Compiled by Derek Butcher

This key is based on, and follows the concepts of BESTIMMUNGSSCHLUSSEL FUR DIE GATTUNG TILLANDSIA by Landw. Amstrat Herbert Lehmann, printed in 1986 for the Deutschen Bromelien Gesellschaft. Frankfurt., whose approval was freely given.

I have always had trouble convincing myself that Vriesea espinosae is not a Tillandsia; after all it does grow in similar conditions and looks like a Tillandsia. Oft has been the time when I wanted to find out the name of a plant without dismantling and mutilating the flower to find out. Surely there was an easier way. I think that I have found one answer and want to share it with you.

As a lay person, have you found it difficult to translate botanical keys to try to find the name of your PLANT? Was it difficult because of the technical terms used? I found a key that was based on the colour of the petal and I found it easy to understand BUT it was in German ! It was originally compiled by Herbert Lehmann in 1986 for the German Bromeliad Society, which gave me authority to translate. This translation took many hours of work and confusion reigned because botanical German is not quite the same as in the standard German/English dictionary. So if you find any glaring errors please let me know. Incidentally I found errors in the original German edition which was rather surprising.

Many of the species mentioned in "Smith and Downs" and later publications have either not been found recently in the wild and therefore not in collections, or are extremely rare. These have been omitted from this key to make it more simple and to prevent collectors from believing their plant is the only one in existence!

The original key was based on this concept from plants actually in Germany and I have updated the references to the latest name changes and have expanded it with a bias to plants that are being grown in Australia. Many plants arrive in Australia via the U.S.A. and from personal observation plants being grown in the U.S.A. seem to equate with those grown in Australia. Therefore if I have missed any species which you believe is alive and well represented in cultivation, please let me know.

Details have been based on botanical descriptions given in "Smith and Downs" or original descriptions for more recent discoveries or changes. In a few cases colour of petals has been obtained from reliable photographs.

When you use this key and arrive at a name then please check other characteristics with available references. For extra certainty you may wish to contact Harry E. LUTHER at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, 811 South Palm Ave., Sarasota, Florida 34236 U.S.A.

Where extra detail from the original description is known, this is shown under the various species.

Whilst written in, hopefully, layman's terms it will give the reader practice in looking for Key indicators used in the armoury of the botanist. To help you learn the basic parts, a few pages of drawings have been included to illustrate them and these should help if you have difficulty in understanding the text.

This is the basis of this key but is the subject of dispute especially amongst those with various degrees of colour blindness. So if you don't succeed with white then try cream or even yellow. If you don't succeed with violet then try red. And so on


  1. Blue/Lilac/Violet
  2. White/Whitish
  3. Red/Rose/Pink
  4. Green
  5. Yellow/Orange/Cream
  6. Almost Black to Blue-Black
  7. Brown/Dark Brown to Brownish Black
  8. Bicoloured
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