Tillandsia polita
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Tillandsia polita or xpolita
Possibly a natural hybrid of rotundata X rodrigueziana.
Derek Butcher 10/08
Peter Franklin 10/08
From Derek Butcher's Talk at Cairns 2008 .... "Tillandsia polita has had a chequered career. It was described by Lyman Smith in 1941 but Gardner in the 1980’s found that it appeared to be a hybrid between T. rotundata and T. rodrigueziana and that much back crossing seemed to be happening. In the 1970’s Rolly Reilly and his son-in-law Greg Stewart were busy sowing Tillandsia seed and most of us at that time accepted that Tillandsias did not hybridise easily and did not question too much the name that came with the seedling. I was aware that T. polita was considered to be a natural hybrid so why were all the plants that I had seen from the Reilly/Stewart stable looking alike admittedly with a bit of T. rodigueziana flavour. Needless to say, Harry was advised of my findings and it was a bit of a surprise when in 2000 T. polita appeared on the species list. In 2003 Renate Ehlers named a variety as T. elongata."
See DD1008. Natural Hybrid Talk for more details.
Ray Clark 02/22
Ray Clark 04/22 now 600mm high
Ray Clark 05/22 var. elongata
Ian Cook 12/22
Barry Langridge 11/23 var. polita
Barry Langridge ... "Reading on BinA this species has been around Aus for quite some time, although it has had a chequered history. It seems the dust has settled on the taxonomy somewhat since the 2003 publication by RE splitting the two varieties of this species. Although I still see some references around on the internet to T. xpolita, I don't subscribe to the view that it is a natural hybrid or the parentage quoted.
Regardless of this species origin, the attached photos of Tillandsia polita var. polita, resembles the official description of this variety and the image of the type specimen quite well. Stressed or depauperate plants of this variety can sometimes be simple, with a single spike, but when branched (as is typical) this variety always has a globose, digitate inflorescence which has been compared to Tillandsia fasciculata (although there are obvious differences between these species).
The 02/22 images on BinA by Ray Clark are a superbly grown example of Tillandsia polita var. elongata. This variety is typified by the very long cylindric inflorescence when compared to the type variety (not globose). There are numerous other differences in the rosettes which are quite obvious when viewed in person, making these two distinct and appealing varieties.
A terrific and hardy species down south here, and both varieties are well worth growing."
Ray Clark ... "Hi Barry, your email and comments piqued my interest. I've just finished reading the comments in Bin A and they are pretty much word for word from the descriptions on the DVD (for both T.polita and var elngata).
Like many people I acquired this plant as T. xpolita and Chris has reminded me on several occasions that it was no longer seen as a natural hybrid, (still haven't changed the labels).
I had never considered var. elongata for my plant but it is hard to ague against when I look at the pics of the flower spike, well in excess of the 45cm that the description notes.
My problem is that I have two of them and I'm not sure which one it is that flowered, I'll have to wait and see when they flower again."

Tillandsia polita L. B. Smith, Lilloa 6: 385, pl. 1,figs. 8, 9. 1941.
Desc from S&D p953
Plant stemless, flowering to 45 cm high.
Leaves many in a dense rosette, 3 dm long;
Sheaths narrowly ovate, dark brown, covered with minute appressed scales;
Blades very narrowly triangular, attenuate, subpungent, 15 mm wide, covered with minute subspreading cinereous scales.
Scape erect, 6 mm in diameter, glabrous;
Scape-bracts erect, densely imbricate, the lowest foliaceous, the highest broadly ovate, acuminate, sparsely punctulate-lepidote, even, lustrous.
Inflorescence very densely bipinnate, stout-fusiform, 11 cm long;
Primary bracts like the upper scape-bracts, much shorter than the spikes;
Spikes suberect, narrowly lanceolate, acute, to 55 mm long, 15 mm wide, strongly complanate, densely 5-flowered, bearing reduced sterile bracts at base.
Floral bracts densely imbricate, 20-25 mm long, distinctly shorter than the sepals, carinate, minutely incurved at apex, coriaceous, glabrous, lustrous, obscurely punctulate-lepidote at apex, bright red;
Flowers subsessile.
Sepals narrowly lanceolate, acute, nearly 3 cm long, carinate and high-connate posteriorly, sparsely punctulate-lepidote toward apex;
Petals erect, narrow, ca 45 mm long, violet;
Stamens exserted.
Type. Standley 62465 (holotype F), Quiche to San Pedro Jocopilas, Quiche, Guatemala, 12 Jan 1939.
DlSTRIBUTION. Epiphytic in woods, 1600-1900 m alt, southern Mexico, Guatemala, Salvador.
MEXICO. CHIAPAS: Tuxtla to Las Casas, 5 Apr 1957, Foster & Van Hyning2951 (US). GUATEMALA. HUEHUETENANGO: Aguacatan to Huehuetenango, 2 Jan 1941, Standley 82098 (F); 82161 (F). ZACAPA: Lorna Picacho, Santa Rosalia de Marrnol to Cerro de Monos, 28 Jan 1942, Steyermark 43320 (F). JALAPA: Cerro Alcoba, east of Jalapa, 2 Dec 1939, Steyermark 32557 (F); Minas de Crorna, Potrero Carillo, northeast of Jalapa, 11 Dec 1939, Steyermark 33058 (F). SALVADOR. SANTA ANA: San Jose, 5 Feb 1951, Rohweder 232-234 (HBG).

Notes from Gardner in Selbyana Vol 7 p372 1984
Tillandsia X polita L. B. Smith pro sp. et stat. nov.
Type: GUATEMALA: EL QUICHE: Quiche Standley 62465 (Holotype: F).

Probable parentage: T. rotundata (L. B. Smith) C. S. Gardner X T. rodrigueziana Mez
Additional material examined: MEXICO: CHIAPAS: Tuxtla to Las Casas , 1957, Foster & Van Hyning 2951 (US); Teopisca, 1979, Gardner 1085 (SEL); 1981, Gardner1420 (SEL). GUATEMALA: BAJA VERAPAZ: Saloma, 1960, King 3285 (TEX, US). HONDURAS: Morazan, 1964, Gilmartin 981 b, (US).

Distribution: Chiapas, Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Near San Cristobal de Las Casas, in the highlands of Chiapas, T. rotundata apparently hybridizes with T. rodrigueziana. Specimens, intermediate between these species occur, and morphological diversity among the putative hybrids suggests backcrosses and/or sibling crosses. Some of these intermediates were found to agree well with Standley 62465. The distributions of both putative parent species extend into Guatemala and other specimens examined suggest they hybridize there also.

Pollen infertility (0 to 18%) and the results of statistical analysis of morphological characteristics among the assumed hybrids and their putative parents support the notion of a hybrid origin for this species (Gardner, 1983).

Tillandsia polita L. B. SMITH var. elongata EHLERS, Die Brom 2/2003: 45-48. 2003

A varietate typica inflorescentia cylindriciter elongato magis spicis compositis recedit.

Typus: Mexico, Chiapas, nahe Teopisca, StraBen-km 130, 1900 m s. m., EM 980903, leg. Renate Ehlers 12. 3. 98, Holotypus (MEXU), ibidem, leg. Renate Ehlers EM 011302, 27. 1. 01, Paratypus (WU).

Sue Gardner writes in her dissertation that she of the opinion that T. polita is a hybrid and suspects its parents as T. rotundata L. B. Smith and T. rodrigueziana Mez
She determined a high pollen-infertility. ( 0-18% fertility ).
Already in the 1980’s Klaus and I did not share this opinion. The plant is very dispersed over many km. It grows in association with T. carlsoniae, T. vicentina var. wuelfinghoffii Rauh, T. aff. dasyliriifolia, isolated from T. rodigueziana MEZ, however much we looked for it.
T. rotundata could never be found in this area. Our observations were that it is not at home in some damp forest-area loves somewhat drier and lighter locations. We observed it largely occurring between Comitan and Las Margaritas as well as between Comitan and the Lagunas Montebello and in the area about Bochil. At all these places it grew with T. belloensis WEBER , T. rodrigueziana MEZ and T. dasyliriifolia. Hybrids between T. rodrigueziana and T. rotundata (L. B. SMITH) GARDNER could occur in this small area.
A pollen-examination of T. polita by Dr. Walter Till in Vienna yielded a fertility rate from approximately 90 % and Dr. Till, after the examination, was of the opinion that it came from a species not a hybrid.
We got already in 1986 from Mr. Rudolf Wulfinghoff, Pforzheim, a photo of a plant, which he found in the area between Comitan and St. Cristobal. It showed a plant, that was similar to T. polita, but had an inflorescence more narrow and much longer. Normally T. polita has an almost spherical or egg shaped inflorescence. On our next trip to this area we were on the look out for this plant of Mr. Wulfinghoff’s, but unfortunately we had no luck.
In the year 1998, on my trip with Jurgen Lautner, I came into the area again. And this time we arrived at a place where I found many copies of T. polita with long, cylindrical inflorescences. Unfortunately no fresh flowers existed because all the plants had already flowered.
December 2001 was the last trip to the area. Again, I had opportunity to explore this location for anything choice. All I saw brought a tear to my eye. This splendid forest had turned into what! Previously Klaus and I had called it "Our Wonderland". A gigantic area of primary forest, with many bromeliads, orchids and epiphytic cactus, where it seemed nature was in unison with itself in the unison. Already in 1989 we could see what was happening to our "Wonderland" but never thought it would go this far.
But back to our trip in December 2001. I had luck this time because there were many plants in flower and I had time to study the better quality plants and to photograph. I determined, that the Tillandsia with the long narrow inflorescence spreads over a rather large area and also in large quantities none of which resembled or nearly resembled the type species. The inflorescence is much longer and narrower, not almost spherical like T. polita, and it is composed of many more spikes. Therefore, it is justified to look at this plant as as a variety.

Smith, L. B. & Downs, R. J., Tillandsioideae (Bromeliaceae) in FLORA NEOTROPICA, Monograph 14, part 2 Hafner Press, New York, 1989.
Gardner, C. S. : A Systematic Study of Tillandsia subgenus Tillandsia, University

Herrn Dr. Walter Till, Botanisches Institut der Universitat Wien, meinen herzlichsten Dank fur seine Beratung und die Erstellung der lateinischen Differential diagnose.

T. polita var. elongata is a new variety of T. polita, which differs from the normal form by an elongated and very narrow inflorescence which is not globose. It is widespread in Mexico, Chiapas, near Teopisca. In contrast to a statement of Sue Gardner T. polita seems to be a valid species, not a hybrid between T. rotundata and rodrigueziana, which is also based on fertility studies by W. Till. (This is also confirmed by it being grown from self set seed in Australia – Butcher)

Updated 21/11/23