E and I decided that yes, we are definitely going to be trying for our first child this year. I’m not sure if the timing is a sign or just a coincidence, but there you go. 🙂

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Pups and Related Thoughts

I had a short conversation with one of the dance ladies yesterday, and somehow the topic wandered into parenting territory. And for once, the advice and warnings that I received were actually rational, logical, totally realistic, and also exactly what has been on my mind for months. But that’s for another post.

I’m not a parent (yet), but I do get the sense that God is teaching and preparing me for it in a very different way from what appears to be the norm—somewhat like how He gave me various insights and revelations about marriage in the one or two years leading up to my wedding. Those haven’t stopped, either; they are still coming every now and then. The problem isn’t Him (the source of wisdom), it’s my ability to retain/recall/apply what He shows me. I’m not the best student in the class.

In any case, it was a short conversation (10, maybe 12 minutes tops?), and it was hovering at the back of my mind as I let myself back into my home and proceeded to check on my tillandsias as usual. Someone had recently posted a photo of his newly-sprouted pups online, and I wanted to see how mine were doing. And as I looked at each plant, various thoughts came to me.

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T. pruinosa

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T. bulbosa

These two plants were bought on whim and both flowered unexpectedly. The pruinosa, admittedly, is pretty much the usual size for it, but the bulbosa was/is still rather small and I think it was a case of shock-blooming since it wasn’t sold to me in great condition. But the surprises were pleasant ones, not un-looked forward to, and it’s been a delight watching them grow. I suppose it’s not unlike (although on a much smaller scale) the feeling of finding out you’re expecting when you weren’t actively trying to conceive, but were ready and open for it to happen. I’ve been watching these pups’ progress quite carefully, to see when they’ll be ready to live life as independent plants.

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T. humbug (ionantha x paucifolia)

I was watching for the flower on this one—I bought it knowing that it looked like it might be blushing and therefore might be readying itself to start spiking in the near future. When it did, I was delighted, and then came the first pup… and then the second, pushing its way out from behind a parent leaf, completely unexpected. I’ve been watching them closely and my fingers are itching to separate them from the mother plant, but it’s too early still. And if you know me, you know that I’m reading and researching and getting advice from experts that I know and trust on what to do, and when and how to do it.

Which brings me to when I posted this photo online and said that I was tempted to “depup” them, but would have to wait a while more—and was instantly bombarded with unlooked-for advice from total strangers saying NO YOU CANNOT DO THAT, IT’S TOO EARLY and THEY ARE WAY TOO SMALL/YOUNG TO BE INDEPENDENT. Like, what gives, people? Number 1, I don’t know you, so why are you trying to tell me what to do when most of the community activity on the forum is positive mutual encouragement? Number 2, I said very clearly that I was tempted to depup, but was not going to do so since it was still too early, so why are you all jumping to conclusions without even reading what I said (it’s only a few lines, not a bunch of paragraphs!)?

It’s probably how parents feel when people they don’t even know (much less trust) just butt in and expect them to take all their sage advice when it’s thoroughly unwanted and in most cases, unnecessary.

So, anyway. We reach these other plants that are the last to be mentioned in this post:

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T. kolbii

This kolbii is somewhat special. Not because it’s an exceptionally pretty plant or that it’s a personal favourite species of mine, but because it’s one of the first batch of tillies I bought, right at the beginning of this green journey, and because it spent some months in the office with me, slowly languishing despite everything I tried to help it flourish (it turned rather yellow, and wrinkly, and the leaves started curling inwards), and because after I gave up and brought it home in the hope that it would somehow survive, it rallied, started looking loads better, and presented me with a totally unexpected pup.

The pup is growing way slower than the other pups from the other plants, and there are days when I wonder if it’s stagnant or even dead… but its colour seems fine and the mother appears to be doing okay, so I just shrug off the pessimistic thoughts and keep on looking after them as usual. I wonder if it’s in any way similar to how someone who’s been barren for years, or ill with a condition that supposedly makes her barren, or ill to the point where her life, much less her fertility, are in question, might feel when a sudden pregnancy is discovered. The going is tentative and slow and at times the progress is questionable, but there’s wonder and thankfulness all wrapped up in it…

I suppose one could also think about prophecies (or dreams/visions) that haven’t yet been fulfilled. Lots of “church speak” uses terms like “pregnant with a prophetic word” and suchlike, after all… I used to find it rather contrived, but now, I don’t know, it does seem to make sense. In a way.

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T. pruinosa

This little pruinosa isn’t mine, actually; it belongs to a friend but it just will not flourish under her care no matter what she does. In fact, it contracted a case of rot and we pulled off nearly half of its leaves before it looked clean enough to stand on its own. We hoped that it would rally if I took over its care—it did, and produced a tiny, fragile-looking pup. Upon that discovery it was decided that I would adopt it and take it home, where it seems most plants thrive, and then return it once it is strong enough for another attempt by its rightful owner.

The pup has doubled its size since it came home with me, and the mother has gained some “weight” and is looking much healthier. In the picture above it is already at that doubled size, and is a much better colour. When we first detected its presence, it appeared to be brown, and the mother had a worrying damp brown spot on the main leaf just above it. Both, clearly, are doing pretty well.

No doubt I will be sad to say goodbye to both pup and mother when both plants are finally large and strong enough to leave my makeshift “nursury”, especially since many long hours of careful effort would have gone into nurturing them. I can’t say it is fair to compare this to releasing a grown child to his or her independence, but surely this little experience is better preparation than none at all. At least I am now aware that it’s not that easy to set something free, or to release it into the hands of another (handing over a daughter as a bride, anyone?), as it looks on the outside!

So I saw another fond farewell to the T. ionantha pup that matured and flowered and had pups of its own, and which I have released into the care of a good friend:

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T. ionantha var. rubra

It helps to know that she loves plants and will find as much delight in their health and growth as I would.

Plant Sitting

A couple of close friends are heading overseas for about two weeks, and their small collection of tillandsias is now with me for safekeeping until they are home from their trip.


I’m confident that most of them will be fine, in fact might even flourish better, except for the two that are of species I’ve killed before: T. andreana and T. fuchsii var. gracilis.

Lord, help me keep them all healthy!

Am also set to thinking about the human tendency to take care of our own things more carefully than others’. Some of us (a minority) do the opposite and care for others’ property much better than our own. Wonder what makes us do that? Really, especially when it comes to things that God made and not man-made, we should stop thinking of them as “ours” or “theirs” but as God’s. And realise that we ought to do the best we can all the time because we’re just stewarding them for Him.

Feeling Grateful

I came back from dance class and spent about 45 minutes leisurely watering and inspecting my tillandsias. There are quite a few of them and every single one of them is special in some way.

Looking back at the many years I spent trying in vain to keep houseplants and office plants, I’m feeling hugely grateful that God saw fit for me to finally get acquainted with this genus of plants.

I love greenery. I’m one of those people who was born and grew up in a city state where high-rise buildings and roads are everywhere, and where the things we call fields/parkland and rivers are what people from other countries would call garden patches/lawns and brooks/creeks/streams. But I am distinctly uncomfortable if I find myself unable to get in contact with something green and natural at least three or four times a day. Lack of greenery and open space makes me feel panicky and stressed, and my favourite places include the national Botanical Gardens.

So it probably isn’t a surprise that I’ve always wanted to incorporate plants into my home… but every single soil-grown plant I ever bought has died on me. Even the so-called “unkillable” varieties have met sad ends—cacti, succulents, money plant. Some from over-watering, some from too little water, some from unknown reasons.

But the tillandsias! They are flourishing, putting out roots (it’s a sign that they are acclimatising well and feel secure and stable enough to want to anchor themselves), colouring up, growing in girth and foliage, and many of the faster growers among them have flowered and produced pups. It’s amazing to me that I all have to do is ensure they get plenty of sunlight, wind and water. I suppose it helps that I talk to them, talk to God about them, talk to God in their presence, and have also gone as far as commanded them in Jesus’ name to live and not die…

I feel so intensely grateful that my Father has provided me with a way to enjoy the quirkier side of His creativity (tillandsias are some of the most interesting-looking critters) which is simultaneously a way to exercise my instinctive need and desire to be a practising steward of at least a small part of His creation. Being allowed to take care of these little plants puts something in my heart at rest; it is as though a part of my soul is being satisfied at last.

That they are rewarding my efforts with clear signs of growth is pure joy.


NoID Plant—Finding Home

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This pretty little plant is a NoID—it’s the first tillandsia I ever bought, and the seller didn’t seem to have any idea what it was. He just kept telling me, “Miss, it’s an air plant.” Being new to air plants at the time, I didn’t think to pursue it further, and only after I’d gone home and done a search online did I realise that I had no idea what my new pet really was.

Since then I’ve seen this tiny bit of green grow new layers of leaves and enlarge its circumference rather significantly. I’ve asked some tillandsia experts what they think he is and they’re not sure—he’s still very small and they can’t really tell until adult size and shape is achieved and he flowers. Till then, we think he’s either some sort of ionantha or capitata, or a variant or hybrid of either.

The little guy hasn’t always looked like this. Six months ago when I first brought this plant home in its mini clay pot, and from there to the office, it looked like this:

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For the first few weeks I really thought I would end up killing him by accident. He was so tiny, and seemed so fragile, and from my research I realised that he was only a pup (of whatever species), and possibly a little on the small side to have been separated from the mother plant and sold. But over the months he flourished, and has been growing roots profusely (I’ve trimmed them off twice now)… and as my confidence in handling and caring for him grew, so did my confidence in keeping tillandsias in general. In short, it’s because this plant has been a success that I now own 50 plants.

What has he taught me so far? To never despise the little things, and small beginnings, and to speak life over the living things in my charge. Realising that we are “the planting of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:3) also made me think about how, from the plant perspective, we are dependent on our Gardener. And because His care is faultless, all we need to do is enjoy the sunlight (love), water (His Word) and wind (the presence and touch of the Spirit) He provides in order to flourish, set down roots, and grow. And ultimately, flower and produce fruit (seeds and/or pups in the case of tillandsias).

It’s a beautiful reminder of our relationship with the Lord every time I look at my little beauties.

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