Don't worry they're not mold, mildew, or a fungus!
Customers often email and call us about an unusual white, fuzzy substance on the leaves of their new air plants. They are always pleased to find out that this white fuzz is nothing to worry about, in fact, it’s the sign of a healthy, happy air plant. The mysterious white fuzz are called Trichomes.
Trichome is derived from the Greek word trikhōma (from trikhoun: to cover with hair).
One of the hairlike or bristle-like outgrowths on the epidermis of a plant. Trichomes serve a variety of functions, depending on their location. As roothairs or leafhairs on epiphytes (air plants are Epiphytes) trichomes absorb water and minerals. As leaf hairs, they reflect radiation, lower plant temperature, and reducewater loss. They also provide defense against insects.
What does this all mean?
Trichomes are small hairs on the leaves of the the air plants which help them absorb water, airborne minerals, and helps them to regulate their temperature. Trichomes are important since air plants do not grow in soil and have traditional root systems. Trichomes can absorb moisture directly from the air, even without the plant having to get damped by rain, mist, or morning dew.
Xerographica, a popular species from Southern Mexico and Guatemala, uses it’s small trichomes to absorb moisture in the air, allowing it to flourish in the semi-arid highlands in these regions. If you really want to see a trichome-covered plant, check our our selection of Tillandsia Seleriana. They are huge and silvery because of the their thick coat of trichomes. Other species which have noticeable trichomes include Ionantha Guatemala and Caput Medusae.