Tillandsia, a genus of endogenous plants of the Bromeliaceoe or pineapple family, the characters of which are given under Pineapple. It was named in honor of Prof. Tillands, a Swedish botanist. The species are numerous in tropical and extra-tropical America, and are mostly epiphytes, with their foliage covered with scurfy scales; some South American species have very handsome white, blue, pink, or purple flowers, and are cultivated as stove plants, either on blocks of wood, in the manner of some orchids, or in baskets or pots of moss. There are eight species in the United States, most of which are confined to Florida, and from growing upon the trunks and branches of trees they are popularly called air plants. The largest Florida species is T. utriculata, with a large tuft of leaves about 2 ft. long, which are narrow and recurved at the apex, but are much dilated and concave at the base to form a cup which contains a considerable quantity of water. (See Pitcher Plants.) Other species have this peculiarity, there being one in Brazil, the water held in the cups of which is the only locality for an aquatic species of 'Utricularia or bladderwort. The flowers of T. utriculata are pale blue, on much branched stems longer than the leaves.
Others have very narrow leaves, and are only a few inches high. The most important species, unlike the rest, has slender, thread-like, pendent stems; this is T. usneoides, so called from its resemblance in manner of growth to usnea, a genus of long pendulous lichens, and is popularly known as long moss, and also as black or Spanish moss; its northern limit is the Dismal swamp in Virginia, and it is found all through the southern states to Texas, and in South America to Chili, as well as in the West Indies. Its much branching stems, 2 ft. or more long, bear recurved leaves 2 to 3 in. long, which are scarcely broader than the stems, and like those are greenish gray; each internode or space in the stem between two leaves is twisted to form a loose spiral of about two turns; the flowers, produced at the ends of short branches, are about a fourth of an inch across, and have three bright yellowish green petals; the pod, about an inch long, contains numerous slender seeds, with a long hairy tuft. This epiphyte, draping the trees and swinging in the wind, frequently forms a characteristic feature of the southern landscape, though where very abundant its effect, on account of its sombre color, is not altogether pleasing; recently considerable quantities in .the living state have been sold in northern cities for the decoration of rooms; it will flourish in an ordinary greenhouse if hung up in any convenient place.
The central portion, or the woody part of the stem, is scarcely larger than a horse hair, which it much resembles also in toughness and elasticity; it is dark brown or black even in the fresh plant. This material is used where it grows for various purposes, and is an article of commerce. The rude method of preparing the moss is to place it in shallow water until the outer covering becomes loosened; after it is thoroughly dried, it is beaten until nothing is left but the horsehair-like central portion; of late years the process has been much facilitated by the use of steam; the moss is placed in large tight vats, steamed, and dried, and afterward beaten by machinery, the product being superior to that prepared in the slow way. In the southern states it is twisted into ropes, and woven into horse collars, saddle blankets, and mats of various kinds, and is a common filling for beds; northern upholsterers use it by itself or with hair for stuffing chairs, sofas, and mattresses.
Long or Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides).