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THE BROMELIAD SOCIETY BULLETIN

M. B. Foster, Editor, 718 Magnolia Ave., Orlando, Florida.
Annual Dues: $3.50 a year (foreign $4.00) which includes subscription to the Bulletin.
Write for details to Miss Victoria Padilla, Secretary, 647 Saltair Ave., Los Angeles 49, California.

EDITOR'S NOTES:

A letter from Mrs. A. Abendroth of Teresopolis, Brazil, tells us that Dr. Lyman B. Smith has recently informed her that the Billbergia elegans which she has written up in our recent Bulletin (May-June 1957, Vol. VII, No. 3, page 38) may not be that species, but it appears to be B. Sanderiana (?). Mrs. Abendroth, naturally, wishes everyone who has procured seeds from the Seed Fund to make a note of this and so label the seedlings until further study can be made of additional material at a later date.


Recently Dr. H. G. Aitken of the Regional Virus Laboratory in Trinidad sent us a copy of his article "Some Common Trinidadian Bromeliads" in the third, 1957, Quarterly News, a publication of The Horticultural Club of Trinidad and Tobago; it goes without saying that we were interested in his comments which were slanted, mainly, for his fellow Trinidadians. We were also interested in something else. In fact, it so amused us that we immediately composed a poem which is a take off of one included in the above publication. While we have seldom interjected humor in the Bromeliad Bulletin, this was a temptation we could not resist.

THE LOVELY VRIESIA AND THE PEA

I think that I shall never be
So popular, that I shall see
A lovely Vriesia named for me.
Though famous people of today
Are honored in this curious way.
In Burpee's catalog I see
That Clare Booth Luce is a Pea.
Helen Hayes, Kate Smith, Nancy Nell
And Pearl Buck are Peas as well.
When they name something after me,
I only hope that I shall be
A lovely Vriesia and not a Pea.

(With apologies to Reginald Arkell for his "The Passion Flower and the Pea" in Green Fingers)


If the above indicates that we are hard up for serious material for The Bromeliad Bulletin, it is only too true. Please, members, help out the Editor's Desk! Send in your contributions covering some phase of your experience with bromeliads that will be of interest throughout the Society. We know that there are many members who are quite qualified to give us this assistance.

If there seems to be a preponderance of a certain few authors, it is because we lack a surplus of other contributors.


Bromeliads, again, have rated a magazine front cover. This time POPULAR GARDENING, November 1957, just off the press, shows a beautiful scene in The Cypress Gardens at Winter Haven, Florida. In full color a large group of Billbergia pyramidalis is shown at water's edge.


The Sixth Florida State Flower Show "Floridarama" souvenir program carries an article by your editor on "Bromeliads for Home and Garden."


COVER: Tillandsia dasyliriifolia at home on a million spines of a Mexican cactus! (Photo of a painting in oil by M. B. Foster).


THE HOME OF TILLANDSIA STANDLEYI

Clarence Kl. Horich

  Photos C. K. Horich   
Above: A colony of T. Standleyi in a pine tree showing new inflorescences; Cerro Montanita.cloud forest Honduras

Below: Cloud forest trees densely try to define at once. covered with thousands of Catopsis species and T. Standleyi

Dr. J. A. Steyermark's detailed and very descriptive article on Tillandsia Standleyi, published in The Bromeliad Bulletin, (Vol. VI, No. 1, 1956) became a most welcome source of valuable information when I was traveling the highlands of Honduras in September 1956, thus enabling me to devote some days to collecting bromeliads as a sideline while otherwise completing orders for orchids.

One of the native haunts of Tillandsia Standleyi, as cited by Dr. Steyermark, immediately borders one area which I had cross-marked on the map for its orchids during earlier visits. It was a "must" on my schedule due to the occurrence of the desirable cloud forest orchid Arpophyllum alpinum in this area, the Cerro Uyuca in the Dept, of Francisco Morazan. Some observations here may serve as an addition to Dr. Steyermark's explanations.

One fact which I found of particular interest is the pointed limitation of distribution our species is subjected to. Tillandsia Standleyi is a true cloud forest resident, never descending from its cold, wet and windy heights; and in this we may be able to gather several peculiar facts.

The term cloud forest is basically too generalized, for it applies to at least two distinctly different zones; these we should try to define at once.

Touched only by rain-carrying, low and heavy clouds, the first "separation" describes a relatively cool and moist region just below the main drift of the water-carrying air masses which rarely ever dries out completely even during sunny time intervals. Yet it does receive sufficient dry spells between the rain repetitions to enable the representatives of its vegetation to let the water evaporate from the surface of the foliage, whereas the roots, and in the case of bromeliads, the interior of the plants, remain water soaked nearly all the time. Bromels of this zone, located in Honduras at about 1400 m. altitude, are for instance Tillandsia lampropoda, T. punctulata, and T. fasciculata var. rotundata which we have treated in the July-August, 1957, Bulletin.

In contrast to this belt, the second zone is, generally speaking, continuously subjected to the direct impact of clouds, which at a certain height with colder temperatures, no longer drift uphill without touching the ground. The aerial humidity in this zone is at once doubled that of the area just a few feet below, but which is not enveiled by the mists.

As a result we notice an unbelievably blunt change of vegetation . . . and this flora is as specialized to cope with the excessively wet conditions of its environment as a cactus is to its waterless desert home. The plants of the upper cloud zone are forever stark wet with no chance to rid themselves of the water surplus condensing on their foliage. Somehow they have become "amphibious" in their very environments and demands. This forest, composed of dicotyledonous rather than coniferous trees, is veritably a green sponge. It is slippery wet, dark, cold and almost deserted by animal and insect life. An occasional finger-long centipede or scorpion darts out of its home in a bromeliad or from under a rotted tree carcass. It is the cathedral home of a million ferns, mosses and lichens, of glistening orchids and trailing aroids, of a million dripping leaves and a million bromeliads. These are what I once called the "green buckets", soft leaved and bulky, for there is no danger of their ever drying up, being filled with water enough to break any dead branch they have settled on. The plants of this region usually have a wide-celled epidermis in order to allow the moisture to enter and retreat from the live substance of their leaves rapidly and without harm to the plant itself.

Catopsis thrive here, but few of these delicate bromels ever survive U. S. fumigation, perishing both from this and the drying procedures they may become subjected to.

Tillandsia Standleyi, however, is a noteworthy, well-traveling exception as I learned from M. B. Foster to whom I sent some specimens; but in every other respect it is as soft leaved a cloud forest creature as any. It grows by the very thousands on the trees of its home, covering them so perfectly that: their trunks literally vanish under a live coat. These trees at the lower fringe of the directly cloud-influenced zone consist of pines on both Cerro Uyuca and the slightly lower Cerro Montanita nearby.

As usual the very uppermost mountain peaks in Honduras carry a cap of almost pure dicotyledonous forest with still more cold resisting species. Thus, the Cerro Uyuca is topped by deciduous trees, whilst the crest of the Cerro Montanita is still predominantly settled by pines, which for a perch T. Standleyi seems to be particularly fond of . . . as long as these pines only remain in the second, upper cloud zone.

We first meet T. Standleyi on pines at Km. 17-18 along the Tegucigalpa-Zamorano road, and then, again on pines right above the Tatumbla-Zamorano road junction at about Km. 24.3 along this route which describes the very lowest fringe of the upper cloud zone and simultaneously, its lower limit of distribution here. As already stated the change of vegetation between the two adjoining zones is as blunt as could be. Three hundred feet below the cloud fringe not a single plant of T. Standleyi can be encountered; entering the upper zone, however, this bromel at once appears by the very thousands!

The local abundance of this fine, but regionally restricted and basically rare Tillandsia in these isolated high sections, should not induce us to assume that it is a common species, to be had "in a jiffy". The cloud forests of its home being mercilessly diminished by the wild, reckless and unsystematic timbering, it is at this time, nearing the verge of extinction in the surrounding area. Being too specialized, and therefore unable to "escape" by descending into the zone below the steady drift of the clouds, it will vanish at precisely the same moment that the last tree of its mountain hideout has been hauled away. Tillandsia Standleyi, too perfectly matched for its home to readjust itself to changed environments, will be one of the first to become extinct, even if at this moment it is still thriving by the hundreds of thousands in its mountain retreats.

Lista de Correos, San Jose, Costa Rica


TILLANDSIA MOBILES

Victoria Padilla

Dr. Richard Oeser of Freiberg, Germany, has one of the largest collections of Tillandsias on the Continent. These epiphytes have been a favorite of his for many years, and he knows how to grow them to perfection.

I was fascinated by the "Tillandsia mobiles" which he had created for his greenhouse. The good doctor attaches his Tillandsias horizontally to a piece of bark or small tree limb, finding that they tend to grow faster in this position. In a short time the entire limb is completely covered with the Tillandsias, which eventually take the form of a ball.

Dr. Oeser uses strips of his wife's discarded nylon hosiery to attach the Tillandsias to the wood. The nylon he found will last for several years, and by the time it deteriorates the plants have already fastened themselves to the wood by means of their roots. The nylon is more pliable than wire, does not cut into the bromeliads, and has no harmful effect on the plants.

The wonderful display of Tillandsias in the famed Palm House in Frankfurt is largely due to Dr. Oeser's efforts, for most of the plants have been his contributions.


A NEW VARIETY IN THE GENUS TILLANDSIA

Mulford B. Foster
Tillandsia flabellata
Baker var. viridifolia M. B. Foster var. nov.
A var. flabellata foliis viridis differt.
Epiphytic in trees near Coatapec, Mexico, 1936
M. B. Foster No. 2898 (Type in U. S. Nat'l. Herbarium.)

Because of an incomplete description of the original material which gives no reference to the color of the leaves we believe that the type species, which came from the mountains in Guatemala, had red leaves. This is based on the premise that we have other material collected in the state of Chiapas, Mexico which also has red leaves.

This new variety viridifolia was collected by the author in 1936 between Coatapec and Jalapa. The plants are much smaller than the red leaf form, and as I have had them growing side by side for several years, the marked difference is quite obvious. Also, the construction of the inflorescence differs in that the branches of the typical form emerge from the scape in a dense form, while the branches from the new variety viridifolia emerge from one half to one inch apart on the scape.


A NEW HYBRID TILLANDSIA

Mulford B, Foster
Tillandsia
× Oeseriana M. B. Foster hybr. nov,
Tillandsia flabellata Baker var. flabellata × T. tricolor Schlecht & Cham. var. tricolor,
M. B. Foster No. 2901 (Type in U. S. Nat'l. Herbarium.)

Photo by author   
Left: Tillandsia flabellata var. flabellata
Right: Tillandsia tricolor var. tricolor
Center: Tillandsia × Oeseriana
This new hybrid was made by Walter Richter in Crimmitschau/Saxony, Germany and was named in honor of Dr. Richard Oeser of Breisgau, Germany, who for years has been an ardent collector of Tillandsias. It is a very interesting and decorative hybrid showing almost equally the qualities of both of the parent species.



Photo by author
Tillandsia ionantha var. Van Hyningii

A NEW VARIETY OF TILLANDSIA

Mulford B. Foster
Tillandsia ionantha var. Van Hyningii M. B. Foster var. nov.
A var. ionantha caule elongato differt.

Collected in Mexico; growing on vertical ledges of limestone rocks overhanging the Grijalva River near Tuxtla Gutiérrez in the state of Chiapas, April 6, 1957 by M. B. Foster and O. Van Hyning. No. 2957; (Type U. S. Nat'l. Herbarium.)

This new variety is growing in masses and clinging tenaciously to the limestone rocks in the most impossible positions that one could imagine. In these colonies of little silver stars the rosettes are one inch in diameter with leaves one half to three-quarters inch long.

So rarely do these rosettes send forth flowers that even if one searches very closely for a sign of flower or seed pod, it is almost never found.

When first observing the plant it would be almost certainly thought to be a new species, and only after the plant was brought back to the Bromelario in Orlando was the first flower seen.

The dark violet tubular flowers, one to three, emerge directly from the axis of the leading heads without any scape and show it to be none other than a variety of T. ionantha.

The compact mat of rosettes gives the appearance of hundreds of plants growing closely together, but finally upon procuring, at great risk, a few bunches, the true conditions of its growth, we then learned. Here were hundreds of rosettes emanating from a criss-cross mat of elongated, caulescent stems hidden underneath and attached to the rock with stiff thread-like roots. They all appeared to be connected so there was no way of telling actually how many different plants existed. The caulescent growth is continuous and new plant heads and roots emerge from the bases of the old mature leaves to form new leads.

It is a pleasure to name this new variety of T. ionantha in honor of the Van Hynings who have become such enthusiastic collectors (the hard way) of bromeliads and Tillandsias in particular.


Photo by author
Tillandsia ionantha var. Van Hyningii growing on limestone rocks, high above Grijalva River near Tuxtla Guitiérrez, Chiapas, Mexico.

MEXICO, LAND OF TILLANDSIAS (concluded)

Mulford B. Foster

This last collecting trip in Mexico, with the Van Hynings, was an especially interesting one. First, because it gave me a great opportunity to see much of the area that Racine and I had already traversed, but now with keener eyes and in closer association with species which we had collected years previously, as well as with a considerable number that I had not personally collected before. Secondly, three pairs of eyes – if they are all sharp, and I can assure you they were, – can really make collecting most interesting and thorough.

Oather Van Hyning comes by his love of nature quite naturally. His father, T. Van Hyning, was, for years a well-known naturalist in his own right.*

The Van Hyning's interest and love of bromeliads is most genuine. Our trip took us, first, from Mexico City to Oaxaca and on to Tehuantepec in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. This trip carried us through an impressive mountainous country covering every elevation from 11,000 feet at Rio Frio, state of Puebla, to the Pacific sea level at Salina Cruz a few miles west of Tehuantepec.

The spectacular scenery on these semi-arid (for the most part limestone) mountains has a grandeur all its own and the epiphytic and saxicolous flora gives it an added feature that makes it a memorable one to the bromeliad fan who will find a galaxy of Tillandsias in many different kinds of habitats and as many species. But it is necessary to hunt, climb and sweat to find them and that is just what we did on this trip. The Tillandsias, too, are accustomed to hard times and grow in the most impossible locations where one has to work hard to acquire desirable specimens. In fact, there may be countless thousands of a certain Tillandsia growing on vertical cliffs, making it impossible to find a spot which could be reached by foot, not even where it would be possible to touch one of them by hand. Then, suddenly, after hours of wishful hunting, a rock which has avalanched from far above, appears to hold what you are seeking; it is covered with specimens . . . but all dead from days of unaccustomed exposure.

Then in higher altitudes, there are the giant species such as T. prodigiosa; they may be seen here and there high up in the trees, but most of the trees are so inaccessible that one cannot even start to climb these unscalable trees!

Several of the more common species such as T. recurvata, T. dasyliriifolia, T. circinnata, T. Schiedeana, T. balbisiana, T. streptophylla or even T. filifolia may reside at ease on the giant cacti, never complaining to their host regarding the very sharp spines which do not ease the collector's hand. Nor does the host complain to the guest. The complaining is done exclusively by the man who would like to procure either the host or the guest for his garden decoration where they may be quite unhappy.

The different or restricted conditions to which these plants have adapted themselves are, of course, the very reasons for their variable forms and colors and this intrigues us no end. But it is often baffling to observe so many gradations and forms in many of the plants. For instance, T. ionantha with which many bromeliad collectors are familiar, in its commonest form, is named T. ionantha var. ionantha. In Mexico keen observing eyes may find a very compact, closely clustered type growing on exposed, deciduous trees in an arid area. Although it certainly resembles the typical ionantha, it is compact and strict and seems different enough to be a variety. In a softer and more humid area we spot a "giant" sized ionantha which is three or four times as large as the typical form; this, too, might be different enough for a variety. Or perhaps a rock is found almost covered with ionantha plants, not clustered as all others are, but this one is caulescent and grows in masses by branching and rebranching like a sheet of moss. Shall this be given a varietal distinction? The answer can be given after the flowers are carefully examined and compared with the other various forms, and if the flowers are alike, then they are all T. ionantha. If flowers and form are closely similar then they do not warrant a varietal name. But, if the growth habits or characteristics or color or form are radically different and the flower remains the same, then a varietal name can be given. This is the case of T. ionantha var. Van Hyningii (described in this issue).

A varietal name can be given if the difference is slight but distinct such as a short and small scape or stem; this characteristic exists on one found in Guatemala and is named T. ionantha var. scaposa. Whether the elevation is high or low T. ionantha may be encountered in some unexpected locations and it is the discovery of these different forms, varieties and species that add interest and enthusiasm which only plant collectors and botanists can fully appreciate.

Photo by author
Two different forms of Tillandsia ionantha that have not yet rated varietal form names. LEFT: a large compact type which often tends to hang down because of its weight. CENTER: a very compact, almost glabrous form. RIGHT: the typical and most prevalent form of T. ionantha var. ionantha. Plants are attached to limb of tree for comparison of forms.

After collecting in the Isthmus we went on into the state of Chiapas but did not attempt to go all the way to the Guatemala border as we wished to do some collecting in the Grijalva River area.

The Grijalva River has its source in the high mountains of Guatemala but it courses west through Chiapas, Mexico. For hundreds of miles it winds its way through canyons and valleys and then runs north down through the vast swamp areas of Tabasco and out into the Gulf of Mexico at Punta Frontera. There are few rivers in any country with such spectacular scenery along its borders and there are relatively few points on this river that are accessible from which to view these breath-taking vistas from above, even though it may be but 200 feet or 2,000 feet to the water.

It was on the overhanging ledges above this river, near Tuxtla Guitiérrez, where we found the real Tillandsia gem. T. ionantha var. Van Hyningii. Here we would have liked to have had the use of a helicopter so that we could hover above the narrow shelves of vertical rocks and then drop down on a rope ladder to reach the few hidden colonies of this caulescent miniature form of T. ionantha which clings for "dear life" on small areas of these perpendicular cliffs. However, without the wishful helicopter, if you wish to procure some of these "silver stars", the next best procedure is to decide who will lie flat on his stomach on a bed of thorny Hechtia leaves. It must be with full assurance that your friend will hold you securely by the heels while hanging over the cliffs far enough to clutch a few plants from a mat of happy little Tillandsias. You close your eyes as you look down 300 feet below at the calm waters of the Grijalva, then give one more look at the smiling little creatures who wonder why you have such a poor sense of balance and composure.

Few persons would attempt to even take a picture of these plants not to mention procuring some of them, yet they are quite worth the ordeal. It has, undoubtedly, taken thousands of years for T. ionantha to master the technique for its ultimate success in developing its caulescent growth in order to live safely on the vertical face of these rocks and to receive a new varietal name in recognition of it.

(Photo of a Painting by M. B.Foster)
Tillandsia streptophylla
Twisted leaves certainly describe the appearance of this really fine Tillandsia but it does not describe its gymnastic achievements. With ease it is equally well balanced in any position, though it rarely sits up straight.

But not only the Tillandsias have survived these many thousands of years of climatic changes. The Hechtias and Pitcairnias as well have shown remarkable tenacity on rocks, not to mention their companions the cacti and the agaves which are growing on these same rocks and other similar areas.

There are other species of Tillandsias, such as T. flabellata and T. capitata. They have not reached the extreme arid and xerophytic conditions as have the T. ionantha group. They are in a middle group of plants with softer and wider leaves. They are seeking the canyons, the shaded rock areas where there is still some sparse overhead shade. It is in these areas where we find new color varieties in the making if not already made. So many bromeliads have a great tendency to develop the red pigmentation in their leaves when exposed to much light and wind; it is a buffer which protects the leaves from extreme exposure.

We found T. flabellata in one semi-dry area where both color varieties were growing. The red leaf variety is found mostly in the sun and the green form in the shade on lower limbs, ground and rocks. In some moister sections of Mexico will be found the green form alone. My experience has been that while the red form will be redder in full light than it will be in the shade, the green variety will be green in either location when in cultivation. This may not be the case in all species of bromeliads but the tendency seems to be that way.

Where there are as many species of Tillandsias growing at so many different elevations, light and moisture exposures as you may find in Mexico, the plant student has a never ending source of interest and enjoyment, and then to bring a few of those plants back home and see still further changes under different conditions, it should, and does, make any collecting trip rewarding.

Photo by author
Tillandsia filifolia, a delicate looking Tillandsia with branched inflorescence holding light lavender flowers is a plant which has adapted itself to live happily on rock, tree or cacti and withstands drought or enjoys the high spots in a rain forest area.

The adaptability of many of the bromeliads, especially the "middle zone" epiphytes is really remarkable. But one must not expect too much of the extreme xerophytic types; they have fought during so many thousands of years in order to cling to the last possible position for survival that they cannot find their "balance" very far back from their present position. We might say, that they are too near the point of conditions where they may cease to survive. They are specialized to one condition so much that they cannot revert. Extinction is often the result of this highest specialization.

We can say one thing though, for some of the lovely miniature Tillandsias, they will hang on till the last and do it most beautifully!

The lush Tillandsias of the rain forest areas of the state of Vera Cruz with their showy inflorescences are, of course, the most spectacular and the ones that naturally attract the most attention. They have, for centuries, been used by the Indians as decorations for their Holy Days and Fiestas and are still gathered in great numbers for these same purposes.

So far as species are concerned the greatest number of bromeliads found in Mexico would be in the genus Tillandsia and next would come Hechtia.

Traveling through Mexico you will find all of the thirteen species of Tillandsias that are also native to the U. S. with the exception of T. simulata and that is native to Florida alone.

There are approximately 400 species of Tillandsias known and at least one fifth of them are native to Mexico.

Mexico is a romantic land and a never-ending panorama of dense jungles and deserts, mountains, plains, cacti, burros, pottery and pulque; it is peopled with colorful Indians and plants of many tribes, but to us, on this trip, it was The Land of Tillandsias.

718 Magnolia Avenue, Orlando, Florida

__________

* T. Van Hyning founded the Florida State Museum in Tallahassee and was its Director for many years. Although his speciality was mollusks his interest was legion. His shell collection, one of the most outstanding in the state, was purchased recently by the state of Florida and will remain as an exhibition of his great work.


BROMELIADS UNDER ARTIFICIAL LIGHT

Roger K. Taylor

To accommodate during the winter a number of plants which had been outdoors during the warm months, I set up over a table in the basement two fixtures for 48" fluorescent lights, each taking two tubes, using one "daylight" and one "cool white" tube in each. A timer in the circuit was set to have the lights on at first twelve, later fourteen, hours a day. The lights were only three or four inches above the tops of the tallest plants.

Bromeliads under the lights have done better than in any other location, indoors or out, that I have been able to provide; colors have been better, patterns more vivid, and plants have made stocky growth. Other plants also, notably some gesneriads, have thrived. Accordingly the setup is still in use during the warm season, though planned only as a temporary expedient.

A good bit has been written about the growing of plants under artificial light, and this note is intended only as confirmation, in a specific instance, of the possibility of thus supplementing or dispensing with daylight. As fluorescent light is deficient in the red end of the spectrum, the use of incandescent along with fluorescent light has been suggested, but I have found no need for it. Possibly it is required for bloom – none of my plants has blossomed while under the lights; but the vegetative growth has been very satisfactory.

3122 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 18, Md.


QUESTION BOX

Q. If one had only one species of a plant, can one breed from it by pollinating itself? If so, would the resultant seedling be weak? And which plants could one use to self-pollinate?

A. Many bromeliads are quite receptive to self-pollination. The resultant seedlings should not be weak. On some plants the flowers do not even open but the flower may produce good seeds. There is no set rule. It is a condition that you learn by experiment which does and which does not, but you may never learn why. Some species may not self but they may be receptive to another species which, of course, will result in a hybrid cross. Many hybrids will not self or cross with other hybrids or species; they may be sterile. Again there is no set rule.

Q. What does Lyman B. Smith mean in his book "Bromeliaceae of Brazil", pp. 183 etc. when he uses the word "forma" so many times? We all know the word "variety" but the "forma" baffles me.

A. A variety may have one or more forms (forma), with variations not great enough to be called a "variety". If a certain plant is given a specific name, for example, Guzmania musaica; then later another plant quite similar but with plain green leaves is found, this is named Guz. musaica var. concolor meaning of one color – uniform. Now they both become varieties and the original species is called G. musaica var. musaica.

M. B. F.


A most unusual collection of Tillandsias in a garden of bromeliads at the home of Mrs. Thelma Darling Hodge in Los Angeles, California.

GARDENS OF THE MEMBERS – NO. 5
TILLANDSIA ENTHUSIAST IN CALIFORNIA

Mulford B. Foster

I had heard considerable about a Thermal Belt in the Los Angeles area – a rather limited area – which is frost-free and where tropical plants could live without fear of freezing. To a Floridian it seemed a bit of, – well, let's say, the way a Floridian would talk about Florida to a Californian!

I've visited Los Angeles several times but never did get in that exact spot – in the center of which is the garden of Thelma Darling Hodge, – until I made a visit in November 1956. And here, I must confess, I carried with me a mental salt shaker – just in case. I did not need to sprinkle salt on anything I saw or heard. On the contrary I was convinced that if I ever chose to live in Los Angeles it would surely have to be in that Thermal Belt.

No photograph could possibly do justice to that garden for it is primarily a garden of bromeliads. A bromeliad is an individual, so far as plants go, and a subject for a portrait. When they are in large groups they are just people and not persons. Their individual characters are the things that make bromeliads mean so much to those who really appreciate them. And, if anyone ever loved every leaf and flower of bromeliads any more than Thelma Hodge, I have never met that person.

Here is a garden cut out of the steep sides of a hill on Hilldale Avenue overlooking a great city, as though it were not a reality but a dream spot looking down on that great expanse of the city, with pity and wonderment.

Many kinds of flowering plants, trees and shrubs compose the framework of this garden. Orchids and other epiphytic plants are here too, but bromeliads and especially the Tillandsias are the main theme and tonal quality of this Symphony of Epiphytes.

I am almost sure that there was a home there, too, but, as lovely as it is, when I was in the house all I could see was out in the garden and when in the garden I was hardly aware that there was a house. I think it is actually a place where Thelma Hodge and Ann Reid sleep only in order to groom the garden the next day, a process that I understand is a ceaseless activity with Mrs. Hodge.

I could not give any idea as to the size of the garden except that it entirely surrounds the house and seems to be on a dozen different levels. A tour of this garden will bring you back to the starting point no matter where you start. Without a doubt it is a garden for the birds and they are the most important visitors who come there. Ann Reid may serve you a delicious sandwich and you may think it was meant for you but if you hesitate between bites, as I did, you will find that you are sharing it with a Jay or some other feathered garden guard. Hundreds of birds visit this spot everyday for it is a hallowed jungle retreat surrounded by hundreds of square miles of a teeming human jungle.

Tillandsias, over a hundred species, from the tiniest to the largest, from Argentine, Paraguay or Mexico abound – Spanish Moss as happy as though it were in Florida or Louisiana – giant species and species that are common or rare – Vriesias, Guzmanias, Aechmeas, Billbergias, Neoregelias, Nidulariums – all in a lovely setting and seemingly perfectly contented. They may be on tree limbs, in baskets or tree fern trunks, in hanging pots or in beds. Here and there you can spy Cryptanthus or Dyckia, Ochagavia or Pitcairnia and if they do not seem happy in one location they will surely be moved to another.

Thelma and Ann really live in their garden twenty-four hours a day. I definitely had the feeling that this garden was not built for people – it is for plants and for birds. It is not just a possession, it is a passion and there is something there far beyond just being in a Thermal Belt – maybe it should be called "Thelma Belt".


QUESTION BOX

Q. Is it true that removing offshoots as soon as they are large enough to be removed encourages more offshoots to form? Do bromeliads vary in the number of offshoots they throw? What is the maximum we can expect from an Aechmea? A Vriesia? A Tillandsia? Or is there no way of telling?

A. Yes, removing offsets before they mature generally encourages more to form. Different species vary in number of offshoots formed. There is no rule for any one genus. Some Tillandsias do not produce any offshoots.


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