Tillandsia novakii
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Tillandsia novakii

Bruce Dunstan 10/14.
Bruce Dunstan 11/14.
Comparison, Peter Tristram 11/14.
Peter Tristram 11/14.
Bruce Dunstan .... "I'm probably growing mine a touch hard in the sun but it seems to enjoy the neglect. It hangs on my back deck. Morning sun till midday and very few applications of any fertilisers, maybe once every 4-6 months these days."

Peter Tristram ...."I have 2 basic forms - one from Germany like Bruce's and one from Tropiflora with more glabrous leaves and a more coppery colour see comparison shot above. There was some suggestion it is a natural hybrid too, like the rest of the them!"

Peter Tristram ...."Bruce, I reckon you have a plant ex Len Colgan, as I also have one from him which is very long stemmed like yours. The one in bloom here came from Lydia and is very similar to Len's but not as caulescent. The one from Tropiflora is different again, larger, with stacking, more coppery-red leaves and less frosting. There were a couple in bloom at Tropiflora when I purchased mine, just typical novakii. The flowers are very dark with a tight curl on the tips."

Derek Butcher ... "I still can't understand how two forms got into the nursery trade when Renate could not find it in the wild!"

Peter Tristram ... "Maybe it depends on who you talk to. According to some of the Yanks, quite a few clones were collected by Mr Novak but, as was typical of many of the US collectors in the good old days, recording localities was not a priority. But, I must admit I was surprised to come across this plant at Tropiflora and added some to my collection. Maybe Dennis can remember more than I can of what I was told!
I wonder if Pam knows more of the Novak story?"

Len Colgan ... "In the 1980s, I returned a few times to Adelaide's sister city of Austin (doing research in mathematics with staff of the University of Texas), and went around to Tony Novak's place a couple of times. He seemed a "nice old guy", and was a leading figure in the local bromeliad group. He was very proud of T. novakii, but did not elaborate on his discovery of the plant. I remember getting a couple of plants then, probably amongst the first ever released, but I cannot recall from whom. Something tells me it was not Tony himself. Anyway, since then, I have spread them around Australia to unsuspecting collectors. I am delighted that this species has now flowered. I do know, from conversations with Renate, that she spent a lot of time in the general area from where Tony claims he found the plant, and she is adamant that there are none there (now). In fact, she wonders about the whole story behind this "species"."

Stephen Haines 12/14. From P.Tristram '07, probably not the Denis Cathcart clone.
Chris Larson 10/17
Peter Tristram 10/17
Greg Jones 06/20 (novakii on right)
Chris Larson ... "Talk about slow! A lovely plant from Vera Cruz, at low altitude. Grows outside here, surprisingly, but is very slow. Worth the wait."
Peter Tristram ... "Outside itís hellishly slow for me too but inside is a different matter. In the tunnel houses it grows well, elongating to over 1 m long. I have a few budding too, from different sources in Europe and the US, so maybe different clones. It reminds me of T. subteres from Mexico, which is well over double the size inside compared to outside and T. buchloii from Paraguay?? and Sth Brazil, which loves the warm, humid, but dry conditions inside my main Tillandsia tunnel too."
Len Colgan ... "G'day Chris, Peter, et al. I am quite envious of you guys.
As mentioned before, I was fortunate(?) to get my first T. novakii from Tony Novak personally while in Austin, Texas, in the 1980s, before it was officially described.
I have given away countless offsets, but not one plant has ever flowered here.
I was told it was not worth the wait, but your plants do seem better than that. I assume it is in the T. albida general group?
The interesting issue concerning this plant is its true natural habitat. Renate has scoured the listed area in northern Mexico, but never found it.
I am now growing T. novakii plants under shadecloth, inside a shadehouse and also out in full Adelaide sun in attempts to get the damn thing to flower. I wonder if anyone who received an offset from me has had success?"
Peter Tristram ... "Hi Len, I did too! I have Koehres and Tropiflora plants busting into bloom this time. Itíll be interesting to see where it fits in the phylogenetic chart. Good luck with blooming one!"
Ray Clark ... "I have novakii here in Adelaide too and mine has not flowered either so I am assuming that itís a climatic issue. For the record, mine came from Derek and therefore I would assume from you perhaps?"
Adam Bodzioch ... "Last year the novakii I received from Len, some years ago, flowered. They donít grow as big in Adelaide but they do flower."
Dale Dixon 11/20 large plant, very dark petals
Dale Dixon 11/20 large plant, very dark petals
Ray Clark 02/21 ex D.Butcher ex P.Koide-Hyatt
Ian Hook 09/20 ex deceased estate (as Unknown#115)
Ian Hook 12/20, long twisted stem, 40cm inflorescence
Ian Hook 12/20, long twisted stem, 40cm inflorescence
Peter Tristram ... "I agree with Justin Lee. I wonder how long ago the collector obtained the novakii as it was a rare plant for ages with the few around coming from Len Colgan, ex Mr Novak, if I remember correctly."
Rob Bower 12/22 as unknown
Ray Clark 04/23
Rob Bower ... "Does anyone know the id of this rather beautiful Till. I guessed it has stroptophylla and capitata in it?"
Bruce Dunstan ... "Have a look at Tillandsia novakii."
Mark Supple ... "Hi Rob the plant looks like Tillandsia novakii by the foliage."
Rob Bower ... "Thanks - I'm pretty happy to find it's a species. I see there is a more caulescent form and a pink/red inflorescence form in binA
OK now that I know its name I see I got it from John Olsen in 2019 and he got it from Peter Tristram (08 584) - the system works."

Tillandsia novakii Luther, sp. nov. Selbyana 12: 87-90. (1991)
A T. albida Mez & Purpus, cui similis, inflorescentia bipinnata perlepidotaque, petalis vio-laceis differt; a T. socialis L. B. Smith, cui affinis, caule et petalis perlongiore differt.
TYPE. Mexico: Vera Cruz, south of Cerro Azul; 65 m elev., epiphytic in small, sparse trees, collected in 1979, A. J. Novak legit, flowered in cultivation June 1990, A. J. Novak s.n. (SEL, holotype).

Plant long caulescent, flowering 0.5-1.0 m tall.
Leaves densely imbricate along the stem, some¨what succulent, stiffly spreading, 15-40 cm long, reddish-silver.
Leaf sheaths ovate, 3-5 x 3-4 cm, castaneous, densely pale brown punctate lep¨idote, the trichomes with an erect, crispate wing.
Leaf blades narrowly triangular, acute to atten¨uate, 12-20 mm wide, densely cinereous lepi¨dote, obscurely banded abaxially.
Scape erect, ca. 20 cm x 5 mm, pale lepidote, red or rose.
Scape bracts erect, laxly imbricate, exceeding but exposing the upper internodes, the lowest subfoliaceous, the upper elliptic, acute, reddish-silver to rose.
Inflorescence laxly bipinnate with 3-6 erect to spreading branches, to 30 x 20 cm. Primary bracts like the upper scape bracts, 3-6 cm long, red to rose.
Branches with a 2-4 cm, naked or 1-bracteate sterile base exceeding the primary bracts, each branch 15-18 cm x 6-10 mm, dis¨tichously 6-13-flowered, thick but not terete.
Floral bracts laxly imbricate, elliptic, acute, 25-32 mm long, thin, nerved, ecarinate, green, densely white lepidote.
Flowers sessile, erect, anthesis diurnal.
Sepals elliptic, acute, 16-18 mm long, the adaxial pair carinate and 1/2 connate, thin, nerved, densely pale lepidote, green.
Petals oblanceolate, acute, 36-40 mm long, dark blue-violet.
Stamens in two unequal series of three, exserted, dilated distally, blue-violet like the petals.
Style blue. Stigma white.

PARATYPES. Without locality but undoubtedly Mexico, flowered in cultivation 16 May 1989, L. Del Favero s.n. (SEL); without locality, flowered in cultivation Nov. 1990, R. Ehlers s.n. (SEL).

This unusual species superficially resembles:

Tillandsia albida because of its elongate stem, but can easily be distinguished due to its compound inflorescence with densely lepidote bracts and sepals, and violet {not white} petals.
From T. socialis it can be recognized by its long caulescent habit {not stemless and densely clustering}, carinate, more highly connate adaxial sepals {connate 8-9 mm vs. 3-4 mm} and longer petals {36-40 mm vs. 30 mm}.
Tillandsia novakii fits Gardner's group I (Gardner, 1986) but has characteristics of both her subgroups I and II. It is sparingly cultivated in the USA and Germany. The name honors A J Novak of Austin, Texas, who first provided a specimen with collection data.

From: "Renate Ehlers"
To: "Derek Butcher"
Date: 02 Jun 2010 15:48 GMT
As you know I think T. novakii is not a good spec. In any case it is not growing at the location Harry gave in the description. And in Corpus Christi people had nearly in every collection the plant Harry called later T. novakii. When I was in Corpus Christi they told me, that the plant is of unknown origin, but grows well, and I took a plant home which flowered some years later. When I saw it in Sarasota, I told Harry, that I agree the plant is something new or an unknown hybrid, Harry did not know the type-location then. Only some months later he described the plant with the location Novak gave. But in the whole area are no such plants, we were exploring it for 2 days.

Updated 27/04/23