THE BROMELIAD SOCIETY BULLETIN|
The Bromeliad Society Bulletin is the official publication
of the Bromeliad Society, a non-profit corporation organized in 1950. The
Bulletin is issued six times a year. Subscription to the Bulletin is included
in the annual membership dues. There are four classes of member-ship: Annual,
$5.00; Sustaining, $7.50; Fellowship, $15.00; and Life $100.00. All
memberships start with January of the current year. For membership
information, write to Mrs. Jeanne Woodbury, 1811 Edgecliffe Drive, Los Angeles,
California 90026. Please submit all manuscripts for publication to the editor,
647 South Saltair Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90049
OFFICERS President David Barry, Jr. Editorial Secretary Victoria Padilla Vice President Fritz Kubisch Membership Secretary Jeanne Woodbury Treasurer Jack M. Roth Board of Directors
Nat De Leon
Mulford B. Foster
James N. Giridlian
Jack O. Holmes
J. G. Milstein
W. R. Paylen
Dr. Russell Seibert
O. E. Van Hyning
Charles A. Wiley
Wilbur G. Wood
Adda Abendroth, Brazil
W. B. Charley, Australia
Charles Chevalier, Belgium
Mulford B. Foster, U.S.A.
A. B. Graf, U.S.A.
C. H. Lankester, Costa Rica
Harold Martin, New Zealand
Richard Oeser, Germany
Raulino Reitz, Brasil
Walter Richter, Germany
Dr. L. B. Smith, U.S.A.
Henry Teuscher, Canada
Bromeliad Guild, Los Angeles, Calif., W. R. Paylen, President|
Bromeliad Guild of Tampa Bay, Florida, Harry Cunningham, Jr., President
Greater New York Chapter of The Bromeliad Society, New York City, J. G. Milstein, President
Bromeliad Society of Broward County, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Tom Seuss, President
Bromeliad Society of La Ballona Valley, Culver City, Calif., Fritz Kubisch, President
Bromeliad Society of South Florida, Miami, Florida, R. W. Davis, President
Bromeliad Society of New Zealand, N. Z., Mrs. F. B. Hanson, President
Louisiana Bromeliad Society, New Orleans, La., Mrs. William B. Wisdom, President
San Mateo County Bromeliad Society, San Mateo, Calif., Doris Beaumont, President
Delaware Valley Bromeliad Society, Philadelphia, Pa., Patrick Nutt, President
Bromeliad Society of Orange County, Calif., Kelsey Williams, President
San Diego Bromeliad Society, San Diego, Calif., Cleoves Hardin, President
LYMAN B. SMITH
ULIEN MARNIER-LAPOSTOLLE sent me these pictures of Streptocalyx williamsii that flowered in his garden of Les Cedres at St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Like several other members of the Bromeliad Society he received the plant originally from Lee Moore labeled as "Aechmea spec. 370".
Actually there is no sure way of distinguishing Streptocalyx and Aechmea until you have examined fresh or very well preserved petals to see if they are naked and therefore Streptocalyx or appendaged and thus Aechmea. However, one can generally recognize the species and arrive at the genus to which it belongs by the back door so to speak.
Streptocalyx williamsii was collected by Llewelyn Williams in 1929 while he was making a survey of the region on the upper Amazon where Brazil, Colombia, and Peru now meet. Although it has been collected in all three of these countries it is still limited to the upper Amazon. This situation makes a curious contrast with S. poeppigii which extends the full length of the Amazon and also into Guiana. The only visible distinction is in the relatively large floral bracts of Streptocalyx williamsii, yet this in itself cannot account for the great difference in range. The difference must be in something less obvious. Maybe Streptocalyx poeppigii is more prolific or has a greater resistance to the extreme variations in humidity noted by Padre Raulino Reitz (vol. 15, p. 123). Now that we have both species in cultivation some of us may be able to discover the answer.
—Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C., U.S.A.
AMY JEAN GILMARTINNYONE CAN BE A PLANT COLLECTOR. But, how many people collect in a way that is useful to horticulture and botany? By this is meant not what plants are collected but the way the collections are recorded. Should you take a trip to Mexico for recreational purposes and en route find some interesting bromels which you decide to collect, you are a bromel collector. If you do habitual collecting for the purpose of earning money, you are a plant collector. Either type, the professional or occasional collector, should take the time to give a unique number to every single specimen that he collects. The collector's name and the specimen number produce an irrevocable record of the plant—a record essential for later horticultural and botanical dealings.
Mulford Foster is a fine example of a systematic plant collector. He uses a continuous numbering system, adds notes on the habitat, plant color for each plant collected, and makes excellent herbarium specimens for the botanical determination of the specimen.
The sporadic collector, however, may not want to become involved with record keeping. If so, all he has to do are two things: (1) make sure that he always has plenty of durable tags with him even if the trip is not taken exclusively for the purpose of bromel collecting, and (2) when he obtains a plant, either a whole plant or the seeds of one, write the name, the date, and a number starting with 1 for the first plant of each day on a tag and tie it on the plant or place it in the container with the seeds and forget it until he arrives back home. If later he is interested in learning where he obtained a given plant which is now flourishing in his garden, the date will usually be enough to give him a clue. If he is conscientious to a larger degree, he will find that keeping a collector's book is not really hard and can be fun. For each collecting day he should start a new page with the date at the top and indicate beneath the collection number and a brief description of the plant, the locality found, and any other interesting comments. Of course, keeping a collector's book does not mean that the plants do not have to be tagged with the collector's number. The plants must always be tagged.
For clonal material, that is offshoots, one should, of course, use the same collection number. One must, however, be careful not to use the same number for different clones.
If one is not sure just what his last number was in a continuous numbering system, he then should use a number that is well in advance of what is suspected to be the number last used. With the continuous numbering system, it is essential to take care not to use the same number twice.
Anybody can find a new species. Who knows, you may be next to collect an undescribed species! What a shame it is to have to follow the description of the new species or any species by an inadequate specimen citation. Ideally, the specimen citation should be something like this:
- Jones, John E. 101 (US) 10 miles west of Durango, road to Mazatlan,
- State, Durango, Mexico, ca. 6000 ft. altitude, 4 Jan. 1955, cultivated by
- Mrs. John E. Jones, Burbank, California.
- State, Durango, Mexico, ca. 6000 ft. altitude, 4 Jan. 1955, cultivated by
- Jones, J. E. s.n. (US) no locality, no date.
There may be professional collectors who would prefer that the exact collection locality were not known. Nevertheless, they can still include at least the province or state of the country, an estimate of the altitude, and the collection date.
—University of California, Carmel Valley, Calif.
THE PICTURE ON THE COVERGuzmania monostachia, one of the most widely distributed of the genus, is found growing as an epiphyte in parts of the Everglades of Florida and in the forests of the West Indies, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Altitude range is from almost sea level (in Florida) to 2,000 meters.
It is an old-time favorite, first being described in 1762 under the name of Tillandsia monostachia. In 1802 it was called Guzmania tricolor , a name still in use in continental Europe.
A medium sized plant with soft green leaves, it presents when in full bloom a most attractive sight in its native habitat, as the brilliantly tipped spikes stand out like lighted candles.
The inflorescence (from 10 to 15 inches in height) tends to be variable as to coloring, the bracts varying in shades from brilliant red to a soft pink or salmon of even white. The form marketed in Europe as G. tricolor is probably more vivid than that found elsewhere. Several years ago a variegated form with longitudinally striped leaves was discovered in the Everglades of Florida. Unfortunately, the inflorescence is of brief duration.
The picture on the cover is by Jeanne Woodbury.
ADDA ABENDROTHF. B. H. of the Bromeliad Society of New Zealand writes in Bulletin No. 2 for 1967, page 41, the following: "We all know that watering, conditions under which they are grown, and other factors all pay a large part in the coloring of bromeliads," and then asks for comments on this subject by other members. Here are some:
Because of our semi-tropical climate, the countryside around the Organ Mountain in Brazil is the native home of many bromeliads. Conspicuous for its rich and varying colors is Neoregelia concentrica. In the wilds it lives in tree crowns, although it does equally well on the forest floor or in cultivation planted in soil. Only in dark and shady spots will the leaves abstain from putting on blackish dots and designs. Even moderate sunlight brings forth black on the margins and on the leaf-tips. The pattern of black, however, seems to be partly innate. Two types recur in different plants. The real color-feat begins in spring with the onset of the rainy season early in October. Gradually the cup turns violet-purple, fading only after four or five months have gone by. Depending on air humidity, the color in the cup may change from purple to violet over night and back to purple as new rains set in. Later in the season it fades from lilac to pale yellow within a few days and puts on a carnival of colored blotches while the berries ripen.
The coloring of Tillandsia stricta in its natural surroundings is more discreet but no less charming. The general color is greenish gray. Some nearly adult plants are silvery; others have extravagant tints of pink or lavender or of green shining through their coat of gray scales. The various tones do not seem to be due to degree of light or moisture in the environment. Differently toned plants sometimes live side by side under identical conditions. The pretty shades vanish with age, after flowering. Our strictas settle spontaneously on branches of shrubs and trees, even on wires and fences. The inflorescence is the same in all of them.
Once I noticed a small-sized Tillandsia stricta that had black undertones on its leaves. When it stayed blackish all through the year, I decided to try an experiment. The plant in question clung to a dry naked branch, about 1 m above the ground, getting about 75 percent sun. To find out if the site caused the black in the leaves, I tied half a dozen young strictas to the tips of a dead hardwood branch and stuck it in wet soil in a sunny spot. By April-May new roots had sprouted in all directions. New leaves came slowly. During the dry season, May to September, the plants were slate-colored without any green. An ever larger section of the tips turned black. Summer rains brought forth pale green in the lower sections of the blades. The tips stayed black. They are naked. The next September saw well-colored flower spikes, a little below normal size. The entire plants are on the small side. Apparently location in a sunny spot away from immediate neighbors and a diet of total starvation do result in black leaf tips. One annual grooming enhances the pleasing arrangement.
W. B. CHARLEYHE NECESSITY TO HEAT GLASSHOUSES in many localities in Australia in winter calls for, in many cases, kerosene heaters. These are not without their dangers, as we ourselves found out. Mrs. Small of Greenacres, New South Wales, heated her 20-foot glasshouse with such a unit. In this house was a valuable collection of the best bromeliads procurable.
One night the heater blew up, and the intense heat scorched every bromeliad, burned all the labels, and completely blackened the pots, the stands, and the walls. The plastic sheet roofing buckled, and no doubt the roof would have gone too, but this type of corrugated roofing, known as P. V. C., is hard to burn although it will squirm under intense heat. After such a disaster most folk would have given up, but not Mrs. Small. She cleaned all the pots, took the leaves off the scorched plants, leaving only the butts of each plant level with new pot mix.
It took 18 months for new growth to appear from the burned butts, but appear it did, although for the 18 months it seemed that the lot were finished or had been cooked to death. Mrs. Small is now rewarded for her long period of waiting, but to look over her plants is now a pleasure and one would never know of the blackened tragedy she had viewed one morning. Surely, this is a real testimony to the hardiness of these wonderful plants. Mrs. Small has just one problem left: she has to await the correct naming of her broms until they show up their character.
From the disaster of fire, we turn to the disaster of water. Because our water rights from a spring on the mountain had been taken away, we were forced to install another system, which called for new storage tanks. These were painted inside to prevent corrosion from the acid water. It was several weeks before we could drink the water, as it had a bad taste from the bitumine paint, but eventually after several fillings of the tanks, the water came clean.
It did not occur to us that during this time our nursery plants were also finding this water unpalatable, and it was months later that the trouble started to show up. Bromeliads started to curl their leaves and die from the base, but first their leaves showed striking color. We threw out many of our precious plants, particularly most of the Neoregelias, which took it the hardest, as well as many Aechmeas and a few of the other varieties. The oil scum from the paint was the killer. We were not as lucky as Mrs. Small: the plants had been killed to the roots and so did not sucker. Our loss was complete.
—Bilpin, N. S. W., Australia.
Y FIRST CONTACT WITH Mrs. E. A. (Florence) Burt came about with a letter of inquiry regarding bromeliads for sale. Further correspondence established what plants were desired and a delivery date was set. Arriving at her nursery located a short distance north of Jupiter, Florida, on the east side of U. S. Highway 1, about 7:30 in the morning, I walked to the door and knocked. I was greeted by a cheery booming voice, "Don't you know better than to come to a body's place in the middle of the night? Well, come in and have a cup of coffee and some breakfast." This was my first exposure to Mrs. Burt on a personal basis.
Mrs. Burt (who admits to 70 with good-natured frankness) has been troubled with arthritis for more than ten years and is able to get about only with the aid of a cane or a crutch. She does all her potting of bromeliads sitting at a bench; the toting and placing of the newly potted plants are done by her husband, a retired naval officer. In all, she has over 4,000 plants. The nursery is kept in ship-shape condition; everything is neat and clean. The growing area is not elaborate but is adequate, most of it being a lath type of shade house. Her more choice plants are kept under plastic.
Mrs. Burt is an avid booster of the Bromeliad Society, encouraging her many correspondents to join the Society. Most of her sales are through mail orders in response to advertisements placed in horticultural publications.
Optimism seems to be her forte. Her infirmities apparently have had no effect in diminishing her zest for life and her enthusiasm for her vocation. She is a perfect example that one is never too old or disabled to enjoy life—for she certainly does!
RICHARD OESER, M. D.MONG THE BROMELIADS THERE ARE a considerable number that distinguish themselves by having a pleasant scent. In fact, some of the names of plants designate that they are blessed with a fragrance; Aechmea suavolens, Vriesea fragrans, and Neoregelia olens are three such bromeliads.
Fifteen years ago I received a Tillandsia from Argentina under the name of T. odorata—but this was probably not the true scientific name, and the plant died before it set flowers.
Since then I have become acquainted with quite a number of very fragrant Tillandsias. These are mostly South American species, but the fragrance of T. usneoides (Spanish moss) enjoys praise when it blooms in masses in the Everglades of Florida. However, our nose isn't sufficiently sensitive to perceive the fragrance of a single Tillandsia usneoides flower. And similarly it is quite possible that many bromeliad flowers issue a definite odor that attracts certain insects—this is especially true of species with white flowers that seem to attract insects during the night with their fragrance. Such a species is the little white-flowered Tillandsia dyeriana from Ecuador with its oddly branched inflorescence and pretty dark-spotted leaves, soft like those of a Vriesea.
The Argentine to Paraguay and Bolivia is the home of white-, blue-, and yellow-flowered Tillandsias that have a very strong perfume. When a Tillandsia decomposita produces for weeks in succession ever new flowers along its 2 to 3 foot long stalk, the entire glass house is pervaded with a sweet fragrance, especially in the morning and in the evening. T. streptocarpa has a similar odor, but it is weaker.
Tillandsia xiphioides has rather large white flowers that give off a very strong carnation-like scent. (In German, the fragrance of carnation and clover are given the same name. I can't say which it should be in this case.) A Tillandsia I received from the Chaco in Paraguay under the name T. arhiza is said to have flowers 5 cm across, white, with a stunning scent. It has a stem two feet long with many side shoots. Regrettably it will be years before my imports can be expected to mature and come into bloom.
Entirely different from the white or blue-flowering species are those that have yellow flowers—usually small plants, thickly covered with scales. The strongest scent I have noticed is in T. crocata's almost orange colored flowers. When it is in bloom the surrounding air reminds one of cinnamon. A near relative of T. crocata is the T. myosura group, whose leaves, because they look like a mouse-tail, give the plant its name. It has very small flowers, honey-yellow to brown, all very strongly scented.
The most interesting point on this subject is that shortly after World War II along with the first Tillandsias arriving in Germany from the Argentine came the information that in that country they were making perfume from Tillandsia flowers. Many plants are being cultivated commercially for making perfume, especially in southern France. If making perfume from wild Tillandsia flowers has proved successful, although collecting in the wilds is probably a difficult task and will sooner or later erase the supply, the setting-up of a Tillandsia farm on a land not suited for other types of culture, is not so absurd as it might seem at first sight. It would be a long while, of course, before a Tillandsia could be expected to yield profits; but once that stage is reached, crops could be counted on year after year and harvested without too great pains, for Tillandsias never die, but regenerate spontaneously.
In April, 1967 issue of Memoirs of the New York Botanical Garden, Dr. Smith lists the Bromeliaceae of the Guayana Highland. Many little known bromeliads are to be found in this wilderness area of Venezuela, including such rare genera as Connellias, Cottendorfias, Brocchinias, and Navias. Distribution, Habitat and Keys are included.
COLLECTORS OF BROMELIADS
|All photos by author|
|Jungle scene at Tandapi, showing Guzmania gloriosa|
HERE IS A PLACE ON THE SLOPES of the Western Cordillera of Ecuador which is my favorite spot to observe jungle bromeliads. It is in the little valley of Pilaton, through which a wild little river rushes over rocks and boulders. Situated here is the tiny village of Tandapi, comprising a dozen or so cottages. In the little meadows formed along the banks of the river one can find many big old trees—an ideal place for Guzmanias, for here there is shade yet some sun and always humidity caused by the fogs from the river. This place is situated at an altitude of 4500 feet—the best altitude I have found for bromeliads. But to ship bromeliads from this area is not easy on the plants. First they have to be transported to Quito, elevation 8,400 feet, and then down to the States or to Europe into altitudes of some hundred feet only.
|Photo No. 2 showing on left Palma de Pais and Guzmania monostachia.|
The slopes are densely covered with many tall growing jungle trees—Nestandras and Clusias for example, but there is no longer here a true virgin forest. Many colonists have taken their timber from here to build their homes. Many times I have seen the people of Tandapi with their horses and oxen heavily laden with wood from the trees.
The jungle grows rapidly. You see in Photo 1 young trees already covered with bromeliads. Most noticeable is Guzmania gloriosa (Andre), its bright red flower spike rising to three feet or more.
But the most beautiful bromeliad of this region is the "Palma de Pais." When I first saw this bromeliad flowering for the first time two years ago high up in the crowns of old trees—their blue flowers peeking over the margin of the rosette, I was quite puzzled as to what it could be, as it seemed so unlike a bromeliad. I was really happy when I found one within reach of my arms and I could identify it with surety as a bromeliad.
And now I come to the difficulties of gathering bromeliads from this area. You see in Photo 2 the Palma de Pais and Guzmania monostachia, growing on the same tree limb. Guzmania monostachia with its red tipped inflorescence blooms in spring, the blue Palma de Pais in fall, but they both develop their fruits so slowly that one finds the spikes with the fruits on both of them. Of course, it is easy to identify them, if you see the typical broad inflorescence of the Palma de Pais and the much shorter fruit spike of Guzmania monostachia, but what can you do if you find only young plants with no inflorescences? Sometimes Palma de Pais is brighter green than Guzmania monostachia, and the leaves have a brownish tone as if they were sunburnt, but this is not always so. Therefore, I carefully avoid taking young plants from a tree where there are both species growing.
Photo No. 3—Bromeliads growing on a branch of an old citrus tree.|
Left—Tillandsia ropalocarpa, Right—Guzmania
Photo 3 was taken at Tandapi, also. Walking about 3 km through the jungle on a little path, one comes to a "desert house". I have found that among all the trees, bromeliads seem to prefer old citrus the most. This is true not only in Tandapi, but everywhere in Ecuador. The bromeliads are so thick on the poor old citrus trees that the limbs appear to be hairy brushes, as in the picture taken at the "desert house". The bromeliads often all look alike—same form of leaves, same form of rosette, same color, same rigidity—but they are quite different plants, as you see when they develop their inflorescences.
Such a place, too, is full of orchids. On the trunks of the jungle trees grow the gracious little Restrepia elegans with its white petals streaked with purple. From the limbs above hang the white flowers of Stanhopea and from the ground rise the long branches of Epidendrum with their large violet bunches of flowers.
It is a place—both lovely and lonely. It is a place to return to again and again, for there is always something new to discover, be it only in ferns and Aralias.
(Translated from the German by Mrs. Adda Abendroth)
A LITTLE BOTANYHE NUMBER OF BROMELIADS that can be seen in Europe is comparatively small. In 1930 only 1,400 species were known, in 1955 the number was 1,600, and today there are still more because new ones are being discovered all the time so that the absolute total cannot be given with certainty.
Most of the bromeliads we are familiar with look distinctly like a rosette in one way or another. In our minds the word "rosette" is linked with the image of these plants. But, there are genera that have a different shape, as, for example, the Pitcairnias that have many thin, soft leaves growing in a bunch, or Tillandsia usneoides with its finely branched strands gathered into enormous hanging clusters.
Most bromeliads have a compact or a contracted stem, short therefore, but always present. The stem is often hidden from view by a coat of recurved leaves. Some Tillandsias (T. araujei, T. albida, and others) clearly possess a long stem, sometimes coiled, walled in a harness of dry leaves. Ordinarily stems do not bunch, although the great Puya species of the Andes do. Their arm-and often thigh-thick stem usually creeps for some length before it rises and branches, each branch holding an independent leafy crown.
In horticulture some species distinctly show prominent secondary growth. The new shoot that forms before or after flowering may attain greater height than the mother plant. This is a natural necessity. Close to its mother, the new shoot would not have space enough to develop; it must grow more than she did. Similarly, some bromeliads like Nidularium bracteatum and others break away from the mother plant by literally climbing up a tree trunk, their stolons sending new roots into the fissure of the bark to hold on tight.
There are both giants and dwarfs in the bromeliad family. Some of the Puyas are truly the giants in the family. Their relatively short stem produces a number of thick rosettes with hundreds of leaves over 1 meter in length. The flower spike attains several meters. Vriesea imperialis and Vriesea regina, both natives of the former Federal District (Rio de Janeiro) of Brazil, are also very large. Their rather broad leaves measure approximately 1.5 m in length. The inflorescence of both grows to cover 2 m and has many stout branches. These Vrieseas are certainly a striking example of creative force in the vegetable kingdom! The same may be said for Bromelia pinguin, at home in Central America. The adult rosette, made up of over 100 leaves, measures 3 meters in diameter. Other species of the genus compete with it in size and beauty. Aechmeas, one of the best known species, also have giants for members. Aechmea sphaerocephala has leaves that may measure 2.5 m in its native home in Brazil; Aechmea columnaris has leaves of about the same size.
The dwarfs in the family may be found in the genus Tillandsia. T. tricholepis, T. crocata, and a few others are so diminutive in size they look like mosses; and it is only thanks to their habit of congregation, forming communities, that they can survive over long periods. Some of their life processes function as if they were cryptogamous plants. The foremost problem in the life of such small epiphytes is to insure the water supply, especially in areas subject to periodic draught. They very likely depend to a high degree on the functioning of their scales. The genus Tillandsia contains many other species of reduced size. Some, though small, develop distinct rosettes which make them very attractive, like T. erubescens and others. Needing little space because they are so small, they are greatly favored by hobbyists. Vriesea imperialis and Vriesea regina, I said, are giants; their cups hold considerable water and a private fauna of their own. The smallest known species of the genus, Vriesea racinae, on the other hand, is so small, a fully grown specimen fits into a coffee cup. Neoregelia ampullacea is a dwarf next to her sister Neoregelia concentrica with its robust leaves and ample spread. The little Billbergia reichhardtii is only one-tenth to one-twentieth the size of the huge Billbergia venezuelana, and yet they belong to the same genus because they have certain characters in common. Hobbyists living in Europe have almost no chance to note these extremes in size—those for sale are of average size.
Development in the Bromeliaceae is accomplished over varying lengths of time. More often several years go by before a baby plant grows into an adult ready to bloom. The main plant flowers only once. After flowering or rather after fruiting, it stops growing but it may continue to function for a while. This is necessary so that the new side shoots—often called off-shoots or pups—that form in the axils of the leaves may grow properly. The shoots carry ahead the life of the mother plant. They are an unconditional guarantee for the preservation of the species, independent of seeds. This possibility of survival seems especially important with epiphytes, because their seeds are exposed to much more danger of annihilation than are the plants on the ground. In the native habitat production of offshoots often results in the formation of large and compact communities as in Tillandsias growing on trees or in plants that grow in the soil, as in Aechmea polystachia (A. distichantha) which builds huge, impenetrable thickets.
Almost without exception the inflorescence is terminal, which is to say it originates in the tip of the axis and ends its growth. Only a few Tillandsia species are exceptions to this rule. They may produce sideshoots after the main axis has bloomed. The side shoot will flower but it does not represent a new independent plant.
As we said above, vegetative reproduction of bromeliads proceeds by way of the side or off-shoots. These off-shoots are not unlike the mother plant from the start. They begin as a tube composed of a number of leaves which later opens out into a rosette. The pups come out in most species while the mother plant is in bloom or soon after. In a few species they come even earlier, while the plant is nearing adulthood. Vriesea imperialis and Vriesea regina, being so large, take 6 to 8 years to come into bloom. They have their first offshoots while half grown, the little plants sprouting in great numbers around the roots of the mother plant. They look like seedlings and can easily be removed. On the other hand, Vriesea splendens and its relatives produce offshoots sparingly. One, rarely two, will show up in a leaf axil of the old plant and in time overgrow its height. Most of the other Vrieseas produce their pups—many or only a few—in the lower leaf axils.
Many species multiply by means of stolons issuing from the underground stem of the mother plant. We find this occurring among the Billbergias, Aechmeas, Nidulariums, Psuedananas, and Pitcairnias. The stem of the stolon sometimes gets very hard and woody. On its lower section the stolen is covered with leaf scales; further up regular leaves gradually take over. The genus Cryptanthus forms a number of pups in the lower leaf axils. These pups come off easily and root by themselves. The underground stem of Cryptanthus zonatus issues additional offshoots long after flowering time. Steps of transition lead from leafy axiliary offshoots to scaly underground stolons. Ananas comosus produces several underground shoots as well as pups on the crown of the fruit. The family is amply provided with means of propagation by offshoots.
The roots of the bromeliad, on the whole, play a much more secondary role than in other plant families. As was said before, bromels possess other means of absorbing water and nutrients. Consequently, the roots of an epiphyte act foremost as hold-fast organs, intended to tie a heavy plant to its lofty roost. The roots do not come in large numbers, but they are hard and wiry and strong enough to become almost undetachable from the host tree. Only a device like this makes it possible for certain species of Tillandsia to settle on perfectly smooth palm trunks or on the Saguaro and there to thrive and grow. To what extent the intimate connection between root and host may favor exchange of matter, or if exchange takes place at all, is yet to be ascertained.
Some Tillandsias, such as T. dianthoidea, T. duratii, and T. decomposita, are practically rootless. Some species hold on to their host by means of elaborately looped leaves. This is true of T. usneoides, Spanish moss, which employs its entire fabric of long, thin shoots for this purpose. T. usneoides has roots only while a seedling. Later, its dense pelt of scales takes over and captures the needed moisture. Then there are the desert plants, T. werdermannii and T. lanobeckii, that survive though they lie loosely on sand dunes, moving about with the winds, and which also never have roots.
In our study of the living organs of our plants let us now turn to the leaves. Their extraordinarily numerous shapes are well reflected in the description of the many species. Leaf blades are almost always elongated, broad or narrow, seldom ovate or lancet shaped. Grass-like leaves are also seen, as well as very thin, thread-like ones as in Tillandsia linearis, T. plumosa, and others.
The leaves of cup-bromels often have very broad sheaths tightly adjusted to one another to build the cup for holding water. The canal-shaped blades guide the liquid to the cup, where it spreads and fills every nook; the surplus runs off. Special attention should be applied when growing bromels indoors to see that the cups are always filled with water. Equally important is it to keep the cups clean of anything that might cause decay. Cup bromeliads are much more sensitive to lack of water in their cups than to absence of moisture around their roots. Lack of water in the cups soon results in dry leaves and ensuing death of the plant. The reason is that the roots are unable to suck up sufficient water to keep the plant alive if there is no water in the cup for absorption by the scales.
Consistency of leaves also differs widely. The majority are tough, hard, and very rigid. Only the Pitcairnias with their soft hanging leaves are an exception. Often leaves have an armature of small or large spines garnishing the edge of the blades. In certain terrestrials the spines are so forbidding as to make the plants unapproachable. It is a fixed rule that species with capsule fruits have smooth, unarmed leaves; they are all epiphytes, need no protection against predators. Terrestrials, on the contrary, need protection badly. They are strictly berry-bearing plants. Profusely armed species generally have their lower spines pointing downwards, the upper ones forward, and the center ones outward. It is defense in all directions. Some spines are broad at the base and taper into a curved, pungent tip—a dreadful weapon. From an aesthetic point of view, however, spines may be considered ornamental. They are often dark brown or black, in vivid contrast to the greenish blades.
The color of the leaves varies greatly. The basic color, of course, is green; but it is graded in many shades, varying from the bright linden-green in Guzmania lingulata to blackish in some of the Billbergias and Aechmeas. The classic bright green common to many plants is found only in Pitcairnia. Leaves covered with scales are subject to notable changes in hue, depending on humidity and light. Plants receiving strong light, maintained in moderate alternation of humidity, show extra beautiful light grey tones. The grey approaches pale green if the plants get more shade and constant humidity. Actual intensity of coloring depends on density of scales; their number determines the tone.
Leaves of some species have wine-red or maroon tones, especially on their underside, like Aechmea miniata var. discolor and Aechmea fulgens var. discolor. Others have a violet-purplish underside. In addition, strong sunlight or other illumination affect the coloring of the blades of certain species. They may take on a reddish tint, but it is not permanent and will revert to green in less intensive light. This peculiarity provides the grower of bromeliads with a considerable range of possibilities to influence the looks of his plants.
Some species have stripes, lines, and spots of a different color on the blades. It is impossible to describe all the variations. They certainly make the plants most attractive. Vriesea philippo-coburgii and Neoregelia spectabilis have red leaf-tips: Vriesea guttata has reddish spots on its leaf blades. One of the most ornamental bromels, Vriesea splendens, has dark, almost black, crossbands on its green leaves. A design of fine dark, wavy lines crosses the blades of Vriesea hieroglyphica, Guzmania musaica, and others. Vriesea tesselata, V. fenestralis, and V. bitmunosa show a faint zigzag design. As in all Vrieseas having colored leaves, the design shows better when seen in translucency. About Vriesea jonghii, which belongs in this group of leaf design, I want to include a contribution from Dr. Mueller, Blumenau, Brazil:
"In light coming from above, the face of the blade looks plain green most of the time, its back is plain brown; but generally a design like in Vriesea tesselata may be surmised—alternate darker and lighter lengthwise stripes, crossed by irregular kinked crossbands. No two leaves have the same design. The picture is most impressive when sunlight shines through the blades from above. Translucency enhances both color and design.
"When Alfred Moeller found himself on top of Mount Spitzhopf (900 m) looking up at a canopy of these beautiful sunlight illuminated rosettes for the first time, not only he himself but also his less sensitive native companions halted in astonishment so deeply were they impressed by the grandiose sight. A large dark purple spot (about 2cm in diameter) at the tip of the leaves, black when seen against the sun, adds further charm to this beauty. It is the sun that brings out the splendor of this plant, and it is only in full sun that it will thrive and develop. In deep shade it wilts within a few months."
White to creamy stripes alternate with green in Nidularium innocentii var. lineatum, N. innocentii var. striatum, Aechmea caudata var. variegata, A. comata var. macoyana, A. fasciata variegated, Cryptanthus bromelioides var. tricolor, Ananas comosus var. variegatus, and others. It is easy to understand that all these species attract attention because of their beautiful foliage and therefore are much in demand. Multiplication on a large scale, however, possible only by raising from seed, is barred by the fact that seedlings from the colored plants have plain green leaves.
In early youth many bromeliad seedlings have entirely different leaves from what they will show in later life. Many species have what botanists call a "juvenile form," which makes identification most difficult. Seedlings of Vrieseas, Guzmanias, and Tillandsias have in their first year or even later thin, grass-like leaves of a uniform green. Only as development proceeds do the generic characters appear. Tillandsias, especially the extreme air forms, often have twisted or curled leaves, but it takes several years before they show up in seedlings. The species that produce berries—Aechmeas, Billbergias, Neoregelias, Nidulariums—also possess juvenile forms, but normally their development is more rapid and broad leaves come sooner. Environment, of course, plays a considerable part in the development of individual plants. Only an experienced specialist can tell if two given seedlings grown under different conditions are of the same species. Plants that get extra good care often preserve some of their primary leaves until flowering. These youthful leaves identify them as seedlings, for offshoots start out with much broader and longer leaves.
Colored photographs of plants taken in their natural habitat prove that the influence of tropical sunlight on leaf color and leaf design is infinitely more intense than we may hope to achieve in colder climates. In addition, plants growing wild in their homeland necessarily look different from their kin cultivated in Europe because we simply do not have what it takes to reproduce conditions in foreign lands. This refers especially to light intensity. In my daily communion with bromeliads I notice again and again what a difference light can make, its influence on growth and development, even on the reduced scale of regulation at our disposal in northern climes.
|Left—Nidularium billbergioides var. citrinum|