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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tillandsia ~ a universe unseen


This is a quick freehand watercolor study of ball moss, Tillandsia recurvata. It’s growing on an oak branch that broke off in a recent windy thunderstorm. Not a moss at all, this air plant is a member of the bromeliad family. Air plants are epiphytes, growing on other plants or trees and obtaining their food from the water and debris in the air and around them. Contrary to some popular beliefs, they’re not parasites and do not harm the hosts.

The dense clusters of linear grayish-green leaves capture water from rain and dew, and create a habitat for all types of tiny living things. Caught between its wiry strands you can see live oak leaves that will decay and provide nutrients. I’ve often wondered at the small organisms that must make their homes around and on these types of plants, if we could only experience them from a microscopic point of view.

The haiku written by Issa connects me to the wonder I feel about a universe of life in a small space. If we were a tiny ant crawling along that branch and encountered this unexpected forest of life, what we experience? How far and deep would we travel; what would other worlds would we discover?

It is just a ball moss on a broken branch,
and yet…