Tillandsia Recurvata

If you live in the South, you’ve seen this air plant all around. Balls of gray-green stuck like gum to the trees, ranging from golf ball size to soccer ball size based on the age of the cluster. You may or may not like the aesthetics, but understand that these little bundles of plants are not harming their host. As an epiphyte, recurvata take their nutrients from the air and water around them, not the tree. They’re just hanging on. Even blooming their lovely lavender flowers, they can be easy to miss. I know I did for years, actually all my life as a Floridian.

Most prolific to Florida and Texas and ranging across the southern U.S. to include Louisiana and Arizona and Mexico, populations are critical in New Mexico and Georgia[1]. Attempts to cultivate it in Georgia and South Carolina have had limited effect, primarily because it is extremely cold sensitive.

Now I have found numerous photos of ball moss, (just type “air plants” and “recurvata”) and you’re sure to be able to find some yourself.

I’m not quite up on copyright law on the internet and I have such a large population right here in my own yard, I decided I will do my own photography.Let’s just hope my camera is up to the job. One of my pet projects will be to document the life cycle of this wondrous plant here as well. See, not only do they form pups (which gives them their shape), but they spread by winded seed and the droppings of birds on the tree limbs. They begin so tiny, you can barely see them in the bark of the oak. I’ll probably set up a video of photos on our YouTube channel since we had some success with the making of the Etsy Store Showcase Video.

Researching for this article I also found some pretty amazing tidbits about this plant. This wonder plant apparently may help the fight with cancer as well. In 2007, a Dr. Henry Lowe of Jamaica applied for a patent[2] for an extract of recurvata, which has been shown to be effective in cancer cell death. Since then, he’s gone on to develop an anti-cancer drug for prostate cancer. [3]

[1] NatureServe. 2011. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. (Accessed: August 20,2011). http://www.natureserve.org/explorer/servlet/NatureServe?sourceTemplate=tabular_report.wmt&loadTemplate=species_RptComprehensive.wmt&selectedReport=RptComprehensive.wmt&summaryView=tabular_report.wmt&elKey=139712&paging=home&save=true&startIndex=1&nextStartIndex=1&reset=false&offPageSelectedElKey=139712&offPageSelectedElType=species&offPageYesNo=true&post_processes=&radiobutton=radiobutton&selectedIndexes=139712

2US Patent and Trademark Office. 2007. (Accessed: August 20,2011). http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=1&p=1&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=lowe-henry.IN.&OS=in/lowe-henry&RS=IN/lowe-henry

[3] Green Antilles. 2010, December 3. Jamaican scientist formulates prostate cancer drug using native plant. Online Accessed August 20, 2011. http://www.greenantilles.com/2010/12/03/jamaican-scientist-formulates-prostate-cancer-drug-using-native-plant/




About anitagreenthumb

Nature lover, problem-solver, and all around Southern girl.
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