Plant strongly stemmed, flowering to 40 cm high, stem elongate, much branched. Leaves many-ranked, 12 cm long, grey green. Scape erect, short but exceeding the leaves, with bright red bracts. Inflorescence 13 cm long, 3 cm wide, laxly 6 flowered. Rhachis angled, hairless, bright red; floral bracts ridged, red; sepals hairless, pale green; petals greenish-white, forming a tube; stamens protruding.
T. didisticha (E. Morren) Baker from Bolivia, south-western Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina has leaves many in a dense rosette 10-30 cm long; sheaths indistinct, hairless toward base; blades narrowly triangular 6-20 mm wide with grey scales. Scape erect with overlapping grey-scaled bracts. Inflorescence bipinnate or at the base tripinnate, fanshaped, distichous, 6-14 cm long; spikes curved to spreading, 3-8 cm long, strongly flattened; floral bracts overlapping, 11-15 mm long, equalling the sepals, pinkish in colour, densely grey-scaled; petals 15-20 mm long, white; stamens included.
T. fraseri Baker (now placed in Racinaea) from southern Colombia to northern Peru has leaves 80 cm long almost hairless; sheaths ovate, very large, dark brown; blades ligulate, 8 cm wide. Scape red, hairless, erect. Inflorescence erect, tripinnate, 30-40 cm long; spikes linear, 11 cm long, scarcely more than 1 cm wide, laxly 20-30 flowered, at first distichous but soon becoming upwardly secund; floral bracts becoming secund with flowers 10 mm long, exceeding the sepals when not secund, scaled; sepals hairless; petals longer than sepals, white changing to yellow; stamens included.
T. latifolia Meyen from Peru and Ecuador has stems variable. Leaves to 20 cm long, grey scaled; sheaths indistinct; blades narrowly triangular with thread-like tips, 30 mm wide, spreading or recurved. Scape erect, distinct, stout, with overlapping leaf like bracts. Inflorescence bipinnate, rarely simple, dense, with erect spikes, or lax with spreading spikes, sometimes viviparous; spikes lanceolate, 6-12 flowered; floral bracts densely overlapping, 15-23 mm long, equalling or exceeding the sepals, grey scaled becoming hairless with age; sepals 12-20 mm long, sparsely scaly, united for 8 mm; petals to 7 mm longer than the sepals, spreading at the tip, red to violet; stamens included.
T. multiflora Benth. (now placed in Racinaea) from Ecuador and northern Peru has leaves in a rosette, densely scaled, 26-40 cm long; sheaths indistinct; blades 10-30 mm wide, narrow-triangular. Scape erect, hairless with straw-coloured scaled bracts. Inflorescence laxly tripinnate to 40 cm long, 15 cm wide; primary bracts variable, scaled; secondary bracts always small but larger than floral bracts; branches spreading, oblong, 30-50 mm long, 10-13 mm wide, densely 15-21 flowered; floral bracts ovate, almost hairless, 3-5 mm long, the lower equalling the sepals, the upper half as long as the sepals; sepals free, 5 mm long, nerved; petals 6 mm long, white, spreading at tip; stamens included.
T. pugiformis L.B. Sm. (now placed in Racinaea) from south-western Ecuador and north-western Peru has leaves about 20, in a rosette, 40 cm long, densely scaled, slightly spotted with purple; sheaths, large, brown; blades narrowly triangular, 2.5 cm wide, grey-green. Scape erect, twice as long as leaves, hairless, with densely scaled bracts. Inflorescence laxly tripinnate, distichous, 40 cm long; primary bracts scarcely 2 cm long; spikes very slender, 14 cm long, laxly 25 flowered, distichous; floral bracts 4-5 mm long, scaled, equalling the sepals; sepals scaled; petals yellowish, barely longer than sepals; stamens included.
T. recurvifolia Hook. from eastern Brazil, Paraguay, north-eastern Argentina, south-eastern Bolivia has leaves many, often curved to one side, 9-12 cm long, grey-scaled; sheaths indistinct; blades very narrowly triangular, 5-10 mm wide. Scape erect to curved downwards with leaf-like overlapping bracts. Inflorescence simple with a few many-ranked flowers, 3-6 cm long; floral bracts elliptic, rose pink, the lowest exceeding the flowers, tips scaled; sepals 10-14 mm long, scaly; petals 18-20 mm long, the blade spreading, white; stamens included.
T. reichenbachii Baker from southern Bolivia and north-western Argentina has a curved stout stem 2-5 cm long. Leaves densely many-ranked, to 14 cm long; sheaths large, hairless, scaled near the top; blades recurving but not spiralling, very narrowly triangular, 8 mm wide, involute-subulate, grey scaled. Scape erect, slender; bracts overlapping, short bladed, scaled. Inflorescence compact, bipinnate, sometimes simple, to 70 mm long, 45 mm wide; spikes 30 mm long, 9 mm wide, densely 5-7 flowered, flattened; floral bracts exposing axis, 10.5 mm long, shorter than sepals, hairless; sepals 12 mm long, hairless; petals orbicular, spreading, 7 mm long, blue-violet or white; stamens included.
T. schiedeana Steud. from Mexico,West Indies, to Colombia and Venezuela has a stem 5-20 cm long. Leaves many-ranked, to 25 cm long, dense grey scaled; sheaths large, densely overlapping making stem seem stout; blades very narrowly triangular. Scape erect, shorter than leaves, with leaf-like bracts. Inflorescence simple, distichous (sometimes many-ranked at base), terete, to 7 cm long, 8 mm wide, dense, few-flowered; floral bracts densely overlapping, 30 mm long, 10 mm wide, much exceeding the sepals, rose pink, often hairless; sepals hairless; petals yellow, forming a tube; stamens protruding.
T. tenuifolia L. from West Indies to Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil is variable, offsetting profusely. Leaves many-ranked, 5-10 cm long, densely scaled; sheaths small, indistinct; blades narrow triangular, 2-7 mm wide. Scape erect, short, with bracts overlapping, caudate, rose pink. Inflorescence about equalling leaves, simple, many-ranked, 4-10 flowered; floral bracts like scape bracts but with shorter tail, much exceeding sepals, scaled, prominently nerved; sepals hairless; petals blue or white, 20 mm long with spreading blade; stamens included. Many different forms of this species are found in cultivation.
T. utriculata subsp. pringlei (Watson) Gardner from Mexico has leaves 15-20 cm long, very narrow-triangular, with small grey scales. Inflorescence amply bipinnate. The flower is thin, creamy white, irregular, with petals that twist towards the tip at flowering forming a lateral aperture.The form grown in Australia grows on rocks in nature and offsets prolifically until maturity when one plant suddenly grows larger than the rest and flowers. T. utriculata subsp utriculata is not common but subsp. pringlei is. T. pringlei was treated as a synonym of T. utriculata by Mez in 1935 but was transferred incorrectly to T. karwinskyana by L.B. Sm. in 1951. Hence, many of the plants in Australia are wrongly named T. karwinskyana. The true T. karwinskyana is rare in cultivation in Australia.
Source: (2005). Bromeliaceae. In: . Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 5. Flowering plants. Monocotyledons. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.