No dirt needed. Air plants seem to be just that – plants that grow in air. This is one of the coolest plants that grow in Florida. It is a type of bromeliad.
You may see air plants in the wild way up on the branches of oak trees. Or sometimes they grow off the side of the tree or closer to the ground.
Yesterday I happened to spot a small clump of air plants down inside my Schefflera. I thought it may have attached itself to the branch and wanted to get a photo. As I began picking the dead leaves off the plant, I realized it was not attached. It had fallen out of the nearby oak and lodged itself in the Schefflera.
I’m not sure which type of bromeliad this is. Could be the leatherleaf or broad needleleaf type. Below is a picture of the dried flower attached to the plant.
The roots are used to attach itself to the host tree, which in this case would have been one of the tall oaks in my yard. The shape of the leaves funnel water, insects and other things down into a “tank” where minerals are absorbed to feed the plant. There is no need for dirt and this is why they can attach to a limb and exist happily there.
There is still a small oak branch which runs through this air plant. It must have broken off the tree in high winds and sent this air plant to the ground.
After Hurricane Irma I found a large air plant in the yard. I picked it up and put it in the low branches of a shrub. I hoped it would be okay, but the leaves began to fall off and eventually the whole thing fell apart. It was too damaged to survive, or didn’t have the right stuff to live. Maybe I should have set it some place else. It was beautiful.
I believe this one is called the “Giant Air Plant” according to the UF site (link below). It is now endangered thanks to the infiltration of the Mexican bromeliad weevil (and possibly hurricanes.)
Unfortunately people seem to think they should collect them as souvenirs. Also, with all the land clearing and building that goes on here, their natural habitats (trees) are being destroyed. Between that and the Mexican bromeliad weevil, which kills the plants, 10 of Florida’s 16 native bromeliad species is threatened or endangered. This is according to the University of Florida which has a page about Florida’s Native Bromeliads. Visit the page to see photos of the many different types found in the state.
The photo below shows a unique way to display a bromeliad and tropical plant collection in the yard.