The BROMELIAD SOCIETY
|Vol. 3||May June, 1953||No. 3|
|Photo by Henry Teuscher|
|Billbergia Venezuelana flowered at the Montreal Botanical Garden, October, 1952. It is brilliantly pink-bracted inflorescence, over two feet long, which gushes forth as from a fountain head.|
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.
The Cultural Handbook is in the final stages of the press and we hope that it can he sent to you sooner than we think. It has been a long process in correcting proof and planning the format.
We need to sell many extra copies of the Handbook in order to have funds for increasing the number of photos and pages in The Bulletin. Order one for your friends. The price is very reasonable: Paper Cover $1.50; Cloth Cover $3.00. Make check payable to The Bromeliad Society. Inc. and send to the Secretary or the Editor.
Grateful acknowledgments are due to Victoria Padilla, Mr. and Mrs. Julian Nally, and Lyman B. Smith who have given abundantly of their time and advice in correcting and editing not only the manuscript of the Handbook, but the galley and page proofs, a long, tedious and seemingly endless job.
We regret that the year date on the last issue of The Bulletin was overlooked. Please add 1953 to your Vol. 3, Nos. 1 & 2 Jan., Feb., March, April.
FROM THE SECRETARY'S DESK –
Our members do get around, as for example, Mrs. Ray W. Greene. As her husband is the present mayor of Winter Park, Fla. (adjoining Orlando) she chose his year of office for her trip inspecting the gardens of the world because she dislikes "business entertainments." She met a number of our New Zealand members and had an interesting visit with Charles hodgson, our trustee in Melbourne, Australia. He writes:
"I was astonished to see an unfortunate lady hobbling on crutches. (She had hurt her leg.) Well, I patiently escorted her through the cactus and orchid houses, but she gave them a passing glance. She became quite excited, however, upon seeing the bromeliad house. She was pleased to see a cluster of Tillandsia recurvata and T. fasciculata (both native to her home state). I told her I got a cutting from Mr. Foster years ago, and although it had grown into a large plant it still had no roots. She informed me that was often the case. She also was astonished to see so many plants I had raised from seed and was delighted to see Aechmea orlandiana and Ae. Racinae. I told her the fancy was growing here but the difficulty was to get sufficient plants. . . ."
One of the most eager questions presented to Mrs. Greene in her travels afar has been, "where can we obtain more information about bromeliads?" Everywhere they wanted seeds.
So, she has been a good missionary, and is responsible for bringing us new members from afar as well as dispersing seeds abroad.
AT THE MISSOURI BOTANICAL GARDEN
Many of our readers are already aware of plant and animal life which inhabits the funnel-shaped receptacles of our beloved bromeliads. Dr. F. C. Hoehne, in his interesting article on Treetop Aquariums in the September-October 1951 number of The Bromeliad Society Bulletin, mentions a few Utricularias or Bladderworts which have been found growing luxuriantly in the leaf aquariums of bromels and also a number of hepatics and frondose mosses.
Several years ago, a friend of mine interested in micro-organisms living in a large lake on the Garden's grounds, was induced by me to make a study of small life which could be found in the leafy tanks of bromels on exhibit in our greenhouses. This biological study was made by Mr. Cecil McMurtry, a postal clerk by vocation and an amateur biologist by avocation. I knew that in Nature there were many insects, frogs and reptiles, as well as plants associated with bromels, so my curiosity was aroused in learning what various life existed in the watercups of bromels under artificial cultivation in our greenhouses. To my surprise the flora and fauna was greater than I had expected. Aechmea, Billbergia, Nidularium and Tillandsia were the genera chosen from which water was taken to make this study.
The algae, bacteria, fungi and animalia found in the water of bromeliads will be briefly discussed in this article. By far, algae constituted the greatest number of individuals. The general public undoubtedly recognizes only the massive forms, like kelp and Sargassum as algae and common pond-scum known as Spirogyra but there are hundreds of unicellular and unspecialized multicellular bodies which form slimy coats on mud and sand and dripping rocks, or encrustations on stones and wood.
Oscillatoria amphibia was the first algae under scrutiny. This is a very common Blue-green algae which is found in a variety of habitats, even in temporary pools and puddles that have been standing but a week or two. The tiny plant is an unbranched filament and is able to thrive in waters where other algae cannot survive. It grows luxuriantly in pools of stagnant putrescent water and therefore can be expected in the bromel receptacles. Another Blue-green algae discovered was Nostoc commune, ordinarily growing on bare soil or intermingled with submerged plants. It differs from Oscillatoria in the presence of sheaths which are often confluent to form a gelatinous matrix. Three Diatoms were also taken from bromel water. Diatoms are unicellular and colonial organisms that differ sharply from other algae in the structure of their cells. Each Diatom cell wall is made of silica which does not decay with the death of the plant but slowly settles to the bottom of the water where such accumulated sediments form diatomaceous earth which has found its use in industry. One of the first uses was as an absorbent for liquid nitroglycerine, to make an explosive, dynamite, that could be transported with comparative safety. This "fossil earth" is also used as a filter in sugar refining, and as a mild abrasive in polishes and tooth paste.
The first Diatom encountered in the bromel cups was Meridion circulare, a free-floating, fanshaped organism characterized by straight-sided valves. It often develops in abundance in ditches and semi-permanent pools. Navicula gracilis was the second Diatom discovered in the cups. It is a boatshaped organism, belonging to another order as its valves have an ornamentation that is bilaterally disposed with respect to a sagittal line and never radially arranged with reference to a central point. Navicula is mostly found in pools and ditches and moves slowly over a debris on which it is living, because of a constant thread of protoplasm which streams along its under surface, similar to the tread of a caterpillar tractor. Nitzchia Brebissonii was the third Diatom discovered. Plants are solitary and free floating. It is strongly believed that this group of plants, ie., the Diatoms, have played an important part in the formation of petroleum deposits.
Gloeocystis gigas is the commonest of the three aquatic species of Green algae with spherical cells and stratified gelatinous envelopes. They are sometimes solitary but more often united in colonies of small size. Stichococcus subtilis is another Green algae found in our bromels. In Nature it is usually found growing on damp soil and rocks moistened by spray from waterfalls. Its cells may be solitary, united in files of a few cells only, or united in filaments of indefinite length. Still another Green algae coming to our notice was Chaetophora incrassata. This plant is of tough consistency and rarely multiplies by fragmentation. It is said to be the only species in the United States with elongate, irregularly lobed and laciniate colonies. Protococcus viridis, also a Green algae, has the unique distinction of being the commonest as well as the simplest green plant in the world. It occurs often as only a single cell, but at other times is found in small colonies of several cells. Each cell represents the green plant reduced to the lowest form possible. It is generally seen as a green coating on the trunks of trees, or on stone walls. Several species of pond scum known as Spirogyra were also detected in the water of the bromels. This is one of the commonest types of Green algae which is often present in considerable quantity in quiet bodies of water. Euglena intermedia was the last of the algae to be recorded. This is a common organism of waters rich in organic matter. The cells are spindle-shaped to acicular and with the posterior end more or less pointed.
Besides the microscopic plant life that existed in the bromel cups, a few Animalia like Protozoa and Rotifera were also detected. Protozoa are considered the lowest form of animal life. Most are single cells, microscopic in size, but usually larger and much more complex in structure and life cycle than bacteria. All protozoa are motile, some possessing flagella or cilia, others moving by means of pseudopodia or "false feet." They are present in the soil in an active vegetative or trophic state and in the form of cysts. If you do not already know it, protozoa are often the cause of diseases in man. Some of the diseases are African sleeping sickness which is caused by protozoa called "trypanosomes," amoebic dysentery is caused by aquatic naked rhizopods common in fresh stagnant water, and malaria is transmitted by an Anopheles mosquito which has been infected with certain protozoa. Paramoecium caudatum was found in bromel water cups. It is one of the ciliate infusorians with an elongate body. Rotifera is a well defined class of aquatic animals of microscopic size, remarkable as the Encyclopedia states, "for the astonishing diversity of their forms, the vivacity and intelligence of their movements and the high level of their structural development." Being extremely transparent, the largest members can hardly be detected by the unaided eve. Brachionus rubens, a rotifer, was discovered in the leaf-aquariums of bromels.
If you have a microscope at your disposal, plus a few textbooks on algae, bacteria and zoology, see what you can find in your own bromeliads.
Horticulturist, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Mo.
When from a generally beautiful genus one species stands out head and shoulders above the others as the peer of them all, it is certainly worth writing about, and when besides it is still hardly known outside the country of its origin it deserves even more to be eulogized. All this applies to the subject of this note.
As far as is known at present, Billbergia Venezuelana occurs only in Venezeula and even there it appears to be confined to a rather limited area of the northeastern section of the country near the coast of the state of Aragua. Though it does not seem to have been introduced into cultivation outside of Venezuela, it is one of the very few native plants which the inhabitants themselves appreciate for its beauty and which they plant for ornamentation. As elsewhere, so also in Venezuela, most ornamental plants are introduced foreign species, which somehow seem to have a greater appeal than the native ones, no matter how pretty the latter are. Especially in the region of its origin, one may see rather frequently large clumps of Billbergia Venezuelana planted in the low crown of the family calabash tree (Crescentia Cujeta), which latter is cherished for its hard shelled fruits serving as simple vessels and which commonly is the only plant in front of the flimsily built low adobe houses or huts.
During October and November of 1951 the writer, accompanied by Mr. Mulford B. Foster, spent four weeks as guest at the government operated biological station in the national forest of Rancho Grande, Venezuela. Dr. E. Schaefer, in charge of this station, showed us the only plant of Billbergia Venezuelana in the wild state which we saw on all our collecting trips. This plant, a huge clump, was growing in the low crotch of a medium sized tree in the depth of the forest on the lower slopes of a mountain. Mr. Foster pointed out, that this was a very unusual place for this plant to be, because it is a sun lover by nature, and the rather shaded position had in fact produced considerable alteration in the appearance of the plant as the normally tight leaf cylinders were rather loose and flappy. Dr. Schaefer had seen it in flower. He had been sitting for several hours of several succeeding days under a large Ceiba tree only a few yards away from the tree bearing the Billbergia, watching for certain birds which he was studying, and during this period it flowered. At first there was nothing to be seen on the plant and he did not even notice it. But while he was sitting there the brilliantly, pink-bracted inflorescence, over two feet long, gushed forth on all sides as from a fountain head. He said it was the most amazing and most unforgettably beautiful sight he had ever seen.
The extraordinary speed, with which the large inflorescence develops, is very impressive indeed and even rather startling. The plant on the cover is a piece of this same large clump. It flowered at the Montreal Botanical Garden in October 1952, but the inflorescence, unfortunately, developed over the weekend so that its growth was not timed. On Saturday morning there still was no sign that the plant was going to flower, and we had no reason to expect it to do so. On Monday morning the inflorescence was fully developed, and the uppermost flowers were open for business. The inflorescence retained its full beauty for about ten days. Undoubtedly, it is one of the most spectacularly beautiful members of the whole bromeliad family.
Curator, Montreal Botanical Garden, Montreal, Canada.
"That", said my wife, "would be a bromeliad." And with the infallible instinct which women often appear to have, she was undoubtedly correct. There, growing quite happily on a fence post in a small pasture was Catopsis nutans, one of a family which we had travelled eight thousand miles to see, and if possible to collect. We have been growing bromeliads in England for some years, having brought together pretty well all that were available in Europe, as well as many generous gifts from pen-friends in other parts of the world. However, we felt the time had come to see these plants as they grew and to study them at close quarters bringing back alive as many as was possible. We were lucky in having as guide, philosopher and friend Mr. Charles Lankester, who has lived in Costa Rica for many years.
In his company, at 10,000 ft., we collected Puya dasylirioides, which is, I believe, unknown to cultivation here, and which may prove hardy in the mild south-western counties of England. Undoubtedly the greatest density of bromeliads we found while in Costa Rica, was on the ground in a shelter belt Mr. Lankester had planted not far from his garden. Here, growing contentedly enough beneath the stems of lofty Cupressus lusitanica, was a range of Vriesias, Tillandsias, Thecophyllums*, and Catopsis in a massed collections that I never expected to see in so close a space in nature.
[* Editor's Note – Mr. Mason was not aware that the genus Thecophyllum has been placed under Vriesia.]
Not one of the showiest, but a very happy little plant is Tillandsia complanata, which at the moment is putting forth nine or ten spikes of flowers, and seems to have withstood the journey to England well enough to be perfectly content in the almost pure osmunda fibre in which it is now growing.
Thecophyllum was a genus quite unknown to me until I arrived in Costa Rica. It was a treat to see several hundred plants of T. irizuensis, usually growing at from eight to nine thousand feet, with a nice compact habit and good bronze red foliage glowing along the branches of Ulmus mexicana against a blue sky. A sight we shall never forget. This plant, so far, has kept its colour in cultivation but I am afraid that in the dull winter days it may disappear.
I had seen Aechmea mexicana as a pot plant in England, but had no idea of the noble dimensions this plant could achieve as we saw it at Los Diamantes in Costa Rica, some 600 to 700 feet above sea-level. What a pity that in our confined houses it will never be possible to grow it to its full dimensions.
I had always fancied that Bromeliaceae could probably assume somewhat odd shapes and forms, but Tillandsia benthamiii completely defeated me; however, for all its grotesque charm, it is well worth growing; furthermore, it has set seed freely since arriving in England. Some of the Tillandsias we collected are perhaps not very striking plants, but T. costaricensis with its beautiful purple foliage and bright green offsets, is a lovely picture and certainly amenable to cultivation.
Two or three species of Guzmania were collected, but what the specific names may be will not be possible to say until they flower, and even then I fear that, in this country, there may be some difficulty in obtaining accurate information.
|Photo by M. B. Foster|
Mr. Mason collecting Tillandsias|
in a Florida jungle.
It might not be out of place to explain here the procedure in bringing collected plants from Costa Rica into England. First of all one has to obtain an import permit from the Ministry of Agriculture, which is readily granted if the plants are for a private collection. We packed all of ours quite dry in hampers and they were in our greenhouse here within three days of leaving San Jose. And, insofar as I can see, none have suffered in the least with the possible exception of Aechmea tondusii, which was only a small piece when found, and I am afraid got rather damaged.
It is very curious what forms many of the Vriesias appear to take, and one with long, narrow, almost reed-like foliage would nearly be taken for a rough grass, at a casual glance, if it were not for its very distinct inflorescence.
Catopsis is a genus practically unknown to cultivation in England. have have brought back five or six very distinct species, some of which, if hybridized, may well produce most interesting plants. At the moment of writing I am looking at three or four pans made up of all the little odds and ends of offsets. They really make a most charming picture, infinitely preferable to many of the rather dull cactus gardens one so often sees in these days.
It should not be imagined that bromeliads were the only plants we collected. Among these others were: Peperomias of infinite number and variety, from little dwarfs up to a most noble species with leaves seven or eight inches long; and an almost bewildering array of Anthuriums, Philodendrons, and Monsteras, many of which are now beginning to put forth healthy young leaves. We were not so fortunate with several members of the Zingiberaceae, which seem to find the change of conditions too much for them and are sitting sulking, very unhappily. Most of the Aroids we brought back as leafless cuttings, having laid them in Sphagnum in a warm house, are now putting out new growth. To me they are most interesting plants for their foliage alone, although it will, I am afraid, be impossible to see them in anything like their full stature.
Another most interesting find was Bomarea werkleyi, growing high up on the Pan American highway, with its lovely dark red bells, a joy to behold. It will probably not be hardy here but should succeed well enough in an unheated house.
One thing which has amazed and delighted me since my return is the incredible number of spontaneous seedlings which have sprung from the throats of all sorts of bromeliads. We are potting them all up and taking care of them just to see what may happen.
Episcia is a family which is grown here commonly enough, usually in hanging baskets where the growths may trail for several feet over the side. It was not until we were at Los Diamantes that we first saw them in their own setting in an open space of the forest. None were in flower at the time but the foliage of two or three was so lovely that I could not resist bringing some pieces home with us, and I am happy to say that they look as though they will succeed quite well.
We had been collecting Begonias for many years and I thought we had a fairly representative collection, however, the number and variety that I constantly saw in Costa Rica was so bewildering that I came to the conclusion I needed another very large house to contain all those I should have liked to have brought back.
It might be added here that we were perhaps rather spoilt before we arrived in Costa Rica. Mr. Mulford Foster had kindly asked us to spend a little time with him in Florida before we went on to C.R. There we saw, and were given, such a vast wealth of bromeliads that I began to wonder whether it was worth while going on at all. Nearly a score of hybrid cryptanthus which I had never seen before, and which I am quite certain are unknown here, as well as so many other lovely plants which it would be invidious to pick out by name. One, though, I feel must be mentioned–the well named Medusa's Head Tillandsia, (T. caput-medusa) which for the sheer loveliness of its line would grace any collection. It is growing at the moment in his Bromeliario by the equally grotesque Tillandsia streptophylla; they are to my mind, among the gems of our collection.
Thus must end a very short and bald account of what was quite the most fascinating plant collecting trip which we have been able to make so far.
Talbot Manor, Fincham, King's Lynn, Norfolk, England.
The most frequent complaint on the part of the novice grower with regard to bromeliads (or for that matter with any plant) is their seeming refusal to flower. Bromeliads are no different from any other flowering plant in that they will bloom if they have reached sufficient maturity and are given the proper growing conditions. Exotics seem a little more difficult to get to flower for the simple reason that most of us do not quite know what are their exact needs.
This is especially true of bromeliads. As mentioned in the last issue of Beginner's Corner, bromeliads are found growing under all conceivable kinds of conditions, from being perched on a cactus in the midst of a desert to growing in a shaded corner of the jungle floor. Some of these wildings seem to resent being moved from their native home into cultivation, and their offspring are like their parents in that they will grow and propagate but be stubborn when it comes to flowering. This is true of botanical orchids, whereas those that are hybrids and know no home but the glasshouse will bloom unfailingly. There are too few bromeliad hybrids in this country for us to be able to compare the flowering aptitudes of the species and the hybrids. Perhaps our European confreres who have done so much with hybridizing will enlighten us on this subject.
Some bromeliads will thrive in one part of the country but sulk in another. Vriesia hieroglyphica certainly seems to be unhappy on the west coast, but does well on the east. But take the common Billbergia, for example. B. nutans does better in the west than in the east. B. pyramidalis is the most common of all Billbergias in Florida, blooming faithfully year after year. In California B. pyramidalis blooms when it finally gets around to it, taking a good five years to bloom for some members.
Given what seems to be identical conditions, Aechmeas Racinae and Foster's Favorite will bloom for one grower, but do nothing for another–whereas the situation is completely reversed with regard to A. Victoriana (one of the parents of Foster's Favorite). What there is lacking in the two environments seems to be a mystery indeed.
The same situation holds true for A. Weilbachii. Some growers cannot get it to bloom, even though they give it the most favorable conditions, whereas others have no difficulty at all. Though considered a warm house plant, it bloomed for one member after it had inadvertently been left out of doors during a cold spell and was frozen to a brown pulp. New leaves came out from the heart, however, and the plant won an award of merit at a flower show that fall.
Many of the little Tillandsias are "meanies" when it comes to blooming, but there are those like T. ionantha, which never fail to blush and send up their delightful little flowers every spring. T. lindeni is also another "old faithful," but sometimes it will bloom out of season and it needs full light to bring out its true color.
Mr. Hugh Evans, of Evans and Reeves Nursery in West Los Angeles, where the rare and exotic are featured, has grown bromeliads for many years. It was he who purchased the famous Atkinson collection after its owner had passed away. He says that bromeliads can be stimulated to bloom by the application of calcium carbide. He dilutes five grains in a quart of water, filling the heart of each recalcitrant plant with the liquid, being careful not to let any of the dregs go on the plant. Almost invariably a flower spike will appear in about six to eight weeks. Of course, the plant has to be of blooming age.
For those of you who delight in experimenting and who have a few surplus plants on hand, as well as a dozen or so apples, you might try this stunt. Place in a good-sized cardboard carton a number of your mature bromeliads that have not bloomed and fill the box with apples. Cover the box tightly and let stand for a few days. What for? Apples are a large source of ethylene gas–the same kind as released by the calcium carbide, and the presence of the gas in the box should tend to stimulate the plants to form their blooming spike. This might be worth a try.
To summarize briefly, under what conditions will most bromeliads flower?
- They should be given as much light as they can stand without being in
direct sunlight. Orchid growers know the importance of light in flowering their
cattleyas, and the same conditions hold true for bromeliads. The chief exception
to this rule would be the growing of Nidulariums and Neoregelias, which require
shade, but they are grown for their foliage rather than for their flowers.
- Bromeliads require a good circulation of air. For the most part they dwell
on the tops of trees, where they get the benefit of every little breeze. To
reproduce actual growing conditions, however, the air all times must be humid.
- It has been found that bromeliads will fail to flower if they are subjugated
to extreme lows of temperature over a period of time. One grower found that
45° was the minimum that bromeliads could take and flower the next season.
(Some of the hardy Billbergias, however, can withstand lower temperatures.)
At the Missouri Botanical Gardens, they let the temperature get as low as 50°.
Although bromeliads can hold up under very cold conditions in the tropics,
they seem to require higher temperatures under cultivation.
- Water is a problem for most growers of tropical plants, as nearly all have to depend on tap water for gardening use. This is generally too alkaline for bromeliads. Rainwater contains many nutrients washed out of the atmosphere, and the plants in nature make good use of these. Where rainwater is lacking (particularly in southern California, where a rainfall of ten inches a year is common), the grower has to supplement the tap water with a very weak solution of an acid type fertilizer. The fish emulsions used for orchids have been used on bromeliads with good results. As bromeliads take in very little nourishment through their roots, this weak solution can he sprayed on or poured into the cup. Also to help counteract the alkalinity of the water, one should use a potting medium that is definitely on the acid side.
647 S. Saltair Ave., Los Angeles 49, Calif.