shadow cast by giant airplant

Shadow Cast by Giant Airplant

© by teresamariedreams

artwork  ≈ 12" x 9"
ink and color pencil on Bristol board
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The giant airplant (Tillandsia utriculata L.) lives in forest canopies throughout Central and South America, the Caribbean, and central and southern Florida. In Florida, the giant airplant is threatened with extirpation because of an invasive bromeliad-eating weevil, the Mexican bromeliad weevil (Metamasius callizona (Chevrolat)). The giant airplant is long-lived and can take 15 to 20 years to reach maturity. In the first year of its life, the giant airplant may only grow 0.08 inch (2 mm). At maturity, the plant can fill your arms and may have leaves up to 3 ft (1 m) in length, and when it is ready to flower, it can grow an inflorescence up to 6 ft (1.8 m) tall. The leaves grow tightly together and form a vase that holds water which supports complex aquatic ecosystems (called phytotelmata). Before the weevil arrived, the giant airplant was common in Florida and could be found growing in huge, dense populations, sometimes in the tens to hundreds of thousands. Such populations create habitat, terrestrial and aquatic, in the canopy and provide homes, refuge, nesting materials, hunting grounds, and water sources for the canopy animals. Some of those animals evolved to live in giant airplant phytotelmata and are found nowhere else except in the water provided by these plants. As well, such populations were important in forests' nutrient and water cycles. Now, because of the weevil, such mega-populations no longer exist. Now, giant airplants are found in small, scattered populations and, because of this, the forests have changed.