The great love affair…
When I first started out buying tills, I told myself to focus on species and not bother with hybrids. After all with between 500-600 currently identified species, I think that is plenty to keep anyone occupied. But of course I can now eat my words. I do still try to focus on species, but if a particular hybrid catches my eye, I will try to get my hands on it. Of course that is after a suitable period of ‘thinking it over’ and ‘weighing the pros and cons’ – namely the joy of owing the plant versus the cost! Well tillandsia funckiana x flexuosa was one of those that caught my eye. It is not exceptionally large, which some of the hybrids can get to be, but I liked the colour and shape of the plant. And since I enjoy having both the parent plants, I thought why not.
I do not really know much about hybridizing, but from what I have read it seems pretty straight forward. If you happen to have two tills in flower at the same time, you can give it a go, just by taking the pollen (also known as the yellowy coloured stuff) from plant X and rubbing it over the stigma (normally the tall white stalk sticking out of the flower) of plant Y and then doing the reverse. Of course as with all things related to tills, you then have to be patient, sit back and wait. Firstly it can take a while (I am guessing between 1-2 months for the faster ones – let me caveat that to say I have not done any hybridizing before and this is just me guesstimating!) before you even find out if the pollination was successful and you see seed pods developing on the spent flower. From that point, it can take anything between 6-12 months (again guesstimating) before the seed pods mature, ripen and spread their seed. And that is only the beginning, seedlings grow at a snail’s pace, so it will take a good couple of years from sowing the seeds before you see a recognisable miniature of the parent!
Suffice to say that since I have been at this hobby for less than a year, I have not done any of the above yet, but I fully intend to one day. I just need to be lucky enough to have two plants flowering at the same time, so yes, I think I may be in for a rather long wait!
Well back to the topic of this post, I got my funckiana x flexuosa in June 2012 and it was a very nice mature plant. For those of you wondering what the parent plants look like, I have put their pictures below. Of course these are just my plants, a search on Google will get you far more impressive results. I think this hybrid looks like a good mix of both parents.
I can’t seem to find a picture of the plant when I first got it, so the one below is after about a month. I have it mounted on a piece of cork bark, which is just me trying out different ways of hanging tills.
If you look closely at the picture above, you will see some of the leaves have a slight reddish tint. I put this down to the fact that I put the plant straight out into the strong light once I got it. Well after another month the reddish hue spread a little.
At this point, I checked the plant to see if a bud may be developing but didn’t see anything. Well after yet another month, I finally saw a small bud. But before I had a chance to take a picture, it bloomed! I remember being quite busy at the time, and I didn’t actually have the chance to snap a picture of the flower until late in the day, so the lighting was pretty poor.
And I must admit, that I was pretty disappointed with the flower. After all for a decent sized till, the flower is pretty underwhelming. From afar you would not even realise the plant was in bloom. I mean even the plain standard ionantha flower has more of a wow factor than this. I also wonder if I may have missed the flower the day before or it may have rained during the day, because the pollen seems to have scattered by the time I went to take the picture. Picture below was taken on the same day, and as you can see the flower is very well hidden in the center of the plant.
Well the bloom being over in a blink of an eye, I sat back to wait for pups. Again I was in for quite a wait. Here I was thinking a funckiana hybrid should be great in pupping, but it took more than two months before I finally spotted the pup. In fact had I managed to write this post over the weekend as I had planned, the ending would have found me bemoaning the lack of pups. As luck would have it however, the pup finally showed itself a couple of days ago. I tried to take a shot of it, but this was the best I could manage given its size and location.
In terms of care, I did not really find much information online, so just assumed that it would take after the parents, both of which enjoy bright light and frequent waterings. Therefore this guy gets full morning sun until about 12pm-1pm and is pretty low maintenance in terms of watering, which means to say it gets watered every 1-2 days along with the rest of my tills. Thankfully it also survived the recent rains which saw it getting drenched pretty much everyday for a month, which is a sign of its hardiness. Overall it seems happy enough to me, although perhaps the slow growth may signal otherwise, so if anyone has had experience with this particular hybrid I would love to hear about it. It is also a pretty good rooter, sending out very thick roots which should anchor it strongly to its mount within a few months.
To end with, I feel this hybrid seems to have selected the wrong genes from its parents, instead of pupping like funckiana and flowering like flexuosa, it has gone with the opposite! Do I regret getting this plant then? Well absolutely not. I still like its form and the slow pace just makes the anticipation that much greater!
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