The Tilldansia duratii is native to Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. It is known for its magnificent inflorescence which lasts for several months. This is followed by the development of blooms which are said to be exceptionally fragrant. In fact, it is one of the few Tillandsias that produces fragrant flowers.
For my birthday last year, my wife bought for me a 30-year old Tillandsia duratii. This was not my first T. duratii. I have a few that are about 3-years old. This is one of them.
I was so excited when I got my plant that I took pictures of it as soon as it arrived home.
This is what they look like beside each other. That is not my hand in case you are curious.
You can see the difference in length and size. The 30-year old plant used to be more than 4 feet long but I had to cut the dead part of the trunk to make the plant look cleaner. I removed a little more than a foot of the trunk. This is another thing that makes this species interesting, its leaves recurve towards the base, the older leaves dessicating and forming ringlets which coil around branches or any supporting structure as a means to attach itself.
My T. duratii is one of the showcase plants in my garden. Naturally, it requires tremendous care and attention from me. It is located under the eaves in the corner of the house where it gets very good air circulation and direct sunlight from sunrise until noon and bright indirect light the rest of the day. I water it every other day. I feed it with foliar fertilizer once every two months. The growing conditions were perfect so it flourished for several months but to my horror I noticed sometime in January that something was wrong. The crown looked infected and the trichomes (little hair on leaves of Tillandsias) appeared flattened.
I immediately consulted Rene Dofitas, a Tillandsia authority in the Philippines, and he said that it might be an insect infestation. Upon his advice, I treated it with a mixture of water and anti bacterial dishwashing liquid. After two applications, the plant didn't improve and the leaf damage appeared to have worsened. He then suggested to treat it with fungicide which I did.
On top of Rene's expert advice, I posted pictures of the plant at the GardenWeb Forums and sought the help of other Tillandsia enthusiasts. Gonzer, the resident tilly expert in the forum, said it appeared to be wet rot. I nearly passed out when I read the reply because wet rot spelled certain death. Ok that was an exaggeration. He mentioned though that all is not lost since T. duratiis are capable of growing a new head right in the same spot of the wet rot. Thereafter, I lessened the frequency of watering.
Whatever it was, no one could really tell. All I knew was that my plant was under the intensive care unit.
After a few weeks of less humidity and fungicide treatment and prayers, the plant recovered and the crown started pushing new leaves.
This is how it looks now after it was discharged from the ICU.