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THE BROMELIAD SOCIETY BULLETIN

Frank H. Overton, Editor,
1348 Winchester Ave.,
Glendale, California
Morris Henry Hobbs, Art Editor
628 Toulouse St.,
New Orleans 16, Louisiana
Annual Dues: $3.50 a year (foreign $4.00) which includes subscription to the Bulletin. Write for details to Miss Victoria Padilla, Secretary,
647 South Saltair Ave., Los Angeles 49, California.

OUR COVER

This is the beautiful but scarce Aechmea Chantini which has never reproduced except by vegetative offshoots. It is a challenge to all growers of bromeliads.

MISCELLANY

A beautiful reproduction in color of Aechmea Mariae-reginae appears on the cover of TROPICAL LIVING for August, 1959, with an illustrated article on pages 7 and 8 by Alex D. Hawkes, giving much helpful information on the care and culture of bromeliads.

Dr. Lyman B. Smith's "Notes on Bromeliaceae XII" appears in PHYTOLOGIA, Vol. 7, No. 1, for July, 1959, in which are described approximately a dozen species of Tillandsias, Vriesias, and other bromeliads from Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Peru, Bolivia and the Amazon Basin.

Our congratulations go to Dr. Richard Oeser of Kirchzarten, Germany, for his very splendid article "Try Living Mobiles" which appeared in the September 1959 issue of Horticulture. Such an article will, we feel sure, interest many people who heretofore had never thought of using bromeliads in this manner.

Bromeliads are going to prison! The Florida State Prison at Raiford has as a part of its program of rehabilitating men a Vocational Agricultural Department, where men are trained as potential nursery employees in an ornamental nursery. Among the plants these men are studying are bromeliads, and this Society was pleased to send them some literature to get them started.

Attention all members in the New York area! As you all doubtlessly know, there is held in New York in the Coliseum a Flower Exposition each March. Virtually every society is represented there. The Society would like to place an exhibit there if enough of the members residing in New York would erect an exhibit and take charge of it during the time the show is in progress. The Society, of course, would meet the expenses. All members who would like to participate in this worthy venture are asked to get in touch with Mr. Edwin L. Sard, 249-43 Van Zandt Avenue, Douglaston 62.

From Mr. Alex D. Hawkes, P.O. Box 435, Coconut Grove 33, Florida, comes the exciting news that during January and February of 1960 he will be the conductor of a special horticultural and botanical tour of South America during which he and his party will visit many areas in Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Trinidad, and will have the opportunity to see some of the most fabulous bromeliad country in the world. Interested persons should write to Mr. Hawkes for a descriptive brochure.

On August 26th, Mr. A. B. Graf, of the Roehrs Company, gave an illustrated talk on bromeliads at the meeting of the Greater New York Orchid Society, held at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.

By means of approximately 100 Ektachrome slides projected on the screen, Mr. Graf was able to demonstrate to orchid fanciers of the metropolitan area how well bromeliads fit in as natural companions of orchids.

This departure from the usual program created a great amount of interest in these plants which are so outstanding in their striking inflorescences and bizarre foliage.


Photo by author
Tillandsia Balbisiana flourishes equally well in dead or live trees, near Talanga, Central Honduras.

HONDURAN HABITAT OF TILLANDSIA BALBISIANA

Clarence Kl. Horich

Central and Pacific Honduras in Central America abound in huge, sterile savannas and dry, rocky formations such as we find similarly in Arizona. These savannas are either hot and dry plains, or they cover hills and follow the main rivers of the country, particularly the Rio Choluteca, which, winding from high pine-forested plateaus through the Departments of Francisco Morazan and Choluteca, is framed, for most of its length, by the above mentioned savannas, the heat of which boils up to 105F. The areas are deserted by both man and animal save for snakes and iguanas which infest the sun-scorched rock outcroppings of these zones.

Every so often, mats of orchids, such as Schomburgkia Wendlandii or Laelia acuminata are encountered carpeting the rock boulders, occasionally joined by other orchids like Cyrtopodium punctatum or a stout specimen of Epidendrum ciliare or by a spiny cactus (Damia) which resembles a sun-bathing snake as it clings, tightly flattened to vertical rock walls.

And while my attention was always focused on orchids, bromeliads kept coming to my attention. Even the untrained eye, not searching for bromeliads, is bound to see great patches of the thorny Hechtias and scattered colonies of an old spiny Pitcairnia.

Roaming the deserted flats from Talanga to the Majada Verde, from Laguna de los Pates to La Presa, to El Suyatal in the far west, I was in the habitat of one of the most beautiful of all orchids, Brassavola Digbyana, and I found to my delight that a bromeliad also lived here which was attractive enough to be added to my orchid collection!

Photo by author
Ardent and ragged savannas of Central Honduras are the habitat of T. Balbisiana. Rio Choluteca area near La Venta.

Growing by the thousands and thousands in dead and live trees, alike, the curiously shaped, xerophytic Tillandsia Balbisiana made its home in these lonesome wastes. Arising from a bulbous base, dozens of narrow, twisted, greyish-powdery succulent leaves stand off like a wreath, only to descend again and droop like a wilting plant. The center of this xerophyte bears erect, narrow spikes of a deep, dull red color of great beauty.

T. Balbisiana is a true xerophyte and as such will settle wherever it finds suitably dry and sunny conditions. I met species frequently in all savannas of the high plateau between 600 and 1000 meters elevation, be this in Francisco Morazan, in El Paraiso, in Olancho or in Comayagua. Occasionally, it follows a dry, warm creek ravine up into the pine forested heights, such as between Suyapa and the Cerro Montanita. It is particularly frequent along the Tegucigalpa-Talanga road, where its heaviest concentrations are around La Venta, as well as those in the savanna flats that lie between Talanga and La Presa.

San Jose, Costa Rica


ATTENTION PLEASE!

In the May-June issue, Vol. IX, No. 3, it was announced that the new paper-back edition of the Handbook was available at $1.50 per copy.

This was an error as rising costs have made it necessary to increase the price to $2.00.


Photo by Singer

BROMELIADS IN ROCKEFELLER CENTER

A. B. Graf

The change of seasons, as well as the use of plants to emphasize them, is strikingly demonstrated to passing strollers and millions of sightseers by a constant change of plantings in the Sunken Gardens.

First, the crocus, scillas, tulips, hyacinths and pansies announce the coming of spring to city dwellers. This is followed by glorious lilies at Easter, while geraniums and other bedding plants usher in the summer. When it gets hot, the tropics take over, and in July and August, with the temperature soaring ever upward, anyone catching a glimpse of this collection of colorful, properly labeled bromeliads and great tree ferns facing fashionable Fifth Avenue at Rockefeller Center, Manhattan, could easily imagine himself to be in Java or Brazil.

In fact, New York, lying at a latitude in line with Rome, is no different from a typical tropical climate if it were not for the killing winter frosts which interfere with a permanent tropical vegetation.

Later, in autumn, chrysanthemums dominate the plantings of the Channel Gardens. In winter, somber evergreens are brightly illuminated by glittering angels and the giant Christmas tree, looking down on the skating rink where soft music lends a holiday mood to the dancers on the ice.

Roehrs Company, Rutherford, New Jersey.


A DIAGRAM OF BROMELIAD HABITATS

P. Raulino Reitz

Thanks to a series of studies based on ecological observations made in southern Brazil, especially Santa Catarina, by Henrique P. Veloso and Roberto M. Klein, we have a clear idea of the habitat of the commoner bromeliads. It has been proved that bromeliads have no particular preference for any species of tree. There is only an indirect relation to the shape and size of the tree. If, for example, a certain species of wild fig, Ficus organensis (Miq.) Miq., has a taller trunk and longer stouter limbs that overtop other trees, then more sun-loving (heliophile) bromeliads will grow on it than on other trees. On the other hand, if a given species of tree prefers shady valleys, then it offers a more favorable ambient for shade-loving (ciophile) species.

On entering our forests one soon sees that certain species of bromeliads live only on the bases of tree trunks or on the ground, others only at the middle of the trunk, still others on the great limbs, and a final group at the ends of the branches. It is a perfect staircase of life, which has also been observed in the animal kingdom. A species falling from the outer branches to the ground, dies. Similarly, a ground species is seriously damaged if we raise it to the top of the tree.

The secret of these levels of life is the preference that each species has for certain intensities of light and relative humidity.

After detailed observation we can distinguish 4 levels in the distribution of species from the jungle floor to the treetops.

Habitat of bromeliads in the forests of the State of Santa Catarina, Brazil.
(Veloso and Klein, Sellowia, 8:198, 1957)

The first level is the ground. On it live the ciophile species; that is, those that need little light and high humidity. They are most notably Nidularium innocentii Lem. var. paxianum (Mez) L. B. Smith and Nidularium procerum Lindm. They grow in enormous quantities in the forest shade, making the densest of green carpets, and on the bases of bushes and trees, especially on the buttress roots of the latter. These ground level bromeliads are partly responsible for the great humidity of the environment, since they hold an enormous quantity of water and form veritable hanging lakes.

The second or mid trunk level. Here live the semi-ciophiles. From some six feet up the trunk nearly to the bases of the first limbs of the high trees there is a second level already less affected by the enormous humidity of ground level and with a little more light; it is also on top of the shrubs. This is the level of Vriesia incurvata Gaud., Vriesia ensiformis (Vell.) Beer, and Vriesia carinata Wawra. These species fasten not only on the tree trunks large and small but on the branches of shrubs and saplings that are below the lower limbs of the large trees. It is a space of about 25 feet in depth.

The third or limb level. The species which we may call indifferent inhabit the space from the bases of the large limbs to their outer forks. They require a medium light intensity and slightly more humidity than the heliophile species. There are many more species at this level than at the others. The commonest are: Vriesia jonghei (Libon ex C. Koch) E. Morr., Wittrockia superba Lindm., Canistrum lindenii (Reg.) Mez, Vriesia philippo-coburgii Wawra var. philippo-coburgii, Aechmea nudicaulis (L.) Griseb. var. cuspidata Bak., Aechmea cylindrata Lindm., Vriesia gigantea Gaud., and Vriesia flammea L. B. Smith. Here we find the species of the greatest stature like Vriesia gigantea Gaud. whose inflorescence reaches 10 feet, and Vriesia jonghii (Libon ex C. Koch) E. Morr. and Wittrockia superba Lindm.

The fourth or branch tip level. Here live the heliophile elements. They require great light intensity and relatively little humidity. They are principally Vriesia philippo-corburgii Wawra var. vagans L. B. Smith, Vriesia rodigasiana E. Morr. and various species of Tillandsia. These plants are directly exposed to sunlight.

It is important for the grower to know something of the ecological life of the bromeliads, especially of their habitat in relation to light and humidity, in order to obtain healthy and beautiful plants by cultivation.

The figure shows the principal elements of a tropical forest in the State of Santa Catarina (southern Brazil) which reaches an average height of 80 feet. In these forests there can be distinguished the ground cover vegetation, shrubs (3-12 feet), saplings (15-40 feet), palms (up to 70 feet) and large trees (50-80 feet), all represented here. The placing of the bromeliads in order of their altitude on the trees is based on the observation of more than 100,000 specimens. All the species shown in the figure are indicated by arrows according to their altitude in the forest.

Itajai, Santa Catarina, Brazil.


Photo by Gladys Jeffcoat
Mrs. Dwight L. Aman in her Stump Garden at Dover, Florida.

Gardens of the Members --- No. 8
MY STUMP GARDEN

Mary Margaret Aman

My interest in stump gardening began in 1956 with a visit to the home of a friend who had one. The idea intrigued me so much that I immediately set to work developing a garden of my own.

The stumps were obtained from far back in the Hillsborough River Swamp, near Tampa. After finding a suitable stump, a mule was taken into the swamp, a logging chain attached and the stump was dragged out to a place convenient for loading onto a truck. Cypress tree stumps were the only ones used because they have been eroded by time and water into various forms and shapes resembling such things as a snake, an old boot, a spider, etc.

After getting the stumps home from the swamp they were placed in suitable locations. Many of them had ideal pockets already fashioned by nature, and on others pockets for holding various plants were made by using pieces of roots, cypress knees, etc. and wiring or nailing them in place.

Photo by author   Photo by author
A tall stump can become a regular tree garden in itself. THE BOOT, one of the most interesting stumps in this unique garden.

Photo by author
Stumps provide natural pockets.
Hollow logs, scarred and bent by the elements were used to form borders of plant beds between and around the stumps. The soil used in these beds was of the same loose humus type as used in the pockets, consisting of a mixture of equal parts of leaf mold, sand and dairy manure.

Billbergias line the pathways through the garden, and in the stump pockets and on the logs various species of Aechmea and Neoregelia, as well as ferns and philodendrons are planted, with osmunda and sphagnum moss used to cover their roots.

The garden is situated among a group of large moss-laden oak trees, thus giving it filtered light. After the plants become established, they require very little water other than that which they receive from the rainfall.

Rt. 1, Dover, Florida.


Photo by M. H. Hobbs
Dr. Smith holding a flowering specimen of Tillandsia dasyliriifolia
which he had just identified.

LYMAN B. SMITH VISITS THE SUB-TROPICS

Morris Henry Hobbs

Photo by M. H. Hobbs   
Dr. Smith was pleased with the variety of our collections.
On May 1st, 1959, our eminent Bromeliad Taxonomist, Dr. Lyman Bradford Smith, Curator of Phanerogams at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., gave a lecture on our favorite family of plants at International House in New Orleans.

Before the lecture, Mrs. Henry Alcus took Dr. Smith for a short tour of the city, followed by a cocktail party and dinner given by the members of the Louisiana Bromeliad Society. There were forty people at the dinner, and practically the entire membership was present at his slide-illustrated talk. Many members of other garden societies also attended the lecture which was devoted to stories of his bromeliad collecting trips in Brazil.

After spending the night with Judy and Bill Hobbs, Dave Goebel, Vice President of the local branch, took our guest around the Vieux Cane to see the collections of various members, including those of Inez and Paul Schaeffer, Nellie and Gayton Richardson, and Mrs. Linda Laurent, most of them being located in walled patios. The afternoon was spent at the country home of the Hobbs, at Mandeville, Louisiana, where he found many unidentified species. Some of these were easily identified; others, lacking an inflorescence, had to be deferred until they bloom. He expressed great surprise at the number and variety of species in cultivation by the members of the Louisiana Society.

Late in the afternoon, Dave Goebel drove Dr. Smith fifty miles south to Dalcour, Louisiana, to the plantation home of Marge and Eric Knobloch, where he spent the rest of the week-end looking over their collection and adding many names to previously unidentified specimens. Mr. and Mrs. Oathar Van Hyning had just returned from their annual Mexican collecting trip and were also guests at the Knobloch home, so Dr. Smith was able to look over their plants and herbarium specimens and to arrange for later identification of them.

The members and officers of the Louisiana Bromeliad Society are all delighted that we could have Dr. Lyman B. Smith here for a few days, and that would still be true even if he didn't know a Tillandsia from a Dyckia.

628 Toulouse St., New Orleans, Louisiana.


ALBINO BROMELIADS

Mulford B. Foster

In the Bromeliad Society Bulletin, Vol. IX, No. 3, May-June 1959 Senor Luiz Ariza-Julia describes a new form of Guzmania monostachia with white floral bracts. This plant was found in the Dominican Republic. Sr. Ariza-Julia asks if any other members have seen or read anything referring to other albino bromeliads.

The writer described Tillandsia fasciculata var. densispica forma alba in the Brom. Soc. Bull. Vol. III, No. 4, July-Aug. 1953. He found this plant in southern Florida. Both floral bracts and flowers were white. Ordinarily, this Tillandsia has blue flowers and red bracts, so it was a true albino.

In 1939 the writer discovered his first albino bromeliad in Parana, Brazil; this was described as Aechmea distichantha var. distichantha forma albiflora L. B. Smith, in the Arquiv. Bot. Estado Sao Paulo, Nov. Ser. I: 102, 1943. Both flower bracts and flowers were white, although, normally, the flowers are blue and the bracts are red.

The writer has still another albino species which has not yet been described.

While on the subject of albinos we might repeat again that the following variegated plants, Bromelia serra var. variegata M. B. Foster, Cryptanthus bromelioides var. tricolor M. B. Foster, Aechmea caudata var. variegata M. B. Foster, have all produced albino plants from seed. The albino seedling plants have been very short-lived. The seeds, when germinated, have all produced pure white plants, very weak, that have lived only a few weeks and then sloughed off before they reached a half inch in height.

Strange, however, Neoregelia carolinae var. tricolor M. B. Foster has always produced normal green plants without a trace of variegation when raised from seed.

Rt. 3, Box 658, Orlando, Florida


THE BEGINNER'S ABC

Victoria Padilla

G Stands for Guzmania

The bromeliads discussed thus far in this beginner's primer have been comparatively husky individuals and not too difficult to grow. Most of them, also, are easily obtainable in any of the establishments specializing in bromeliads. When we come, however, to the next important genus on the list the Guzmania the picture is a little different.

Guzmanias can be grown successfully by the amateur; but in order to have the plants reach their optimum development, he must see to it that they receive proper light, air, humidity, heat, and compost. Guzmanias are epiphytes and should be accorded the same treatment as given Vriesias. They will not tolerate bright sunlight or a temperature much below fifty degrees, or hard alkaline water. They like humidity at all times and want to be planted in a light porous mix. They need protection from the elements, so will do best when grown in the confines of a glasshouse, although there are doubtlessly many areas (Florida chiefly) where they will flourish outdoors.

Compared to Vriesias, Guzmanias are few in number, although they are indigenous to a large portion of tropical America, this area extending from southern Florida, the West Indies, parts of Central America, and down to Brazil. Not many Guzmanias have reached the American trade, and this is a great pity, for they are among the most beautiful and intriguing of all bromeliads. Few are the plant explorers who come back from Ecuador or Colombia or Puerto Rico without rapturous descriptions of the Guzmanias they have seen. As more bromeliad fanciers are going into the tropics in search of plants, more Guzmanias will eventually find their way back into the United States, and it is hoped that more will become available to the general public.

It is not always easy to recognize a Guzmania, for when not in flower it can be mistaken for a Vriesia. Although the leaves of Guzmanias are always smooth-edged and generally glossy, they can be plain green, striped, or bizarrely mottled. Many members of the genus have little fine lines, either brown or maroon, running up the leaves. In some species there is only a trace of this linear pattern at the base of the plant, but when there is, it is an indication that the plant is a Guzmania. Guzmania flowers are either white or yellow, but, oftentimes, the bracts which support them are brilliant red or orange. Sometimes the flower head is low, tucked closely within the many-leafed rosette; again, it might appear like a blazing torch or the inflorescence might terminate in a flattened head unlike that of any other bromeliad.

What Guzmanias should the beginning collector attempt to secure? The following are those which the writer has been able to obtain, and these she believes should be in every greenhouse devoted to the culture of bromeliads. All these plants are of outstanding beauty and well worth the effort it might take to obtain them.

Guzmania lingulata is one of the best known members of this genus. It can be seen in the forests of the West Indies, Guiana, Colombia and Ecuador imparting a charm to the landscape that has to be seen to be fully appreciated. Its leaves (about 30 to 40 to a rosette) are plain green, the flower spike is 8 to 10 inches tall, forming a conical mass of brilliant crimson bracts. The flowers are yellowish white and of short duration, but the brilliancy of the bracts lasts for weeks. There are many varieties of this species, a number of them far excelling the beauty of this plant. Guzmania cardinalis (as it is called in Europe) is a superlative form, being in every way a much larger and handsomer plant.

To see Guzmania zahnii is to fall in love with it. A native of the Chiriqui Mountains in Central America, it is an exquisite species. It is a plant of very brilliant coloring, and as a foliage subject alone occupies a very high rank. Its narrow leaves, from 20 to 30 in a rosette, are thin and about a foot and a half long. They are a yellowish green, often tinged with bright red, and conspicuously striped vertically with red-brown or crimson on both sides. The flower-spike is almost as long as the leaves; the bracts are bright red and the flowers yellow. Guzmania zahnii is a plant that grows easily and well; it is a good bloomer; and if given enough light, the leaves become a delicious shade of pink.

Guzmania berteroniana in full bloom in its native habitat the mountain forests of Puerto Rico is a sight that is so fantastically beautiful that one never forgets it. When the writer was on this island, she saw literally hundreds of this beautiful bromeliad all in bloom (the month was August), turning the forest into one great Christmas tree, for the Guzmania resembles nothing so much as a great red candle in a pale green holder. The plant is moderately sized with numerous smooth, glossy, light green leaves. Its poker-like inflorescence, with its little yellow flowers, is about a foot high. The flower bract is a startling vermilion.

Guzmania sanguinea is another gem, which, alas, is all too rare in the trade. It was discovered by Edward Andre in Colombia in 1876, who described the foliage as a "tender green tinted with red, gradually becoming in the earlier stages of growth spotted with violet-red, which changing later on to blood-red, increases in intensity as the flowering time approaches. The coloration varies in different plants to the extent that some are entirely purple while others are more or less spotted." The species rarely exceeds a foot and a half in diameter. The flowers are not showy, being of a pale straw color, which form a spike that barely issues from the crown. This beautiful Guzmania is so distinctive and so beautiful that it should find a place in all choice collections.

Guzmania monostachia is another moderately sized plant that forms a candle-like inflorescence. Its leaves are a light green; its flower bract is very unusual with its green bract, etched with maroon lines and tipped with white flowers. When the bract is finally mature it turns to a flame red, yellow, or orange. In Europe this plant is known as Guzmania tricolor, and those which the writer brought back from Belgium are definitely better than the Guzmania monostachia which she had procured in the United States. In all ways the European is handsomer and more spectacular and about twice the size of the others.

It was indeed interesting to read Mr. Luis Ariza-Julia's article on the albino form of Guzmania monostachia which appeared in Volume IX, No. 3. It has been this writer's experience that this bromeliad is quite variable as to its coloring.

Just recently, a very fine Guzmania tricolor, the offshoot of a beautiful brilliant parent imported from Belgium, bloomed, but, instead of the fiery candle-like inflorescence of its parent, this plant proved to be pure white a true albino.

Guzmania musaica is only for those who can give much tender loving care to their bromeliads. It requires shade and humidity and will not thrive if the water is alkaline. However, all collectors should attempt to raise this one of the most beautiful of all bromeliads. Though chiefly a foliage plant, its flower spike with red-lined bract leaves, head with orange red bracts, and golden flowers tipped with white is very attractive. Discovered in Colombia in 1867, this Guzmania became an immediate sensation when introduced into Europe and ten years later was seen in many collections, having become widely cultivated. There are two forms of this plant. Guzmania musaica var. zebrina looks not unlike Vriesia splendens with its dark horizontal barring. Guzmania musaica is different in that its leaves are a bright green, transversely banded very irregularly with dark green wavy lines much like illegible writing.

647 South Saltair Ave., Los Angeles 49, Calif.


LIST OF AUSTRALIAN MEMBERS

We are pleased to print the following list of our Australian members and hope that it may be the means of developing a wider acquaintance and many lasting friendships among our bromeliad enthusiasts Down Under.

Mr. Gerard Blinks, Guthrie St., Osborne Park, Western Australia.
Mr. W. B. Charley, Mt. Tomah, Bilpin, N.S.W.
Dr. S. R. Dawes, P.O. Box 240, Orange, N.S.W.
Mrs. R. Duncan, Cooyong Road, Terrey Hills, Sydney. N.S.W.
Mrs. O. Griffin, Robinson Lane, Woolahra, Sydney, N.S.W
Mr. Charles Hodgson, 7 Dresden St., Heidelberg 23, Melbourne.
Mr. A. I. James, Handford and Roghan Roads, Zillmere N5. Queensland.
Mr. Charles E. Jones, c/o Somerdale Ltd., Bridge Road. Stanmore, N.S.W.
Mrs. V. Lack, Roseneath, 6 Austin St., Nundah, Brisbane. Queensland.
Mrs. Jean Matthews, 42 Epacris Ave., Caringbah, Sydney. N.S.W.
Dir. Arthur H. Mclndoe, Botanic Gardens, Sydney, N.S.W.
Mr. William O. Morris, 20 Mills St., Warners Bay, N.S.W.
Mr. J. G. Morrison, 381 Belmore Road, Balwyn North Melbourne, Victoria.
Mr. F. W. Reichelt, Surfers Paradise Motel, Pacific Highway, Queensland.
Mr. Charles Webb, 13 Elizabeth Ave., Dulwich Hill. Sydney. N.S.W.
Mr. J. Scott, 52 Kurnell Rd., Cronulla, N.S.W.
Mr. Reginald V. Taylor, Box 61, Mullumbimby, N.S.W.


GROWING EPIPHYTIC BROMELS IN TREE-FERN

Alex D. Hawkes and Edward A. Flickinger

Many of the bromels which we grow here are, in their native haunts, epiphytic on trees. Their cultural requirements, quite naturally, differ from those of terrestrial bromeliads. Since our plants are grown out-of-doors, with no appreciable protection from the torrential rains we sometimes experience in the Miami area, we have found that drainage of the potting compost is one of the most important factors in the successful cultivation of these fabulous plants.

If, through inadequate drainage, the compost becomes even the least bit sodden or stale, rapid rotting of the plant's base may occur, often leading to its total loss.

We have tried many different types of potting material for these epiphytes, some with considerable success, others with a discouraging lack of it, but, after experiences with composts which do not drain rapidly enough, or do not drain thoroughly enough, we have finally arrived at the conclusion that the vast majority of our epiphytic bromeliads no matter of what genus do best when they are grown in straight tree-fern fiber.

The chopped form of this fiber which, in the Miami area, comes mostly from Mexico, is adequate, but root action in it seems slow, doubtless due to the fact that it is not a very rigid medium, this quality seeming to be a requisite for most of the epiphytic bromels with their wire-like roots. Far more satisfactory is the utilization of tree-fern in chunks or slabs. Locally, it is available in several forms, varying from the chopped form so widely used for orchids, through chunks of several different dimensions. We find that the medium or relatively large chunks are best for our purpose when the plants are being grown in pots.

About one-quarter of the pot (which should be a relatively small one, for best results) should be filled with broken crock or other drainage material. The bromeliad is then set in and pieces of fiber are worked in around the roots of the plant and pressed in with the thumbs as tightly as possible, still allowing some air-spaces, wherever possible, between the chunks, for better aeration. The grower should be sure not to cover the basal "eyes" at the base of the plant from which new growths arise in most species but should also not have the plant's base protruding too high above the surface of the compost. Some experts advocate the addition of a "top dressing" of fir bark and this does seem, in many cases, to promote rapid production of new roots.

When affixing epiphytic bromeliads to pieces or slabs of tree-fern fiber, one point to remember is that they must be very securely fastened to the medium. If not, their roots often do not attach themselves satisfactorily, and the eventual health of the specimen may be seriously impaired.

With proper watering, sufficient light, and regular applications of fertilizer, we find that the results obtained by growing these aerial bromeliads in or on tree-fern fiber are indeed most gratifying. We suggest that you try these methods in your own collection.

P.O. Box 435, Coconut Grove 33, Florida.


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