BSI Journal - Online Archive


Vol. 3January, February, March, April 1953No. 1 and 2

Photo by William Hertrich
Puya Berteroniana Mez, heretofore known in the California trade as Puya alpestris. When in bloom it provides a handsome sight in the famous Huntington Botanical Garden at San Marino, California.


Editorial 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.


With munch regret we are forced to announce that the promised Cultural Handbook will not be off the press as soon as hoped for. Due to exceptional pressure of work and illness it was impossible to keep the work going steadily and to finish the innumerable details of its preparation. It is complete now and everything will be done to expedite the final issuance of our Cultural Handbook. Meanwhile we give you another Bulletin and ask you to wait most patiently.

This Bulletin will be known as No. 1 and No. 2 of Vol. 3 and will cover the months of January to April inclusive. The Handbook will be issued in lieu of the regular Bulletin for January and February. It will go forward as soon as issued to each member of The Bromeliad Society without additional cost. Extra copies, of course, may be purchased at the price of $1.50.


Members will be pleased to learn that the Bromeliad Society has been duly incorporated under the laws of the State of California as a non-profit organization.

It is sincerely hoped that 1953 will see the formation of a number of affiliated societies. According to Article IX of the By-Laws, any group of six members may apply to the Society (address the secretary) for affiliation as a group organization. Full enjoyment in the Bromeliad Society cannot be appreciated unless the members can get together and hold meetings where they can have programs, discuss their problems, exchange plants, study the varieties, etc.

At present there is but one affiliated society–The Bromeliad Society of Southern California–an up-and-coming group which holds bi-monthly meetings. There are approximately 25 active members. They exhibit yearly at the Southern California Flower Show in Pasadena and they have done much to bring bromeliads to the attention of the public.

Any members who happen to be visiting in Southern California are cordially invited to get in touch with the secretary (residence in West Los Angeles) so that they may attend any meeting of the Southern California group.

The secretary hopes that by the beginning of the summer to print a list of the membership so that members may be able to meet other members in their immediate vicinity or visit with them when they are in their locality.

It is indeed gratifying to note that bromeliads are being advertised more and more in our flower magazines. Americans, with but a few exceptions, have a long way to go so far as propagation of bromeliads is concerned. Advertisements in European periodicals offer a large number of intriguing hybrids, which as yet are unobtainable in this country. Because of the ruggedness of the fumigation at the plant quarantine stations, few of the finest bromeliads ever reach this country alive.

An interesting article recently appeared in Gartenwelt, calling attention to the need of a stricter selection of bromeliads grown for decorative use. "Each grower knows from his own experience that a good leaf design is dependent on more than cultivation in full sun or under shade. Faulty leaf designs are the results of degeneration, which results from too little selection in the breeding. This is true particularly of Aechmea fasciata, which until now was marked as Billbergia rhodocyanea." The two photographs used to illustrate this article clearly show how far European growers have gone in the culture of bromeliads. The illustration of the poorer type A. fasciata was typical of the one seen in this country, while the superior type with its exquisitely symmetrical banding was indeed ideal.

Those members who read German will be interested in a new little handbook just published in Gunzburg, Germany, entitled Epiphyten-Stamme (Epiphytes on Tree Limbs) by M. C. Fink. In this book the author discusses the growing of epiphytic plants on limbs or trunks of trees for indoor decoration. He devotes much space to the subject of bromeliads and their use as decorative house plants, especially using them attached to driftwood or tree stumps. Though one might not be able to read German, he could obtain some clever ideas from the many clear illustrations.

Photo by author
Puya spathacea (Griseb) Mez


by William Hertrich

In Southern California certain members of the Bromeliad or Pineapple family can be grown out-of-doors quite successfully. Some of them, moreover, add considerably to the interest and colour of a garden in situations where more exacting plants would be difficult to maintain.

In the Huntington Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California, several genera of this family have been objects of experimentation over a period of some thirty years or more, and certain species have been found well worth recommending for planting in private gardens and parks in this area. Practically all of the plants mentioned in this article can withstand considerable drought; (*) some are particularly useful for planting on slopes and embankments. Others serve the purpose of forming impenetrable hedges where such may be required. Most of them add considerable beauty to the landscape during the spring and summer months, displaying colorful spikes of various sizes and shapes in a colour range of red, yellow, orange, blue and greenish-blue.

[(*) Exceptions are noted within the text.]

Cultural requirements for growing the type of terrestrial Bromeliads under discussion in this article are relatively simple. Most of them prefer a loose open soil, although experiments have shown that good results may be expected in heavy clay-like soil as well. Summer irrigation can be cut down to once every month, or two to three months, depending upon the type of soil involved. One experiment showed us that during several seasons of normal rainfall, no summer irrigation whatever was necessary where plants were established in good friable loam. During less favorable seasons, the plants survived but fewer flowers were produced.

The genus Puya is represented in the Huntington Gardens by several species, the largest of which is P. chilensis. We have a number of specimens of this plant one of which in July 1952 bore just short of one hundred terminals. Its all-over spread is approximately twenty-five feet; during the past season it has produced nine flowering stalks which with their branching inflorescence reached eight to nine foot heights supporting numerous chartreuse-coloured flowers. The leaves are generally about four feet in length, and about three inches wide at the base tapering toward the acute apex. They are armed with sharp hooked marginal spines of a yellowish-brown colour and of horn-like translucence deepening in colour toward the points. The leaf colour on both sides is a gray-toned green; upper surfaces are smooth while the under side is very finely grooved accentuating the gray tone. Leaf arrangement follows the rosette pattern.

Puya Berteroniana Mez, heretofore known in the California trade as Puya alpestris, is a plant with less formidable features than the above. In all respects except the size of the flowers, it is smaller than P. chilensis; the flowers on both are of almost equal size. The chartreuse colour of P. chilensis is contrasted with the metallic greenish-blue of the P. Berteroniana flowers which are further glorified by exserted anthers bearing pollen of a bright orange colour. Pyramidal panicles of these blossoms on their two or three foot stalks provide a handsome sight in the garden. Leaves of this species grow to about three feet in length, are a generous half-inch wide at the base but tapering to a very slender sharp apex; and they are flexible. The margins are armed with slim hooked spines approximating those of P. chilensis in texture and colour but smaller and less rigid. The glossy light green of the upper leaf surface is not matched by the under surface which is covered with a dense but thin coat of gray-white tomentum easily scuffed off. Clumps of P. Berteroniana never reach the large proportions of P. chilensis.

Puya caerulea forms dense clumps three to four feet high by five or six feet broad with a hundred or more heads. Individual leaves are about one foot long and one inch broad at the base tapering to long slim apices. They are a light green covered with a thin coating of light gray tomentum on both upper and under surfaces. The marginal spines are of the same horn-like texture and colour as described in the above mentioned species. Tufted crowded panicles of flowers with scape measure about four feet tall. The blossoms are a deep blue, about two inches long individually, and arranged densely at the end of the inflorescence, as compared with a looser arrangement in other species.

Puya violacea (Brongn.) Mez, has proved to be one of the most satisfactory plants in the garden. A specimen acquired about twenty-five years ago, has now reached approximately eight feet in diameter, forming numerous heads and an increasing number of flower spikes each season; the latter range from five to six feet in height. Twenty-nine spikes were counted at the height of the flowering season in 1952. The leaves are generally about two feet long, a half inch wide at the base, tapering to long slim apices; they are covered with a thin light gray tomentum. The inflorescence is branched and rigid.

Puya aequatorialis closely resembles Puya violacea, bearing leaves up to twenty-four inches long which are a dark green above but with under surface covered with a thin light gray coat of tomentum; they are armed with sharp reddish-brown marginal spines and measure about an inch broad at the base tapering to long thin acute apices. P. aequatorialis produces a somewhat lax inflorescence compared with that of P. violacea, the inflorescence area measuring about half, and the stalk about a half. Flowers are a light blue.

Puya spathacea is a robust type, forming a bushy plant five to six feet broad whose flowering stalks including the inflorescence measure about four feet in height. The stalk below the inflorescence measures about one fifth the total height, the inflorescence itself assuming the other four-fifths of it, producing a stately effect. The flowers are a pale blue, tubular and about an inch and a half long, occurring in profusion compared with some other species. A miniature form of this species received from a different source from the type corresponds with the type in all ways on a scale less than half the size. Other less colourful species have been subject to experimentation with us in the past, including: P. Thomasiana, P. Roezlii, P. venusta, P. gracilis, and variants; and several other species unidentified. All of these are hardy in this particular locality in southern California, even during such severe winters as those of 1937 and 1949 when low temperature were recorded to 20° F.

Pitcairnia species numbering about a dozen have represented the genus in the Huntington Gardens in the past. As to their behavior in southern California, many are too tender to be recommended for general planting except in favored, frost-free localities.

Pitcairnea ferruginea has proved to be a suitable plant in the Huntington Gardens, especially in conjunction with the Puyas. Although Pitcairnea flowers arranged in lax inflorescence are individually interesting some lack the color of the Puyas; consequently they are less desirable from the horticultural point of view, and need the more exotic aspect of the Puyas to lend interest to their use in the landscaping plan. This Pitcairnea is of similar habit of growth to the Puya and is perfectly hardy. Species under observation during past years which have proved less satisfactory under semi-arid conditions and occasional frosts are the following: Pitcairnea Altensteinii, P. atrorubens, P. imperialis (grandiflora), P. integrifolia, P. maidifolia, P. punicea, P. recurvata, P. undulata, P. Wittei, P. xanthocalyx. Included among the species above are several others unidentified. Some of them form congenial groups in the garden either by themselves or as indicated above, with the Puyas.

Perhaps the most satisfactory plants among these Bromeliads for outdoor culture in southern California, and particularly well suited to the landscaping plan for the smaller garden, are the Dyckias. In the Huntington Botanical Gardens, about a dozen species are growing to advantage; they have been established here for at least thirty years. The following are perhaps the favorites for ornamental purposes: D. rariflora which forms a dwarf size rosette pattern of leaves and bears orange flowers of a vivid hue; D. remotiflora, somewhat similar in appearance but with leaves almost twice as long and bearing lighter orange flowers which are arranged farther apart on a taller inflorescence–a species formerly cultivated as D. montevidensis. D. brevifolia, formerly held as D. sulphurea, is a species that forms dense clusters of small rosettes of leaves and bears bright yellow flowers on spikes about fourteen or fifteen inches tall. All of these are small plants compared with the Puyas. All of them multiply by subdivision of crown growth, except D. brevifolia which forms compact groups of rosettes. The leaves of all of them are armed with small marginal spines. For the majority the flowering season extends through May and June.

Dyckia altissima forms larger rosettes than any of the species described above, and develops leaves up to twelve inches long which are about an inch broad at the base and armed with sharp spines. The flowering period is extended over three or four months beginning in April. The branched inflorescence and stalk measures over-all about four to five feet; its flowers are generally yellow although our records show that some of the seedlings grown from original plants have produced orange flowers, indicating a possible cross-pollination with D. rariflora. D. Neiderleinii produces rosettes of leaves up to fifteen inches in height. The leaves are armed with marginal spines and the branching inflorescence with stalk measures five to six feet in length, bearing orange-yellow flowers in June and July.

Bromelia fastuosa is a plant which seems to grow very well in the Huntington Gardens. The same may be said of several species of Hechtia, including H. Texensis, H. argentea, H. glomerata, and also Deuterocohnia Sehreiteri. The latter forms rosettes with fairly short leaves, a lax branched inflorescence which is short-stalked, the total height measuring about four feet–a plant of no little botanical interest and beauty with its small yellow flowers.

It is probable that many other types of Bromeliads would succeed equally well out-of-doors in southern California, although it is conceded that the coastal areas rather than the interior valleys where the Huntington Gardens are located, favor their best development. Some species in particular respond most favorably to humid atmospheric conditions, and some of the more tender types have better chance to survive in such areas where damage from frost is less likely. Experiments with bromeliads should be encouraged wherever there is possibility of growing them because from a horticultural point of view they are not only interesting as plants but they also provide much ornamental beauty with their colour which is bright and abundant under favorable culture.

Curator Emeritus, Huntington Botanical Garden, San Marino, Calif.


Victoria Padilla

At a recent meeting of the Southern California Branch of the Bromeliad Society, it was discovered that several of the new members were wholly unfamiliar with bromeliads and their culture. They had seen the plants at nurseries, at garden club meetings, or at flower shows and were completely enamored of them; and they had joined the Society in order to learn more about this fascinating plant family. Because of this fact the discussion at that meeting was given over entirely towards aiding these members in getting started with their collections. It was decided then that a part of each future meeting would be devoted to the beginner and his needs.

As there are doubtless many readers who are just starting their collections, it was the consensus it might be advisable to have this discussion become a regular part of the Bulletin. This corner is meant for the novice–not the old champ who knows his ropes. The ideas expressed are not those of just one person, but of a group of approximately twenty-five people. They do not pose as a panel of experts, to be sure; but they are all out-and-out enthusiasts. They have been growing bromeliads for varying periods of time, the veteran being Mr. Morris Schick who has raised them for a quarter of a century. Several of the members have fairly large collections, ranging from one hundred to two hundred species. Mrs. Susan Hutchinson is a grower par excellence, and each plant is perfection. Mr. David Barry has been collecting since the early thirties and he has over 200 species, which include 24 genera–many being very rare. Enough for our introduction.

How does the beginner get started? The first thing he should consider before purchasing any plants is to determine what growing conditions he can give them. Will he grow the plants in his home, in a glass house, under lath, or in a succulent garden or rockery? Does he want to use them as potted specimens for patio or terrace or does he desire to naturalize them, attaching them to trees?

In their native habitat, the American tropics, bromeliads are to be found thriving under all kinds of conditions. Nidulariums and neoregelias prefer the dense shade and humidity of the jungle floor; Puyas thrive on the wind-swept slopes of the high Andes; and Dyckias are perfectly content if they have a rock on which to cling. Vriesias and Aechmeas demand the limb or trunk of a tall tree; T. recurvata likes nothing so well as living on a telephone wire; and there are species to be found on beaches enjoying the salten spray of the ocean waves. The experienced grower knows that if he is to be successful with his plants, he must duplicate their natural environment in so far as possible.

What should guide the beginner in making out his first list of plants? Adaptability to environment, ease of culture, dependability of bloom, and distribution of flowering periods are all basic considerations.

Those bromeliads which seem to be most adaptable to various kinds of cultivation are the air-minded tree-dwellers or epiphytes. From this large group, the easiest to grow are the Aechmeas and Billbergias. Though they prefer the treetops in their native haunts, they seem perfectly content to settle down in pots, provided their soil is porous and rich in humus, and they receive a modicum of care.

Billbergias are among the hardiest of all bromeliads and will survive temperature as low as fifteen degrees. Though their individual blooms are fleeting, Billbergias tend to multiply so rapidly that a fair-sized plant will be in flower for a considerable period of time. Favorites are B. Saundersii, particularly for the unique mottling of its leaves; B. Meadii, for its ever-blooming qualities; and the B. thyrsoidea hybrids, for the dazzling brilliance of their inflorescence.

Aechmeas are particularly recommended for the novice, for though they are less hardy than Billbergias, their colorful flower heads remain things of beauty for many months. So that he will be encouraged in his growing of bromeliads, the beginner should select the "sure-bloomers" – those that will send up flower spikes unfailingly year after year. Aechmeas miniata discolor, A. fulgens discolor, and fasciata are a triumvirate which in this regard cannot be surpassed. The beginner making up his first list should not fail to include them. (For cultural directions refer to the Handbook.)

A Blooming Calendar of the Most Popular Aechmeas and Billbergias
A. Racinae
A. Foster's Favorite
B. Leitzi
B. Meadii
A. Fasciata
A. Fulgens discolor
B. thyrsoidea and hybrids
B. Meadii
A. Miniata discolor
B. Saundersii
B. Euphemia
B. vittata
B. Meadii
A. Weilbachii
B. Pyramidalis
Billbergia-Mead hybrids


David Barry, Jr.

Photo by author   
Tillandsia recurvata (L.) L growing on the
Idrias in Baja California.
About three hundred miles below the United States border in Baja California, stretches, for miles, what is one of the widest expanses of cactus flora in existence.

In a recent trip to La Bahia de Los Angeles on the Gulf of California, we travelled by car and truck, on an unbelievably poor road. Inland from the bay we went slowly for hours through an area where thousands of giant saguaros, tall idrias, elephant trees, ocotillas, cerei, mammalarias, barrel cacti, agaves, euphorbias and the Barringtonia grew together in grand profusion. In May, after good rains, every kind of plant was in flower. A glorious sight! Down at La Bahia they told us until this year it has not rained there for ten years!

This arid country did not appear to be conducive to the health of moisture-loving bromeliads. On our return trip we suddenly discovered Tillandsias growing on the twig-like branches of the west side of the idrias over a small area of terrain, although the idrias, native only to Baja California, were distributed profusely over hundreds of square miles. These odd plants are close relatives of the ocotillas and are called "candle trees" as the trunks taper gradually and evenly from ground to pointed tops. Sometimes they branch or fork, providing ideal places for hawks' nests. Except for a few Tillandsias on Barringtonia trees, none was found except on the west side, toward the Pacific Ocean, of the idrias. There, at night, the cool ocean air became a dripping, heavy fog, flowing against the idrias and sustaining life for the bromeliads, a necessary relief from the hot sun of the day.

My collection of these Tillandsias has apparently been lost in the weird red tape of the border and identification must wait. They were not ornamental and probably were the species T. recurvata (ball moss).

11979 San Vincente, Los Angeles. Calif.


Victoria Padilla

A number of members have joined the Society because some day they hope to raise Bromeliads, and until such time, they want to learn all they can about this fascinating plant family: There is Pfc. James Padgett, for instance, who is at present in Korea, but whose hopes for the future include raising Bromeliads. Then there is Marz Simpson, whose narrow confines in a Los Angeles apartment do not permit his growing many plants. However, he has one of the largest collections of Bromeliad prints to be found in this country–all in beautiful condition. His latest acquisition is a very fine set of Andre, obtained from abroad, where Mr. Simpson has collectors working for him.

Our congratulations go to Phyllis Holm of Sarasota, Florida, who is endeavoring to obtain all the native Bromeliads of the United States for her collection. She has received permission to gather Bromeliads in the state parks of Florida and recently returned from a collecting spree in the Highlands Hammock State Park. The Eric Knoblocks and Henry Hobbses also went plant collecting this year in Florida and came back with some fine native Tillandsias. Both men are leaders in the New Orleans art colony as well as being "Patio Planters" of note.

We have many new interesting members to welcome–Don Buzzard, Baldwin Park, California; James Farrar, Sebastopol, California; T. H. Flood, Elmwood Park, Illinois; Elizabeth Jarman, Sarasota, Florida; Mrs. I. H. Kaufhold, Pass-a-Grille Beach, Florida; Stephen J. Kancir, Fruitvale, British Columbia; L. Maurice Mason, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England; Ruth Pardee, Williamsport, Pennsylvania; J. Adalberto Roig, Puerto Rico; Mrs. Edward C. Raffensperger, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; R. H. Scheers, Fort Worth Texas; Peggie Schulz, Minneapolis, Minn., co-editor of American Gloxinia Society.

Carrying the torch about Bromeliads in other publications, the following articles have been written:

Victoria Padilla had an article in the December 1952 issue of Golden Gardens, (a California garden publication) under the title of "Bromeliads–The All-American Plant."

The M. B. Fosters have tried to lure more Florida fans bromel-wise in an article "The Versatile Bromeliads" in the April 1953 issue of Tropical Hones and Gardening (Coral Gables, Fla.)

Christmas card from Jules Thomas   
At this time it is fitting to introduce to the Society three of its new board of directors–Margaret Sullivan, Edmund Cooke, and Dr. William Drummond. Miss Sullivan, with degrees from U.C.L.A. and Cornell, is one of Southern California's most popular horticulturists. She is a fine grower, a landscape architect, a lecturer, and a writer. She has long been an ardent enthusiast for bromeliads. She is writing an article, discussing the place of bromeliads in the landscape design for the July issue of Sunset Magazine.

Edmund Cooke is one of the leading attorneys of the Southland, who has developed bromeliads as his hobby. It is due to his kindness and good nature that the Society became incorporated. He goes yearly to Mexico to search for new bromels and has promised to write an article for the Bulletin, giving the locations where bromeliads may be found in that southern country.

Dr. William Drummond is a retired dentist, whose hobby is also bromeliads and collecting a library of rare horticultural books. His wife, who is one of the leading corsage designers in Southern California, has done much to feature bromeliads as a corsage flower. Dr. Drummond raises the most magnificent specimens of Aechmea fasciata seen in this part of the country.

One of our most enthusiastic new members is M. Marcel Lecoufle of France. He has long been known for his interest in orchids, but he is now turning his attention to bromeliads. He has promised us some articles and pictures for future issues. We are glad you have joined the Society, M. Lecoufle.

David Barry, Jr., the first vice president, is making preparations to leave for a six-month sojourn in Europe–his primary purpose being to visit the leading horticultural establishments and botanical gardens. He promises to drop in and say "hello" to many of our continental friends. We hope to hear from him while he is abroad.

Among the circulating Christmas cards this past December were several using bromeliads as subject matter. Besides the hand colored Cryptanthus design by the M. B. Fosters, Phyllis Holm (mentioned above) made a sparkling silhouette pattern in opaque mahogany on shiny white, of Florida Tillandsias perched harmoniously on an angular pine branch host whose clusters of needles made sympathetic rhythm to the similarly patterned bromeliads.

Marz Simpson (also mentioned above) made a bromeliaceous contribution from his own hand in an unique reproduction (opaque green on shiny white) of an old print (from L'Illustration Horticole) of Vriesia fenestralis. The pot holding this bromeliad is cleverly supported by two green thumbs!

Another type of Christmas card can be classed among photographer's choice; it came from Jules Thomas of Lake Worth, Florida, whose show piece of a small cypress tree laden with bromeliads in a naturalistic arrangement, gave us envious delight. We print it herewith as a detail for inspiration in your next exhibit.

Last but not least, from Freddie Greenhut, Jr., age 13, our youngest Society member, came a most unique sketch in colored crayons. This fanciful drawing is self-explanatory, although Freddie added a personal note below the drawing, "(P.S. Too bad it can't be true)"

Bromeliads are well represented photographically in EXOTICS, a new catalogue just off the press. Published by Julius Roehrs Company of Rutherford, N. J., this glorified catalogue pictures nearly one thousand exotic tropical plants. Mr. Alfred B. Graf is responsible for this unusual work and it is quite the finest thing ever attempted by an American horticultural establishment.

There are seventy large pages containing three hundred photographic illustrations. All of these photos were taken by Mr. Graf at the nursery or on his world-wide trips, for he has visited nearly every tropical country in the world. Mr. Graf, a member of our Bromeliad Society, has long been an admirer of bromeliads. He is an ardent and meticulous photographer, as well as a horticulturist with few rivals.

Eighty-two bromeliads are pictured in this publication, and while many of them are not correctly named, according to the latest authorities, certainly there has been a most sincere attempt to use the proper names whenever possible.

The price of $2.00 charged for this catalogue is low in comparison to its high quality.

Billbergia pyramidalis, in all its lovely color, rates the cover of NATURAL HISTORY for April 1953. To us it looks like a hybrid of B. pyramidalis with a bit of B. Euphemia blood; it is beautiful regardless of its name.

Blooming in the garden of Mr. and Mrs. E. H. Palmer, St. Petersburg, Fla., was an Aechmea pineliana which so kindled the enthusiasm of Mary Gilchrist, garden page editor, that a striking photo, taken by George Trabant, was published in the March 29, 1953, St. Petersburg Times.

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