As we returned to the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL) parking lot after an Invasive Plant ID talk, we looked up and spied red wild pines (Tillandsia fasciculata) showing the coloration for which they are named. Cardinal wild pine is another name for this sometimes colorful epiphytic plant.
The (usually) red color of the inflorescence (flower stalk) is its bracts — not the actual flowers. Soon, tiny purple flowers will emerge, as shown in a photo taken at FMEL in late April of 2017. Note the yellow pollen on the anthers (male flower parts).
The flowers are tiny, and the bracts are showy, as is the case with poinsettia plants. The bracts can vary in color, as with the pinkish rose bracts shown above. Bracts sometimes are yellow or green.
After flowering, the “mother” plant will release its wind-borne seeds and will die.
Each tiny, tiny seed is attached to a silken parachute that sometimes can land nearby or float away great distances on the winds.
Red wild pine, unlike green wild pine (Tillandsia utriculata), also produces by suckers.
This tropical, epiphytic plant flowers throughout the year. Spring and early summer are the peak times for flowering. Hammocks and swamps are its habitats.