The great love affair…
Ahhh Tillandsia caput-medusae… this is most definitely one of my favorites. To me it sums up what tills are, which is a little quirky and a little out there, after all how can plants grow without soil? And caputs just do not look like a conventional plant, its leaves do not even look like leaves! Caputs are native to Central America and Mexico, growing on tree branches located in dry areas with strong sun. On my current wishlist is the caput-medusae Sonoran Snow, which is a variety which originates solely from the Sonoran desert in Mexico. It differs from the more common variety by being much whiter, hence the term ‘snow’. And what could possibly be more attractive than a white caput?
Anyway, I digress, caputs derive their name from the goddess of Greek mythology, Medusa, whose head of hair was a bunch of writhing snakes. And caputs with their circular undulating leaves does indeed resemble a mess of writhing creatures! Its base is bulbous and the leaves are a light green. Luckily for me, caputs are pretty common so it is easy to get your hands on one. I got mine in May 2012 and it was already a nice mature plant. Some examples do get pretty large, but I think 6″ to 8″ is the norm.
This plant must have originally been hung upside down because the leaves were very straight when I got it. Mounting the plant upside down or sideways is highly recommended for bulbose plants such as caputs to prevent water from collecting in the base and potentially causing rot. Me however I like to go against such advice just for the fun of it, so I hang it upright. The recent wet weather did see me give in to these wise words and the plant was upside down for awhile, but now that more sunny days seem to be upon us the plant is right way up again. Caputs are actually ageotropic, which means they don’t orient themselves using gravity, so they grow very nicely horizontally, upside down, upright or any which way you choose to hang them! Well after a month hung upright, the leaves were more widespread.
Even more surprising though was the fact that the plant started spiking after a couple of months! Just look at that sweet pink blush.
The spike did take its sweet time to develop, from the time I first spotted it to the time of its first flower took a good two months.
It is worth it though, as it developed two red-green spikes which gradually turned a nice cherry red as it approached flowering. I believe I read that the bright red is to attract hummingbirds which is its natural pollinator. However I can’t seem to locate that article now, so I may just be creating my own facts. The few hummingbirds that frequent my garden also paid absolutely no attention to the flower, so…
Anyway it finally bloomed two months ago, and the flowers were the typical deep purple. I did have a go at pollinating the flower, self-pollinating probably, because I don’t recall having anything else in bloom at the time. But it has been two months now and as yet I have not seen any signs of seed pods developing so probably no luck. Apparently Tillandsia flowers are most receptive during the early morning hours and I am not an early person, so that probably explains a lot! It flowered from the bottom up, and took at least three weeks from the very first bloom at the base to the final bloom at the apex.
Easy growing plant that it is, I noticed a pup growing at its base before the plant was even done flowering. Since then another pup has appeared on the opposite side so it looks like I can now start working on growing my very first caput clump!
As for growing conditions this is a hardy plant and actually thrives in our climate. This guy gets full morning sun up until about 12pm-1pm, although with the shifting sun I have noticed that the sun actually stays on that area up until 2pm-3pm now. In such strong light, daily watering is recommended, however as I mentioned earlier, care should be taken to ensure water does not collect at the base if you have it mounted upright. With caputs it is fairly easy to spot when they are underwatered, as the leaves start to curl more, so use this as a cue to up your watering regime. It is also a very fast rooter, so if you do decide to mount it, it should be securely rooted on its own within a couple of months.
To end, I highly recommend getting a caput, they are easy to grow, easy to flower in our climate and looks so alien-like you just have to love it!
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