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Acaulescent and usually epiphytic herbs. Leaves rosulate, entire; blades predominantly ligulate and inconspicuously lepidote; leaf scales centrally symmetric. Inflorescence various, usually of distichous-flowered spikes, rarely of one- or more polystichous-flowered spikes; scape usually conspicuous; floral bracts generally ample. Flowers perfect, mostly short-pedicellate, becoming secund in many species; sepals convolute, free or nearly so, symmetric or subsymmetric; petals free or connate in a tube much shorter than the sepals, bearing 2 ligules at the base (not always, see below), firm and erect or soon flaccid and drooping; stamens included or exserted; ovary nearly or quite superior; ovules many, usually caudate. Fruit capsular, seeds fusiformwith a long straight basal coma (white in Guianan species).


Lindley 1959 – In: Taxon: 232
Andre 1903 – In: Bull. Herb. Boiss.: 131


Vriesea differs from Tillandsia by bearing 2 ligules at the base of the petal-claw. These ligules are often reduced and very difficult to find, even present or absent within one species (at least in 2 species recorded for the Guianas: Vriesea incurva and Vriesea duidae). This makes the distinction of Vriesea highly artificial, but it is not recommended to put Vriesea simply into synonymy of Tillandsia. More study of the flowers is needed to distinguish more natural groups (genera) within the Tillandsia-Vriesea complex.
KEY: For practical reasons, pointed out before, the species of Vriesea and Tillandsia are combined in one key (see under Tillandsia).