Herbs, usually epiphytic, stemless to long caulescent. Leaves mostly many-ranked, rosulate, or occasionally 2-ranked and/or laxly arranged; blade linear to triangular or ligulate, margins entire, trichomes usually conspicuous. Inflorescences central, 1–many-flowered, 2-ranked; floral bracts mostly broad, conspicuous, rachis covered or exposed at anthesis. Flowers bisexual; sepals distinct or adaxial pair connate, usually symmetric; petals distinct; stamens included or exserted, filaments free; ovary superior. Capsules cylindric, dehiscent. Seeds with basal, white, plumose appendage.


Widespread in the Neotropics.


Species ca. 550 (13 species and 2 described natural hybrids in the flora).


1 Leaves 2-ranked; inflorescence 1–2(–3)-flowered. > 2
1 Leaves many-ranked; inflorescence more than 3-flowered. > 3
2 Stems elongate, plants forming pendent festoons; inflorescence reduced to single, apparently sessile flower, scape concealed within leaf sheath; petals yellow-green Tillandsia usneoides
2 Stems short, plants densely clustered to form spheric masses; inflorescence of (1–)2(–3) flowers, scape conspicuous; petals violet Tillandsia recurvata
3 Floral bracts spreading and/or small, exposing most of rachis at anthesis. > 4
3 Floral bracts imbricate, broad, covering all or most of rachis, rachis not visible at anthesis. > 5
4 Leaves 10–20, spirally twisted, banded silver; floral bracts 2.3–3.1 cm; inflorescences with 2–6 flowers per branch; corolla pink to dark rose Tillandsia flexuosa
4 Leaves greater than 20 in number, not twisted or banded (rarely variegated with linear cream stripes); floral bracts 1.2–2 cm; inflorescence with 6–11 flowers per branch; corolla white Tillandsia utriculata
5 Leaf sheath conspicuously inflated; plants pseudobulbous. > 6
5 Leaf sheath flat or only slightly inflated; plants not pseudobulbous. > 10
6 Leaf blade channeled to involute; scapes 8–35 cm; floral bracts glabrous to inconspicuously scaly near apex only. > 7
6 Leaf blade involute; scapes 1–15 cm; floral bracts densely scaly. > 8
7 Leaf blade and scape bracts twisted, reflexed Tillandsia balbisiana
7 Leaf blade and scape bracts erect to spreading Tillandsia x smalliana
8 Scape 7–15 cm; plants from extreme s Texas Tillandsia baileyi
8 Scape 6 cm or less; plants from Florida. > 9
9 Inflorescence linear to narrowly elliptic; base of floral bracts visible at anthesis Tillandsia paucifolia
9 Inflorescence broadly elliptic; base of floral bracts not visible at anthesis Tillandsia pruinosa
10 Leaf blade obviously narrowly triangular, tapering evenly from base to apex. > 11
10 Leaf blade linear-triangular to filiform. > 12
11 Leaves soft, brittle; inflorescence simple or laxly 2–3 branched, never palmate; floral bracts 0.6–0.9 cm wide Tillandsia variabilis
11 Leaves stiff, leathery; inflorescence densely palmate to laxly 2(–3)-pinnate with 3–15 branches; floral bracts 1.2–2 cm wide Tillandsia fasciculata
12 Leaf sheath narrowly elliptic, 1.2–2 cm wide, slightly inflated Tillandsia simulata
12 Leaf sheath broadly elliptic to triangular, 0.8–2.5 cm wide, flat. > 13
13 Leaves finely appressed-scaly, appearing green to reddish green; sheath of scape bracts, especially distal ones, narrowing abruptly into blade; floral bracts green or tinged red, uniformly scaly; corolla lavender Tillandsia setacea
13 Leaves densely and coarsely appressed-scaly, appearing gray; sheath of scape bracts narrowing gradually into blade; floral bracts uniformly red to rose, scaly distally, becoming sparsely scaly toward base; corolla violet. > 14
14 Leaves 15–30, not over 0.5 cm wide at mid-length; inflorescence simple or with 1–5 lateral branches Tillandsia bartramii
14 Leaves 20–50, 0.5–1 cm wide at mid-length; inflorescence 2-pinnate with 2–10 lateral branches Tillandsia x floridana