Red Spikes (sold) | Richard G. Tiberius

Red Spikes (sold)  |  Richard G. Tiberius

24 x 18 in | 61 x 45.7 cm

After I had been living two years in Miami my friends wanted to know why I was still painting northern flora. When would I turn my attention to sub-tropical plants? Since my passion is painting flora in their natural habitat I did not feel comfortable painting tropical plants until I had learned something about them. Since then I have acquired a small library on sub-tropical plants.

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It will surprise no one that the first plant I have come to know in South Florida is one of the “air plants,” a relative of the pineapple. A plant the size of a beach ball growing on a tree branch is sure to grab the eye of someone raised in the land of ice and snow. The tree branches are so crowded with plants in the South that at first it’s difficult to distinguish one from another. But after studying them I began to notice that each is quite distinctive. The relatives of the pineapple family, called bromeliads, look like the tops of pineapples—different from the ferns, mosses and orchids. The bromeliad that I have painted here is a native of Florida. Because its leaves are a dull grayish-green you might overlook it until January when it begins to flower, but from January until about June you can’t miss the brilliant red spikes that seem to burst out like little explosions among the leaves.

People call it “Wild Pine” or “Cardinal Air Plant.” The botanical name is Tillansia fasciculata. The flowers, or more correctly the bracts, are not always red. They can be green, yellow, white or rosy-purple.

The deeply cracked bark and horizontal limbs of the oaks, especially the huge Virginia Live Oak (Quercus virginiana), provide an excellent home for these plants. This particular cluster lives on an old Virginia oak tree in Coconut Grove, Florida.

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