The Worlds Most Unusual Air Plants

Paul T. Isley III
Botanical Press
ISBN 0-9617675-0-2
Published 1987

A Review by Bob Reilly, Bromeliad Society of Queensland

As the book is "out of print", you will only be able to buy a second-hand copy.

The book has 256 pages, over 200 colour photographs, and about 150 black and white photographs and illustrations.

In the book's first chapter, a brief overview is given on how to grow tillandsias. While written from a North American perspective, nearly all of the material is relevant to Queensland's growing conditions.

The second chapter describes about 70 tillandsias and 1 grey-leaved Vriesea (espinosae), in detail. There are usually 2 or 3 colour photographs of each plant, including 1 showing details of its inflorescence. As only a few of the plants' names have changed since the book was published, most are still accurate.

A description of each plants' appearance (including inflorescence) is provided. As botanical terms are used, some readers may find this material a bit "dry". If you have this view, then the colour photographs are adequate to gain an appreciation of each plant's appearance. The native habitat, and cultural requirements, of each plant are described in non-technical language.

Most of the plants discussed are readily available in Queensland. Examples include: aeranthos, albertiana, atroviridipetala, bergeri, brachycaulos, bulbosa, caput-medusae, crocata, cyanea, duratii, fasiculata, ionantha, juncea, paucifolia, pseudobaileyi, schiedeana, stricta, tenuifolia, and xiphioides.

The book then describes, in a summarised form, the contribution of a number of botanists, explorers, and other people to the discovery, classification, and promotion of bromeliads in general, and tillandsias in particular.

The next chapter provides an overview of botanical classification and nomenclature, with a particular emphasis on tillandsias. A particularly useful item is a pronunciation guide to botanical Latin. Such information is useful to all bromeliad growers.

Chapter 6 discusses, in a relatively non-technical manner, aspects of the evolution of tillandsias and their biology. The cultural implications of the tillandsias' biology, for example, for watering requirements, are particularly useful.

This book is a good example of the successful "linking" of scientific information concerning bromeliads, with their cultural requirements.

If you are interested in growing tillandsias, and especially the species described in chapter 2, then this book is well worth reading.

Year of Review: 2002