The BROMELIAD SOCIETY
|Vol. 1||September October, 1951||No. 5|
"A Bromeliad of Colombia" Drawn for the Mutis "Expedition"
THE BROMELIAD SOCIETY BULLETINEditorial Office: 718 Magnolia Ave., Orlando, Florida.
Annual Dues: $3.50 a year (foreign $4.00) which includes subscription to the Bulletin.
Write to Miss Victoria Padilla, 647 South Saltair Ave., Los Angeles 49, Calif.
Our Society is growing slowly but steadily; we now have three more countries represented, Italy, Hawaii and Cuba.
One of our most active workers is Honorary Trustee Mrs. Muriel Waterman of New Zealand who has been instrumental in getting five new members from New Zealand. If all the other members in the Society would do as well, we would really make progress. It is the hope and desire of your editor to continue to have not less than twelve pages in any issue and that as soon as finances will allow it the bulletin will grow accordingly.
We need more members; we need more articles for the Bulletin. This is your Bulletin. If you have questions or suggestions, let's have them.
Exhibit your bromeliads in the Flower Shows and send an account of it to the Bulletin. Awards are being made all over the world for special Exhibits.
Congratulations go to Dr. William C. Drummond for the very splendid exhibit of bromeliads which lie displayed at the recent annual convention of the American Begonia Society, which this year was held in Hollywood. Long a bromeliad enthusiast, Dr. Drummond has compiled a bromeliad notebook, which is indeed a work of love and art, for it is monumental in scope. Because of the confusion existing over nomenclature, he has carefully drawn each of his plants and described each in the minutest detail. This very fine study attracted much comment. Especially handsome was his Aechmea fasciata in flower, and very effective was the tree trunk on which were growing numerous species of bromeliads.
Miss Victoria Padilla, our Secretary, has an interesting packet of mixed Dyckia seeds. Perhaps some of the members would like to try their hand at raising some of them. If you will send her a stamped self-addressed envelope she will be glad to send you some of these seeds.
The last meeting of the Board of Directors was held at Oakhurst Gardens, Arcadia, Calif., the home of Mr. J. N. Giridlian.
A motion was made that the Bromeliad Society be incorporated. It was decided that attorney Edmund W. Cooke of Los Angeles, one of our very recent and active members act as counsel for the Society which he kindly consented to do. He generously offered to take care of all the details and pay all the expenditures involved.
This summer Mr. Cooke flew all the way from California to Florida just to visit the Bromelarium in Orlando. At that time he discussed the matter with your president and editor who agreed to accept his kind offer provided the Board would approve.
In the latest Oakhurst Garden Catalogue for 1952 (345 W.
Colorado St., Arcadia, Calif.) Mr. J. N. Giridlian who has "Out-of The
Ordinary" bulbs, orchids and bromeliads for sale, has generously mentioned
our Society on page 32 in the following words:
Join The Bromeliad Society
Send For Information."
It is with great regret and sorrow that we have learned of the death of Mr. W. I. Beecroft of Escondido, Calif. He was one of the early growers and collectors of bromeliads in California and immediately boosted the newly formed Bromeliad Society by becoming one of its first sustaining members. He was eighty-two years young.
His great love of bromeliads led him into extensive hybridizing in billbergias and this in turn led to a friendship with Theodore Mead, Florida's early veteran bromeliad hybridizer and collector. To these two men along with Mr. Cass of San Diego who is still active in horticulture much credit is given for carrying the torch in the days when almost no one knew what a billbergia or bromeliad was. We cannot speak too highly in praise for their interest and work in making every possible effort to carry on the culture and knowledge of bromeliads.
M. B. Foster
–Photo by M. B. Foster
|This is a photo of the original type plant of Greigia sanctae-martae found on the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia.|
Through the courtesy of Victor Wolfgang von Hagen and the New York Botanical Garden we are privileged to use this reproduction which was first published in the N. Y. Botanical Garden Journal of August 1948. The following note appeared under the illustration:
"A Bromeliad of Colombia," Drawn for the Mutis "Expedition". This drawing by Francisco Javier Matiz shows the delicacy of the Matiz technique in handling plants. The leaves of the Bromeliad, which is known as "pinuela", have been cut away to show the blossoms. Reproduced from one of the first proofs of the atlas of 2,800 illustrations that will comprise the "Iconografia de la Expedition Botanica de Mutis". The original proof measures nearly 14 x 19 inches. Courtesy of the Astronomical Observatory, Bogota."
"Pinuela" in Colombia may be the common name applied to any of several different pineapple-like plants in that country. The native species of the genus Bromelia especially are called "pinuela" and several of them have edible fruits when ripe.
The drawing undoubtedly represents one of the Greigias which are found principally in the high Andes of Colombia and Ecuador. The Mutis expedition was one of the greatest botanical expeditions of all time.
Author Victor Wolfgang von Hagen tells us in his article "The Immortal Botanist" (Aug. & Sept. 1948 N.Y. Bot Gard. Journ.) that even though Mutis arrived in South America in 1761 and his "Expedition Botanica" lasted for half a century, the thousands of exquisite drawings picturing the plant life of New Granada (Colombia) have not yet been published and but few of them even identified. Most of these drawings were sent to Spain where they remain today. Due to lack of funds and other complications they may never be published.
While no identification has been made of the bromeliad here so interestingly illustrated, the writer immediately recognized it to be a species of Greigia. Some of the Greigia species resemble Puyas at first sight and may be mistaken for them. In fact when I first saw G. racinae and G. Mulfordii, down near the Ecuadorian border, growing in rather large colonies I passed them by thinking they were puyas not large enough to bloom. After a close examination, however, I soon observed that they were not puyas and then came the surprise when I examined them more closely and found the hidden clusters of flowers in the axils of the lower leaves. Often these flower clusters were almost entirely submerged in wet moss and leaves.
The Greigias are perhaps the most "unromantic" of all the bromeliads and would not interest the collector or horticulturist because they appear to be a dense rosette of spiny dark green leaves without any distinctive characteristic, yet botanically they are most interesting. When looking at the plant we see a dense cluster of spiny leaves piled up like a yucca or agave. You could see thousands of these plants and never once notice that they were in bloom for they hide their flowers "under a bushel".
The small flowers grow in clusters laterally in the axils of the leaves which make them most inconspicuous unless you poke around and try to find them. In most species all the flowers in one cluster come out in one day and are gone the next. The flowers are light lavender turning to brown the second day. Possibly the clearest colored flower was found in G. Mulfordii.
Eduard Andre who first discovered and described Greigia vulcania in Colombia, made an illustration showing the inflorescence as central and so described it. I collected a Greigia within a hundred miles from that point and Dr. Smith identified it as vulcania, but all of the flower heads were in the axils of the basal leaves in my plants. It is quite possible that Andre's drawings and final descriptions were made several years after the collection was made and as in most of the former collections of Greigias the herbarium material was fragmentary and position of flowers was not noted or carefully recorded. Most of the Greigias are too large to use the entire plant for a pressed specimen.
I have collected half of the known species of Greigias and have found them all with lateral inflorescences. Two of those species have formerly been reported and described as having central inflorescences.
Contrary to the habit of many other bromeliads Greigias do not die after blooming but continue to bloom year after year from the same plant. This quality is constant with the bromeliads that bloom from the sides of the main plant stem, instead of the center.
The genus Greigia was originally named by Regel in "Gartenflora" in 1865 when he established the species G. sphacelata but this was soon placed in the genus Bromelia by Ruiz and Pavon in their "Flora of Peru"; it has since been reestablished in the genus Greigia by Lyman B. Smith in "Studies in the Bromeliaceae" XV in Contributions from the United States National Herbarium.
As in most of the genera there has been a shifting of determinations but up to this latest publication by Dr. Smith, a total of seventeen species have been considered valid.
Most all the collections have been fragmentary and inadequately described by the collectors; this has made it exceedingly difficult for the botanist who has finally described and classified them botanically. The basis on which some of them remain in Greigia is somewhat shaky.
Their distribution follows principally the Andes in Colombia and Ecuador while four are found in Chile and one in each of the countries Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Peru.
The writer has discovered five new species in this genus, they were described by Dr. Smith in his studies in 1949. These new species were all found in Colombia in 1948 and were named Greigia mulfordii, G. collina, G. racinae, G. nubigena and G. Sanctae-martae.
Four of these new species were found growing in the cloud forests of the Andes at elevations of from ten to twelve thousand feet above sea level, the fifth on Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta up near the tree line. These were generally found growing in cool moist forest areas and are often imbedded in heavy masses of sphagnum moss.
The collector who spends a day working his way knee and sometimes waist deep in wet moss, branches and leaves looking for the unusual in plant life, sorely wishes that when night comes he could be as well satisfied to spend the night in this cloud forest as are the Greigias but such is not the case. Instead, you dream of a pleasant comfortable bed in a dry room while you count, not sheep, but the hours until you can return to better accommodations than an old thatched hut or open boarded shack in which you must spend the night.
Culturally, so far, I have had no success in keeping Greigias alive for a very long period after bringing the plants back to our Bromeliarium. They very evidently prefer to live in the high paramo areas where they are bathed in cloud mist most of the time. I am sure that any plant that could live in and enjoy the cool wet days and miserable beyond description nights of the paramo regions in Colombia would be unhappy in your greenhouse or garden. They are very interesting botanically but would not add much to a horticultural collection from a decorative standpoint.
–718 Magnolia Ave., Orlando, Florida
–Photo by Massart
Utricularia reniformis St. Hilaire growing in a Vriesia at the Biological Station of Alto da Serra, Sao Paulo.
–Photo by Jean Massart
Philaphyllum tenuifolium. another aquatic plant growing in a Vriesia at Alto da Serra, S. Paulo, Brasil.
By F. C. Hoehne
Many plant and animal lovers find great pleasure in keeping aquariums. However, they never realize that in nature in addition to the refuges for aquatic life afforded by brooks, rivers, lakes and ponds, there are aquariums on rocks and in tall trees. These are made and distributed by marvelous plants and are much more interesting than the man-made product because they are automatically aerated and are so constructed that the water which they contain remains fresh and drinkable without being circulated or chemically purified. In the midst of hanging gardens composed of hundreds of species of plants, these bizarre aquariums provide the habitat for many more plants which could not otherwise exist here. In these aquariums, many species of plants reproduce and animals of various classes breed there and live in partnership or competition like mankind over the face of the earth. The life of these funnel-shaped receptacles has been a field of constant research for biologists. Some of these study their contents in order to gain knowledge of small frogs. Others empty them to find new species of algae, bacteria, fungi, etc. Entomologists search in them for insects: new species of beetles, mosquitoes, flies and such. There are also botanists who discover in these water containers new species of mosses and even carnivorous plants that function there as controls, eliminating small insect larvae, eating minute algae and worms, and finally, thanks to such excellent nourishment, finding the energy to produce a scape with marvelous big red-purple flowers that much excel the products of an artificial aquarium.
Mulford B. Foster and Lyman B. Smith, two well known Yankees, have traveled through the dense Brazilian jungles, hiked through the caatingas (chaparral), and climbed the summits of high mountains to collect many of these aquariums in order to study them systematically to determine the genera and species to which they belong. The interesting contents of the aquariums, however, does not concern them. They clean this out and carry away only the plants that have made the aquariums. The men of the Public Health Service fight a war of extermination with these beautiful plants for the benefit of mankind simply because they are accomplices as excellent constructors of aquariums. But they were not the culprits–it was nature itself for giving them such an interesting function to create conditions vital to themselves, and in consequence causing them to be exploited undeservedly and abusively by the anophelines and kindred mosquitoes. Thus the meritorious one pays for the abuses of its exploiter. What to do? Man was made ruler of this planet. He commands and nature trembles and obeys. What is the remedy? He aids the greater force. However, there still remain for the terrible conspirators against human life the hollow trunks of trees, the depressions in rocks, the sheaths of fallen palm fronds, the ample bracts of Cecropia inflorescences, the canes of bamboo perforated by woodpeckers, and dozens of other receptacles that abound in the jungles to receive daily rainwater. There the mosquitoes will continue to survive and multiply. The struggle against them, no matter how intense, will be a prolonged one.
Without doubt the reader has already guessed the identity of the plants which we are discussing. If he still does not recognize them we will tell him that they are members of the great family to which belong the "Abacaxi" (pineapple), "Caroa" (Neoglaziovia), "Macambira" (Bromelia), "Caraguata (Bromelia), and also the "Barba de Pau" (tree-beard or Spanish moss) that the wind sways as it hangs from the branches of old trees and the metal wires of telegraph and telephone lines.
There is not included in the above, however, those related species that grow on rock faces and on the trunks and branches of trees, and that form aquariums. These last although less useful to man, are more important in the scheme of nature and make a greater appeal to the eye once the stomach is satisfied. They triumph like queens when placed beside the marvelous orchids from which man has derived so much pleasure. After the rains and the clouds cease, they provide the orchids with an atmosphere saturated with humidity, and give them hospitality even as far as admitting their roots to the wells which they form. Often they prosper and grow to such an extent that the weight of their aquariums imperils the stability of the trees that carry them and then the unexpected occurs for them. A rupturing of the tree's roots or the sudden cracking of a limb tumbles them into the abyss spilling everything that was hiding in the liquid medium. They suffer great damage thus, but if they are not completely buried, they realign themselves and continue growth where they have landed.
These interesting plants belong to the family Bromeliaceae, which, with the exception of a single species recently discovered in Africa, are native to America and especially well represented in Brazil. Their family name is derived from that of the genus Bromelia, founded by Linnaeus in the 1737 edition of his "Genera Plantarum" and referred to in his "Hortus Cliffortianus". A citation used by some authors and barely alluded to by Linnaeus, credits the Franciscan Brother, Charles Plumier, with having published this genus. This was discredited by Carl Mez, although it had been upheld only the year before by Wittmack. Perhaps it would be interesting to record the fact that this genus was named in honor of the Swedish physician Olof Bromel, who lived from 1639 to 1705, practicing medicine and studying the plants of the region around his home. As he had published several botanical works including the "Chloris Gothica" which appeared in 1694, and since he was a contemporary of Plumier, the Frenchman who lived from 1646 to 1704, it was natural that he should be well regarded by the latter and his memory perpetuated. Linnaeus, however, must have had his first contact with a bromeliad between September 13, 1735 and October 7, 1737, when he was employed as medical assistant and prefect of the famous private botanical and zoological garden of Clifford, the wealthy Dutch lawyer and merchant. There he learned so much about foreign floras that he produced more important publications than he achieved in any other period of his very active life.
Lentibulariaceae – Utricularia reniformis St. Hil. Decalque rapido de Hoehne & Kuhlmann; "Utricularia do Rio de Janeiro e seus arredors" (1918) tal. V.–Des. F. C. Hoehne.
The bromeliads impressed the first immigrants to our continent in the sixteenth century, but no settler ever succeeded in getting from them the products that the aborigines did. They perfected the syncarps of Ananas, making from them the tastiest most exquisite fruit in the world, and they always used in their diet the berries of "Caraguata" a member of the genus Bromelia. They eat them raw, boiled, or roasted. We have seen Borobo Indians spend a whole night eating "Caraguata" that they had gathered during the day's excursions. From the leaves of the "Caroas" and "Macambiras," Bromelia and Ananas, they make fibers equivalent to those that they obtain from the leaves of the "Tucum" palm (Astrocaryum) and when they are hunting on sunny days, the fresh water in the tanks of epiphytic and terrestrial bromeliads assuages their thirst. The writers of the sixteenth century referred to pineapples with great enthusiasm. They said that nothing in the world could be compared to them. Anchieta, Garbriel Soares de Souza and various other authors whom we noted in our work "Agricultura e Botanica do Seculo XVI, no Brasil," never forgot to mention this admirable compound fruit of unequaled aroma and favor.
The glistening hummingbirds that are the most regular visitors to the bromeliads when they celebrate their nuptials also know how to take advantage of them. They take slender strands of Tillandsia usneoides from the branches and weave their curious nests from them. But the bromeliads owe their increase to them, since it is these tiny birds which effect the pollination of their flowers, which in return offer them sweet nectar and aphids and other small insects hidden within. The bromeliads prove interesting and useful to many forms of life on this planet.
But the bromeliads do not hold water in just their rosettes alone. Some of them have ample enough bracts in their great inflorescences to maintain a regular supply of water in their axils. Thus the botanist, Ernesto Ule, relates in his paper published in the "Berichten der Deutschen Botanischen Gesellschaft," vol. 17: fasc. 1: pp. 1-2. 1899, in the State of Rio de Janeiro, he had found a great Vriesia and on bending over the inflorescence to collect the flowers he had been surprised by a deluge of water coming from the bracts. Being a new species, he named it for this reason: Vriesia hydrophora.
Ernesto Ule, who was a great student of the Brazilian flora, appears to have been the first to record the appearance of Utricularia reniformis St. Hil. var. Kromeri Ule in the epiphytic bromeliads of the Organ Mountains, where George Gardner had already discovered Utricularia nelumbifolia Gardn. in such conditions. At our Biological Station of Alto da Serra, in Paranapiacaba, S. Paulo, we have many bromeliads tenanted by Utricularia reniformis. However, we had not been able to find Utricularia nelumbifolia in similar conditions, and lacking the opportunity to visit the Organ Mountains were losing hope of seeing it. But in 1921 on an excursion to the high ranges of Minas Gerais, we had the thrill of finding these in great plants of Vriesia on the high cliffs of the Serra do Garimpo near Cocais. The spectacle was dazzling. From between the great leaves of the bromeliad hung the orbicular peltate leaves of the plant carnivore and the tall stapes bore great red-lilac flowers 4 cm. across, as if the bromeliads were vases in which they were displayed. The pile of great stone blocks appeared to make access impossible, but by running the risk of losing our legs in the crevasses masked by vegetation we reached the specimens and were able to study how they extend their fleshy rhizomes in the leaf-aquariums of the Vriesia and spread their bladders in each axil. The vigor of the specimens indicated no lack of nourishment. The liquid in the tanks, however, remained full of larvae and small worms.
It is also surprising to see the number of hepatics and frondose mosses that thrive in the bromeliad tanks. Philophyllum bromeliophilum and tenuifolium and Eulejeunea desciscens are some of the native species that we have recorded at the Biological Station of Alto da Serra, S. Paulo, where along with the aquatic plants in the bromeliads many species of tree-frogs complete their larval state.
To sum up we can state that bromeliads as representatives of our hemisphere should be included among the plants to be protected and cultivated in all localities where they are hardy. For good growth they need a constant supply of organic matter in their tanks. Liquids containing vegetable and animal matter can be given them to advantage. A temperate environment with adequate heat are indispensable for their growth.
–Director of the Instituto de Botanica S. Paulo, Brazil.
N. E. Brown
"In a collection of dried plants made by Mr. G. S. Jenman in British Guiana, and sent by that gentleman to the National Herbarium at Kew in January of this year, are contained many interesting plants, and among them a fine specimen of the plant described by Mr. Baker from imperfect material in the Gardener's Chronicle (1880) vol. xiv, p. 243, as Cordyline macrantha, but which, now that more ample material has come to hand, turns out to be, not a Cordyline at all, and which does not even belong to the order Lilliaceae, but to the Bromeliaceae, and is thought to belong to the little known genus Brocchinia; it will, I believe, shortly be fully described under the name of Brocchinia cordylinoides, along with another new bromeliad contained in the collection. . . .
It appears to be confined to the savannah above the Kaieteur Falls in the Potaro river, and is inhabited by another very handsome and interesting plant, viz. Utricularia Humboldtii, which finds a home in the water held in the axils of the leaves of the Bromeliad. Mr. Jenman states on the label sent with the Utricularia that it is "aquatic, confined to the water contained in the axils of the leaves of Cordyline macrantha (Brocchinia cordylinoides) which is always copious. The stems rise up and flower above the leaves. . . . It appears to be strictly confined to the Cordyline (Brocchinia)."
"If the bromeliad, together with its dependent, the Utricularia, could be successfully introduced into cultivation they would form very striking and interesting subjects.
"Utricularia Humboldtii is very different in appearance from either U. montana or U. Endresii, and is one of the finest species of the genus; the petioles of its leaves are from 1½ to 2 feet long; the leaf-blade is cuneate-reniform in outline and from 2 to 5 inches broad; the flower stem apparently grows to about 3 feet in height, and the flowers are about 1½ inch in diameter."
–(Copied, by Alex Hawkes)
By Mulford B. Foster
When you see a bromeliad do you know whether it is a tillandsia, a dyckia, a billbergia or an aechmea? It would be much simpler to call them all billbergias but certainly not very satisfactory for a bromel collector who is earnestly trying to learn a few of the differences that would give some help in determining at least the genus or the subfamily to which the plant belonged.
There are very few persons, botanists, specialists or amateurs in the world who have seen or could name on sight at least one member of each of the known genera, so don't feel confused or discouraged if you have made the wrong guess.
Whether they are aware of it or not certainly everybody knows at least one bromeliad–the pineapple, Ananas comosus. The next commonest one would most likely be "Spanish Moss", Tillandsia usneoides. And then, you might know a dyckia, Dyckia sulfurea, for instance. If you would study some of the outstanding characteristics of these three plants yon could become familiar with the three sub-family divisions to which all of the bromeliads belong.
The first sub-family of the bromeliads is called Pitcairnioideae and is made up of the more primitive forms of the family. They are nearly all terrestrial plants. There are ten different genera represented but the average bromel lover will not be likely to see plants belonging to more than four or five of those genera. The most common in collections would be Dyckias and then possibly Pitcairnias, Puyas and Hechtias. While most of the Pitcairnias have smooth edged (entire) leaves the Cottendorfias, Lindmanias and Brocchinias do also but all the other genera have serrated or spiny leaves.
The largest group in the subfamily is Pitcairnia but there have not been very many species introduced into horticulture. Nearly all of them are terrestrial and most of them have grass-like foliage.
The Dyckias, Hechtias and Puyas have thick, spiny leaves and are generally very robust, coarse plants, as are the lesser known Encholiriums and Deuterocohnias. The Navias, Abromeitiellas and Connellias are small cluster plants growing in very specialized regions and have rarely been in the collector's possession.
The seeds of all the Pitcairnioideae except the Navias have either wings on the ends or they are surrounded at least on three sides. The seeds of the Navias are naked and have no wings or appendages.
The second sub-family is called Tillandsioideae and all of the members of this subfamily can be determined by the plumose appendage of the seeds; also most of them are epiphytic. They have this one thing in common: a delicately feathered or plume-like parachute attached to the base of the seed or as in the Glomeropitcairnia the seeds have the plumose appendage at both ends.
The members of this Tillandsioideae sub-family are, Tillandsia, Vriesia, Thecophyllum, Guzmania, Mezobromelia, Catopsis and Glomeropitcairnia.
Both the Pitcairnioideae and Tillandsioideae have dehiscent fruit, capsules that open spontaneously when ripe to disperse their seeds with the assistance of the wind.
The members of the third sub-family Bromelioideae have bacate or berry-like fruits with the seeds immersed in the moist pulp. These fruits for the most part are attractive to birds or animals and thus their seeds are carried to new germinating locations. More than half of the different genera of this subfamily are terrestrial, such as Fascicularia, Greigia, Cryptanthus, Bromelia, Deinacanthon, Disteganthus, Andrea, Orthophytum, Fernseea, Neoglaziovia, Ananas, Pseudananas, Ochagavia and Gravisia.
The majority of the Quesnelias, Ronnbergias, Hohenbergias and Porteas are also terrestrial, while the genera such as Aechmea, Androlepis, Araeococcus, Billbergia, Wittrockia, Nidularium, Canistrum, Neoregelia, Streptocalyx are predominantly epiphytic, and with the exception of one or two species of the Ronnbergias they all have spiny margins on the leaves. All the genera have species that we find mostly as terrestrials except Acanthostachys which is the only genus that is always found as an epiphyte and there is only one species in that genus.
The largest genus in the subfamily Bromelioideae is Aechmea and it is a very diversified genera. There are possibly as many species in this one genus as there are in all the other genera together in this sub-family.
(To Be Continued)
Q. Does water in the cups ever cause the plant to decay? Some of the leaves of my nidulariums seem so brown and mushy around the base. Also what would cause large brown spots to appear on my nidularium? Do I give them too much light?
A. In the first place all of the tank type bromeliads must have water in their cups in order for them to live. The other types of bromels do not have cups so they could not hold any quantity of water. If your plant is in a greenhouse and there is a drip from above that may bring foreign substances or if you have sprayed with oil or arsenate of lead, decay could easily start in this cup because of the poisonous chemicals. A drip going directly into a plant from an overhead galvanized pipe would soon cause serious consequences.
Bromels that are living on rocks or in the ground withstand much more adverse conditions as they have built up a resistance to the greater predominance of chemicals which are prevalent in rocks or soil in greater quantity. Also the roots have a tendency to take up sufficient water necessary for their sustenance. But when the tank bromeliads which depend on their leaves and the base of their leaves to absorb and digest their food, have an overabundance of chemicals such as iron, copper etc. they do not have the resistance to tolerate more than their minute needs.
It has been authoritatively said that one per cent of our air is mineral and from that one percent such plants as Spanish Moss and the xerophytic epiphytes must receive the greater part of their mineral needs. Sufficient organic material reaches many of these epiphytic plants from decayed leaves, twigs, bird droppings, numerous insects etc. All provide a balanced chemical ration.
The mushy leaves around the base of a nidularium could not come from decay in the cup unless the whole plant was decayed. As long as you will have to cut your fingernails and your hair you will have to take off the lower leaves from your bromeliads as they mature and decay naturally. But if an abnormal number of leaves are rotting off at the base, foreign substances are entering them, or your potting material is not correct.
Most of the species of the nidulariums are shade loving plants. All bromeliads want light and plenty of it, but do not confuse this with sunlight; nidulariums do not want much direct sunlight. For the most part they live on or near the ground floor of the forest. They enjoy plenty of moisture and like a humid condition, not dry air.
If your potting material is allowed to get soggy and is poorly drained and that generally means that it is turning sweet then the nidulariums and most of the bromeliads do not like this condition so they try to tell you they don't, by rotting. Old leaf-mold or osmunda fiber will break down in two years and ceases to be acid. It becomes sweet but it smells sour. Most plants do not like it. Replant your bromeliads once a year if possible, for their best health and growth.
The Bromeliad Society had its first birthday September 17. It can be said that the yearling is doing as well as can be expected having started on a shoe string without the shoe!