Apart from the air carnation, are there any other plants living in such extreme conditions?
Question asked by MARÍA JOSÉ ESTAY OSSES. We speak with JESÚS RIERA:
The answer is yes. The air carnation belongs to the genus Tillandsia. Most plants from this genus can live on top of others without actually touching the ground. This type of plants are called epiphytes. Within this condition we can find different types of plants that are better or worse adapted. For instance, we have facultative epiphytes, those that can live as epiphytes or on the ground, like the genera Pleopeltis or Mamillaria. There are also others that do not present modifications to adapt to epiphytic life, but can still be epiphytes. They are known as accidental epiphytes, and include genera like Dryopteris or Agave. Apart from the air carnation, a very well-known species is Tillandsia usneoides or Spanish moss (in the picture), very common in American swamps and used also in gardening.
Jesús Riera holds a degree in Biology and works as a curator of the herbarium of the Botanical Garden of the University of Valencia (Spain).