Tillandsia usneoides : An innovative way to display them in your garden


Tillandsia usneoides or more popularly called Spanish moss, Buhok ni Ester, Buhok ni Sabel, Old Man’s Beard ,  Pele’s Hair , Spanish beard , French Wig, Long Hair

Common Names:

Buhok ni Ester and Buhok ni Sabel are the most common names use by gardeners and backyard hobbyists in the country. The plant resembles tangled masses of hairs being blown away by the wind.

This plant might have been first introduced into the country at an early date probably during the late Manila-Acapulco galleon trade when materials from Mexico and Latin America were packed with stuffing of this plant.

Some say that the plant might have been introduced during the late American colonial rule when people started to bring plants from the United States.

Tillandsia usneoides  presented like jelly fish at a stall at Quezon Memorial Circle

The plant serves as a curiosity and a collector’s item even to this date , This is very commonly sold in garden stalls , orchid and plant shows where traders coming from Quezon , Laguna , Cavite and Batangas .

There are several commercial farms which propagates them in large quantities like Insular Botanic Garden and Farm in the province of Quezon , They have 3 to 5 different kinds or varieties of this plant that the farm is growing.  The most notable are the Tillandsia usneoides variety major ( with thicker leaves and plants) and Tillandsia usneoides variety minor ( with thin leaves) .  The farm was established around 2005 and at at least 60 different kind of bromeliads, guzmanias, tillandsias .( Those who wanted to schedule a visit or tour the farm must try to set an appointment with the farm manager several days or week in advance)

Some horticulturists and hobbyists say that there might be at least a dozen kinds of this plants.

For backyard and collectors living in Mindanao who wanted to buy Tillandsias or bromeliads  .

Mr. Bing Onari  639436243695  and Ms. Joanne Onari +639177066049 in Davao among others selling them.

Habitat and Range:

Found in a very wide range of subtropical and tropical habitats in Southern part of the United States of America (mangroves, scrub, rainforest, gallery forest, montane forest, cloud forest), from 0 to 3300 m above sea level.

Often abundant in wet habitats: along ponds, streams, rivers, and in swamps .

Spanish moss is an epiphyte  which absorbs nutrients and water from the air and rainfall. Spanish moss is colloquially known as “air plant”

Buhok ni Ester at the Del’s Garden within Quezon Memorial Circle

Economic Uses:

Spanish mosses are used in variety of uses in much of their range , They are used in pillow stuffing, including building insulation, mulch, packing material, mattress stuffing, and fiber. In the early 1900s it was used commercially in the padding of car seats.

It is also used for wrapping materials , in some instances – Plants also absorbs pollution.

It is also used for different arts and crafts. In the Philippines, Spanish moss is used in different ways- Like for covering pots and roots of orchids during plant shows. It enhances the beauty of the landscape and a nice finish when landscapers used this plant .

The plant is also used as an accent in old trees to make it older and make the place scarier in films .

In some instances, living Spanish mosses are also used as wreath and are hung in gardens.

Cultivation and Care:

In Metro Manila and places where there is Type 1 climatic condition. Dry from mid- November to mid- May .

Frequent misting and watering is advice and it must be grown in part shady condition to avoid dehydration of the plant.

The plant care is almost care free in many parts of the country.

Try to use your creativity arranging Tillandsias in your garden. I attended a DIY lecture by a well known interior decorator and stylist . Try to use some some recycled items like soft drink bottles or old discarded home decor as additional accent.

PAG-ASA: https://web.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/index.php/climate-change-in-the-philippines

Website links: http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/plants-fungi/tillandsia-usneoides-spanish-moss



Flora Filipina 2012 Ornamental Exhibits

Hardin ng mga Bulaklak, Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City- Philippines

The Flora Filipina ornamental exhibits are  superbly landscaped by some of the top  industry  practitioners using their own plant collections.  Some of them had accumulated  their plant collection over several years, while some collectors are into plant collecting for several decades.

                   Tillandsia capitata variety ” Peach “

An array of Tillandsia capitata variety  ” Peach ” on display . Originally found in the jungles of Mexico, Cuba , Guatemala , parts of Florida and Latin America. Now , plant aficionados of this rare peach / pink form  from all over the world  collects and propagate this variety.  There are some serious collectors of this variety  from the Philippines ! This is one of the “must have” if you are into Tillandsia plant  collecting.

“Gardening in the City “exhibit won Third Place  ” Best in Ornamental Plant  Landscape “

This exhibit above  showcase rare ornamental ferns like Platycerium species imported from Africa and Asia.  Rare Tillandsia species and its hybrids, variegated  Zamioculcas zamiifolia , Aglaonema hybrids .

Zamioculcas zamiifolia has become a popular plant in recent years though the species has been known to science for over a century,  ( However it didn’t really enter the horticultural industry until around ten to fifteen years ago, While it became popular in the Philippines only about 7 or 8 years ago introduced  by plant traders coming from Bangkok and Taiwan ) The plant can  unbelievably tolerant of a wide range of conditions. It is now extensively grown in the country  since the plant can withstand indoor growing conditions and can be readily propagated with the use of of old leaves.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia grown as an indoor house plant

The plant is called under different names,  The most popular were “good luck plant” , zz plant – taken from the initials of the genus name and binomial name, fat boy, money plant, zu -zu plant , zamzibar gem, ever green plant, timbuktu gem,  card board gem , feng shui green, Taiwan green zem  among others !!!

Some of the enterprising people would also put red and yellow ribbons ties on its leaves to make the plant more attractive. During last month Chinese New Year celebration in Binondo . Filipino- Chinese bought a lot of these potted plant for obvious reason.

Aglaonema ” Red Majestic ”  won  ” Best in Aroid- A ” category

 Aglaonema is locally called ” La Suerte ” or ” Buenas Suerte ” plants . The name was derived from the Spanish word  lucky , auspicious  or good . There are some 40 species of Aglaonema of foliage plant in the  family of Araceae.

  old variety of Aglaonema

Some people also called this plant variety as ” Chinese Evergreens” since the original species are evergreen. In the 1970’s to late 1980’s  Asian plant collectors went crazy over this plant . Some of them tried exploring the forest of Malaysia, Thailand , Indonesia  while there are some species that was discovered in Tanay, Rizal in the Philippines.

When the craze was over, plant breeder in Thailand , Indonesia , Taiwan and other parts of the world begun experimenting on several species and its hybrids which resulted in the current red, pink , yellowish and other colors.

More Fun on Fern exhibit

This exhibit was done by a team of workers of Mr. Modesto Manglicmot – a well known Pteridophyte ( fern) collector , bonsai, ornamental plant , furniture and vintage car collector.

” Tropical Plants from Bacolod ” by Mrs. Celia Pandong won the Second Prize for ” Best in Ornamental Plant Landscape “

MassKara is coined from two words: Mass, which means “many, or multitude,” and Kara, a Spanish word for “face,” thus MassKara is “a mass or multitude of smiling faces.” One of the most famous festivals in the Philippines today.

different face masks complete with native baskets and throw pillows accentuate the tropical garden landscape of Bacolod city  .

Perhaps the happiest festival in the country, it rose from the gloom that enveloped the city in 1980s, a period of tragedy and economic dislocation.

Ms. Vangie Go  landscape exhibit ” Arya Abra ” won the First Place in the ” Best in Ornamental Plant Landscape “

Ms. Evangeline ” Vangie ” B.  Go landscape exhibit entitled ” Arya Abra ” which reminds  her of  Abra, Her home province .

old jars serve as additional garden accents along with rare ferns and ground orchids

The exhibit had old wooden poles,  capiz window panels  , furniture ,  old-jars , old bottles , native baskets and adobe stones to complete the garden set- up.

Ms.  Vangie is one of the few Filipino individuals in the horticultural community that is respected  internationally. Her worldwide fame had led  international breeders to name plant hybrids in her honor. She is also known to bid for rare plants in the international plant auctions  whenever she goes abroad .

This plant won three major prizes during the Flora Filipina 2012 expo, exhibited by Ms. Vangie B. Go




Name of plant: Anthurium hookerii x marie

WOW Bountiful Bohol exhibit won First Place ” Best in Bonsai Exhibit”

The award winning bonsai exhibit was landscaped by Mr. Romy Dino . Majority of the award winning bonsai trees were from the personal collection of Mr. Manuel and Ms. Susan Lee of Makati City who were bonsai aficionados before they joined the Philippine Orchid Society in 2007 .

“A Garden of One’s Own “exhibit showed several bromeliads , ferns, tillandsia  species and hybrids.

Another eye catching exhibit was done by Ms. Doreen and Mr. Rene Dofitas of Bacolod City .  They are internationally known for their bromeliad hybridization and are considered Tillandsia experts . The husband and wife tandem are frequent speakers in horticulture shows .

a lady in Philippine terno  bedeck with an array of  Tillandsia ionantha , Tillandsia schiedeana, Tillandsia usneoides

Tillandsia usneoides was used as a wig in the lady mannequin . Locally called buhok ni ester ( hair of ester ) or buhok ni sabel ( hair of sabel) The plant looked -like an entangled mass of grey hairs  .  This tillandsia species was said to have been introduced to the country during the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade in the late 16th century. Most of the plants were used as stuffing in cargoes arriving  from Acapulo, Mexico.

The husband and wife are also well- known collector of rare Tillandsia species . I have bought several varieties of Tillandsia ionantha from the couple during the last Flora 2009 exposition. Their exhibit is one of the most photographed booth in the exposition.  A foreign visitor said ” It was on of the most bizarrely beautiful exhibit that i have seen ”  .

Note: All photos are taken by the author, any person who wish to use them for any reason can take them , but please cite this blog or link as a source.

For those who wanted to be update with Flora Filipina 2012 expo, Here are the links to other articles :




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