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
|President||David Barry, Jr.||Editorial Secretary||Victoria Padilla|
|Vice President||Fritz Kubisch||Membership Editor||Jeanne Woodbury|
|Treasurer Jack M. Roth|
|Board of Directors|
Nat De Leon
James N. Giridlian
J. G. Milstein
W. R. Paylen
O. E. Van Hyning
Charles A. Wiley
Wilbur G. Wood
Dr. Russell Seibert
Adda Abendroth, Brazil
W. B. Charley, Australia
Charles Chevalier, Belgium
Mulford B. Foster, 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.
PICTURE ON THE COVER
This type of container planting is popular in continental Europe. This interesting arrangement was made by M. Marcel Lecoufle and shows Aechmea chantinii, Aechmea orlandiana grouped with a variegated Peperomia and Gynura sarmentosa. With good care, such an arrangement will last for many months before any change has to be made. Photo by M. Lecoufle.
Articles and photographs are earnestly solicited by the editor. Length is no factor. Please mail all copy to the editor, 647 South Saltair Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90049.
ONE OF THE MOST SPECTACULAR BROMELIADS
P. RAULINO REITZ
|Hechtia integerrima M. B. Foster|
EPIPHYTE 9 dm high.
LEAVES 6-10, forming a water-tight tube constricted at base and apex; blade very chartaceous (or coriaceous?), armed with stout spines 4-6 mm long, green with faint whitish cross-bands.
INFLORESCENCE spectacular, unusually large for the genus, much longer than the leaves, pendent, simple, about 50-flowered, densely white-farinose; scape-bracts 10-14, highly ornamental in their large size (25 x 5 cm) and beautiful rose-red color, arched-cascading; floral bracts inconspicuous.
FLOWERS among the largest in the genus, 10-12 cm long; sepals violet but greenish yellow toward base, tomentose, free, 11 x 6 mm., the apex deeply emarginate with long mucro and hairs; petals greenish yellow becoming violet toward apex, 100 x 8 mm, coiled at anthesis, then relaxed.
FRUIT enlarged from the ovary and crowned with the persistent sepals. SEEDS castaneous, slenderly ovoid, 3 mm long, slightly enlarged toward apex.
Billbergia alfonsi-joannis is one of those rare jewels of nature that enchant all beholders. It is distinguished even among the most beautiful bromeliads. I take pride in having discovered this real jewel of the vegetable kingdom.
Until now it has been found in only the states of Santa Catarina and Parana in Brazil. In Santa Catarina it is very abundant in the municipios (counties) of Rio do SW and Taio, at an altitude of 300 to 700 meters (1000-2300 feet). It grows on the trunks of tall trees from the middle as far as the largest branches. It thrives in cultivation and flowers almost every year but never produces fertile seed.
Picture painted by D. Fossari from a plant collected at the type locality (Serra do Miradar, Santa Catarina) and flowered in the private Bromelario of the author.
The source of the difficulty should be obvious enough. It is known that bromeliads form some sort of gum dissolved in the water in the leaf cups. Evaporation at the leaf margins may cement them, especially with thin-leaved kinds, firmly enough so that they don't break loose with growth. High humidity minimizes the trouble; and frequent misting with water, or better yet the soaking here described, cures it.
The involvement of trace-elements in cause and cure of the condition has been postulated, but there seems no occasion for this assumption as the simple explanation is straightforward and perfectly adequate.
Roger K. Taylor, Winter Garden, Florida.
KATHLEEN M. BURT AND DAVID H. BENZINGMany horticulturists and plant scientists have reported that cupforming epiphytic bromeliads in nature obtain most of their required mineral nutrients from decaying plant and animal materials present in rainwater normally contained between overlapping leafbases forming the rosette. Equally common is the assumption that nonwater impounding epiphytic species such as Tillandsia usneoides and T. recurvata obtain necessary nutrients from wind-blown dust particles and other debris deposited in and around the entire shoot system. Specifically, the unique absorbing scales present and obvious on the leaves of most bromeliads are thought to be instrumental in this foliar absorption. In contrast to the scale equipped leaves, the root system of true epiphytic species is thought to serve the plant primarily as a holdfast organ securing the plant to a host tree rather than as a functional nutrient absorbing apparatus. If such statements are true, epiphytic bromeliads, particularly cup-forming species, may be considered among the few flowering plant groups to have evolved a distinct carnivorous nutrition. Carnivorous plants in this sense can be described as species which have evolved organs, usually modified leaves or parts of leaves, which impound animal life either actively or passively and can absorb nutrients liberated when animal material decays or is digested within the impounding organ.
Although some indirect evidence of foliar nutrient absorption has been apparent to bromeliad growers for some time, little direct evidence of nutrient uptake through leaves and subsequent absorbed nutrient movement to other plant parts is currently available. Likewise, the relative importance of root absorption as opposed to leaf absorption capacity has not been evaluated precisely. A characterization of mineral absorption in the Bromeliaceae is certainly pertinent to the general interests of bromeliad, enthusiasts and may prove valuable to individuals with commercial interests in bromeliad growth and propagation. The experiment reported here represents a small part of an ongoing effort at Oberlin College to gain a detailed understanding of bromeliad physiology and ecology.
Methods: Until fairly recently, the greatest difficulty encountered while investigating the site and rate of nutrient absorption in plants related to the problem of distinguishing between nutrients absorbed by plants during experimental treatment periods and identical nutrients already present in the plant prior to experimental manipulation. If one is to accurately determine the amounts of nutrient taken up by various plant organs during experimental periods and the final location of these absorbed nutrients after the experimental treatment, such distinctions are absolutely necessary.
Recent advances in radiation chemistry have provided the botanist interested in plant nutrition with a new and powerful research tool. About seventy years ago physicists discovered that many chemical elements such as iron, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc, exist in several forms which are chemically identical but differ in their weight and in some cases their atomic stability. Such forms of a single element are known as isotopes of that element. These isotopes are so similar in their chemical characteristics that plants and animals possessing physiological needs for these elements are unable to distinguish between them. For example, a plant provided an equal mixture of iron isotopes will take up all the isotopic forms at random with no preference for any particular isotope.
Certain kinds of isotopes called radioisotopes are unstable and decay at a predictable rate into other elements or other isotopes of the same element. This decay is usually accompanied by the emission of a constant amount of atomic energy as radiation which can be detected and measured by appropriate instruments such as the Geiger counter.
Chemical element isotopes available to plants and animals in nature are, fortunately, largely of the nonradioactive type. For this reason plants grown under normal treatment or in nature contain very little radioactive isotope material and therefore emit very small amounts of radiation energy.
Recently, pure samples of several chemical elements made up largely of the radio-isotopic form have been made commercially available to the scientific community. Such samples are produced by subjecting a sample of an appropriate, nonradioactive isotope found in nature to strong bombardment from a very powerful radiation source. Such radioisotope formation also takes place during atomic explosions the radioisotopes thus produced represent radioactive fallout.
In this investigation four groups consisting of nine to sixteen Billbergia chloristicta plants were furnished solutions containing known amounts of either radioactive isotopes of iron, calcium, phosphorous or zinc in the chloride form. All four elements are among those necessary for normal plant growth. About one-half of the plants in each group were grown in four-inch pots containing washed sand to which was added a known amount of radioactive solution. The other half of each group, also growing in washed sand, received the same amount of radioactive solution within the cup area. Great care was taken to prevent sand contamination by cup leakage in the second group. All plants used were cuttings which had been growing in sand for two months prior to addition of the radioactive nutrients. All but a few cuttings had produced small side shoots during this pre-experiment period. Each plant was permitted to absorb and translocate provided radioactive nutrients for a period of thirty-five to forty days. During the experimental period cups and sand of all plants were kept moist with distilled water.
|Figure I. Billbergia chlorosticta as a rooted cutting. The extent of the five plant parts analyzed in this experiment is indicated by labeled arrows and dotted lines. The stippled area indicates the approximate volume occupied by radioactive nutrient solution in cup supplied plants.|
After 35 to 40 days all plants were harvested, washed and each plant cut into five parts: roots, rhizome, side shoot, cup area and leaf portions above the cup. The extent of these plant parts and the portion of the cup occupied by radioactive material when provided can be seen in Figure I. The cup area or root system in the case of plants provided radioactive nutrient through the cup and roots respectively were discarded. The remaining four parts were dried, weighed and reduced to mineral ash in a special oven. The resulting ash was dissolved in a known volume of dilute acid and a known volume of this acid solution was assayed with appropriate instruments to detect and measure the amount of radioactivity and thus incorporated radioactive nutrient in each sample. The total amount of radioactivity present in a sampled plant part was directly proportional to the amount of furnished radioactive element translocated into that organ from the application site.
Absorbed and translocated nutrient material was measured in this manner for each plant part for all 49 plants used in this study. Calculations were then made to determine the portions of nutrient translocated from the absorption site to each of the four parts assayed. The averaged results for each treatment are provided in Table I.
|Nutrient element applied||Organ of application||Plants with side shoot present||Plants with side shoot absent|
Table I. Percentage values presented in this table represent averaged proportions of translocated minerals
localized in the various plant parts following root or leaf absorption. The numbers of plants subjected
to each treatment is also recorded. Average percent values are calculated separately for plants bearing
side shoots and plants lacking side shoots.
Results: The data presented in Table I indicates that significant portions of all four elements were translocated to all parts of experimental plants following absorption by both roots and leaf surfaces. The percentages given in Table I represent portions of the absorbed and translocated element (minus the radioactive nutrient localized in the area of application) found in various parts of the test plants after treatment. Data on the radioactive nutrient content of root systems in plants treated through the roots are not included in the table since root systems were discarded from root treated plants. Likewise the cup area was discarded during analysis of plants which were treated through the cups. As a result, values given in Table I represent only percentages of the total nutrient translocated from the absorption area. This method of analysis is designed to exclude from the final value extraneous radioactive nutrient material which cannot be washed off the treated plant parts. All portions, therefore, represent actual nutrient material utilized by the plant to meet its nutritional requirements. The absolute amounts of nutrient material translocated to each plant organ can be and were determined by weight, but this information is not included in the table.
Although considerable radioactive nutrient was located in all plant parts examined, considerable variation existed among the portions of nutrient localized in different parts of the same plant and among the same parts of different plants treated with different nutrients. These differences are in large part attributable to several well known factors. First, the vigor of individual test plants varied and this difference in growth rate and general health significantly affects nutrient uptake and translocation. Second, the disproportionately large amounts of nutrient localized in young side shoots reflect the relatively high nutrient needs of actively growing tissues. This logic will also explain the small amounts of radioactivity found in fully grown leaf parts above the cup area. Third, it is also known that the amount of various nutrients needed by plant tissue varies considerably with the element and tissue concerned. Finally it must be remembered that the amount of plant material making up each plant part is grossly unequal in young, rooted cuttings. This would explain why roots, although actively growing, contained a relatively small portion of the total translocated nutrients. On a weight basis growing roots accumulate relatively large amounts of nutrient from the cup area, but the root system of these cuttings usually constituted less than five per cent of each plant's total mass. Further, much of the root system was dead prior to the experimental period.
Discussion: This experiment clearly indicates that cuttings of Billbergia chlorosticta are capable of absorbing several nutrients both through the leaves in the cup area and through the root system. It is also significant that the final portions of absorbed nutrients located throughout the various plant organs were substantial after the treatment period regardless of initial point of nutrient entry. Thus foliar absorption appears to be generally equivalent to root absorption in meeting nutrient needs throughout the entire plant body.
Although all four elements tested were similarly absorbed and transported throughout Billbergia chlorosticta cuttings, the foliar absorption and translocation of the element calcium is most significant. Calcium relative to other essential elements is notoriously immobile in flowering plants. This immobility is apparently attributable to rapid and irreversible binding of calcium within living tissues shortly after calcium leaves the water conducting system within the plant subsequent to uptake from the soil by roots. The immobility of calcium is not a problem to terrestrial plants since the root system furnishes a constant supply of calcium to all plant organs via the upward flowing water conducting system. Contrariwise, although epiphytic bromeliads usually have root systems which possess absorption capacity in at least some cases, little nutrient material including calcium is available to the root system in nature. The requirement for calcium as well as all other essential nutrients in epiphytic bromeliads then must be met by uptake and movement of absorbed elements from parts or all of the leaf surface area. Billbergia chlorosticta is an epiphytic bromeliad which obviously possesses the necessary physiological mechanisms to effect satisfaction of nutrient needs by this unusual route.
Simple demonstration of nutrient absorption by leaves in a single bromeliad species is significant, but really only amounts to a small step toward understanding the large and complex problem of nutritional physiology and ecology among bromeliads.
Once equipped with the knowledge that some epiphytic bromeliads possess the potential to absorb available nutrients from the cup area, one of the next logical steps is a determination of the chemical nature and origin of nutrient materials present in the cup areas under normal conditions in nature. When these materials are identified and their origin and amounts established one can attempt to discover which naturally occurring compounds are actually incorporated into the plant as nutrient materials. True carnivorous plants should exhibit a capacity to utilize nutrients from digested or decaying materials when these liberated nutrients are still in a fairly complex organic state.
At the present time experiments are being conducted in this laboratory which are designed to provide basic information on nitrogen nutrition in a variety of bromeliad species. Since procurement of normally unavailable nitrogen in the environment is the primary benefit accruing from carnivorous nutrition, detailed characterization of nitrogen nutrition in bromeliads could provide compelling evidence of true carnivorous nutrition in the Bromeliaceae.
Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio.
OUR MAN IN WEST GERMANY
From the very inception of The Bromeliad Society, Dr. Richard Oeser, our Honorary Trustee in West Germany, has been one of its most enthusiastic and active members. His interest has never wavered through the years, and he has consistently been one of the chief contributors to the Bulletin. In fact, the successes that many of the members have had with their Tillandsias have been due largely to his splendid articles on their propagation and culture. From the first, Tillandsias have been his special love and he has one of the finest collections in Europe.
His interest in bromeliads, Dr. Oeser tells us, started with his collection of rare tropical frogs, when he was looking for plants that would provide them with a proper environment. He found bromeliads ideal for this purpose, as the little frogs delighted in living in the natural aquarium formed by the leaves. In turn, the bromeliads seem to thrive with the moisture which has been fed by nature's compost.
Dr. Oeser originally came from Frankfurt (Main), where he had been chief physician for many years. Since his retirement, he has resided in the Black Forest, one of the loveliest spots in Germany.
|Bromelia karatas and Mrs. Lecoufle near Cayenne|
We arrived in Guiana by plane, landing at the new airport outside the capital, Cayenne. That we were in the tropics was almost immediately evident, for on our short ride to the city we saw the trees full of such orchids as Oncidium altissimum, Encyclia, Catasetum, and Epidendrum. In the center of town the most spectacular are the Epidendrum ciliare , which grow on the trunks of the palms.
Bromeliads are to be seen in many places. One interesting trip we took was to St. Laurent on a road built by convicts. Bridges over the several rivers had not yet been completed, so we had to take ferry boats. Beyond the Cayenne River are dense forests, which to our dismay were thickly populated by very aggressive mosquitoes. It was here that we first saw Bromelia karatas , a large species with leaves 2 to 3 meters long. The flowers, which nestled in the heart, are pink. We also saw this large bromeliad on our way back between Cayenne and the airport.
Tillandsia flexuosawith only two roots on a tiny branch. The flower spike is not fully developed.
Aechmea melinoniiabout to be pollinated by a humming bird.
It was near the little town of Kourou that we spotted an old tree without any leaves on which grew Aechmea melinonii. This large bromeliad is pollinated by humming birds, as you can see in my picture. From this old tree, the same Aechmea had fallen in quantities on the ground; in the shade the plants looked different from their epiphytic brothers. The ones in the sun are yellowish, whereas on the ground in the shade they turn much larger and dark green. The leaves average 5 cm wide and the plant is 60 cm high.
|Three bromeliads of French Guiana||
|Guzmania berteroniana||Gravisia aquilega|
|Hohenbergias seen through a telephoto lens.|
Following the road to the Indian villages Sinnamary, Iracoubo, and Organabo, we saw large trees full of epiphytic plants. I gathered many of the bromeliads, but do not know what they are as they have not yet bloomed. The largest one was evidently a Hohenbergia.
The interesting Tillandsia flexuosa is a rare plant in Guiana; however, I had the luck to find some near the road between Kourou and Sinnamary. This species grows only on citrus. The roots of this Tillandsia appear to be very weak, as many of the plants had fallen on to the white sand beneath. We gathered only those plants which were on the ground.
I did not have the time to visit an interesting place near Surinam between the Coswine and Vaches rivers. There are a number of bromeliads to be found here, among which are Nidulariums. The only access to this region is by foot path or by boat.
Guzmania berteroniana has also flowered for me. The bracts are red, the flowers are yellow, and the reverse side of the leaves are claret-wine. Another Guzmania, which is very common in these forests, is Guzmania lingulata var. minor . Its foliage is pale green; the bracts are scarlet-orange.
I found Streptocalyx longifolium growing on an old log on the top of an ant's nest. I was compelled to wash the plants for over an hour to free them of these pests, which are so numerous in this country. This species in full sun has purplish foliage.
This large country can really be seen only by way of its rivers. There are travel agencies which will arrange trips from 2 days to 1 month in duration. Arrangements must be made several months in advance. Each trip is prepared for four men only, who must hunt and fish for their meals. The water, fortunately, is always drinkable. The longest trip starts at the Surinam frontier on the Maroni River and extends to the Brazilian border. The way back is on the Oyapock River. If something goes wrong on the trip, a radio gives the signal to the helicopter center in order to bring the necessary assistance.
Besides bromeliads I also collected Heliconias, palms of many kinds, aroids, and many orchids.
Boissy-St. Leger, France.
HERBERT H. PLEVERWhile visiting Aalsmeer, Holland, this past summer, I was introduced by A. Orloff-Davidoff to BROMBLOEI, a Dutch brand of B.O.H. (labeled 2-hydroxyaethylhydrazine-B.O.H.).
From the satisfactory results obtained from the limited use of BROMBLOEI for the past six months, I am encouraged to believe that this product can overcome many of the problems which I encountered in treating indoor-grown bromeliads with OMAFLORA. It might be helpful if I first outline these difficulties before describing the work with BROMBLOEI. I have intermittently used OMAFLORA over the past two years with mixed, spotty results similar to those indicated by William S. Cate in the Nov.-Dec. 1967 Bulletin, Vol. 17, No. 6. Like Cate, I also followed the procedure recommended for OMAFLORA by Drs. Cathey and Downs, of filling the cups to overflowing with a .1% solution (Sept.-Oct. 1965 Bulletin , Vol. 15, No. 5).
Alas, many of the treated plants suffered from burn damage to the center growing point, or damage to many outer leaves. My experiences indicate that the conclusions reached by Cathey and Downes may not be relevant for bromeliads grown indoors or in the northern latitudes with respect to the following problem areas:
There appears to be a critically limited range of tolerance by bromeliads to B.O.H. and of its efficacy in different strengths and volumes. It is probable that the more vigorous bromeliads" grown outdoors or in greenhouses in the more southern climates have a wider range of tolerance. This tolerance differs quite markedly between different species and, probably, also between the same species grown under different conditions or environments. It therefore follows that one recommended strength and volume of solution for all bromels will be highly inappropriate; the correct levels will have to be pragmatically determined by each grower himself. So far as my indoor grown plants are concerned, I believe most of the burn damage observed was due to the excessive volume of B.O.H. received by the plants.
The foregoing problem of ascertaining with relative precision the correct strength of the solution for different plants raises one of the prime drawbacks with the form of OMAFLORA namely, its very high viscosity. This prevents accurate measurement even of large quantities in the first place, and then makes it almost impossible to measure the minute amounts of B.O.H. needed for treating one or two plants.
It is not only pointless and expensive for the average bromeliad grower to mix a gallon or even a quart solution of OMAFLORA at one time, but my experience indicates that the diluted solution is quite unstable. Thus, I found that a .1% solution of OMAFLORA kept in a tightly capped, brown glass jar in a dark closet was wholly impotent after three months.
In BROMBLOEI, the B.O.H. is suspended in a fluid of low viscosity, like water. Unlike OMAFLORA, which comes in an 80% concentrate, BROMBLOEI is made in a 1% strength. In contrast to the OMAFLORA solution strength of .1% to .2% and the high volume treatment recommended by Cathey, BROMBLOEI'S instructions call for dilution with water to obtain a 15 milliliter (cc) solution for each plant at strengths ranging from .03% for a Vriesea splendens to .08% for an Aechmea fasciata . The 15 ml solution barely fills the bottom of the cup of a large plant. The .03% strength needs ½ mil of concentrate for a 15 ml solution and the .08% strength requires 1Ό ml of BROMBLOEI.
With the aid of a 1 ml glass pipette graduated into tenths of a milliliter (a small rubber bulb may be used to facilitate the withdrawal of the concentrated BROMBLOEI from the bottle), and a 25 ml glass cylinder graduated into 1 ml markings, I am able to obtain reasonably accurate measurements to experiment with a range of different strengths and volumes of solutions. The basic 1% concentrate of BROMBLOEI remains relatively untainted in the bottle and I only use what is needed from treatment to treatment. I have not had a single burn on any of my bromeliads treated to date. According to the instructions, the inflorescence is expected to mature within three to four months after treatment far slower than the results with OMAFLORA. The plants treated to date and the results follow:
Guzmania zahnii Treated with a .03% 15ml solution (.5m1 of concentrate) of BROMBLOEI. Successful inflorescence reached full height within three months and is still in color although the plant was in relatively poor condition when treated. G. zahnii seems to be extremely easy to treat with B.O.H.; it also bloomed with OMAFLORA treatment.
Aechmea Χ 'Red Wing' (?) .03% 15 ml solution produced a large inflorescence of good color within three months. (Of possibly related significance was an untreated V. splendens , standing next to the treated plant, which bloomed shortly afterward though it was slightly smaller than its usual blooming size.)
Guzmania musaica With a previously damaged center from OMAFLORA treatment, a .03% 15 ml. solution of BROMBLOEI produced a basal offset within two months.
Wittrockia smithii Treated with a .03% 15 ml solution and produced no inflorescence, but, instead, a new plant coming up from the center. A similar result occurred to a six month old Guzmania patula pup which was standing next to one of the treated plants and also formed a new plant growing up from the center. It would be helpful to a better understanding of this subject if our botanical researchers could tell us exactly what cellular changes occur in the cup as a result of the intervention of B.O.H.
Neoregelia carolinae var. tricolor Treated with a .056% solution (.85 ml of concentrate) of 15 ml and produced a beautiful inflorescence within 2½ months.
Nidularium billbergioides var. citrinum Treated with a .05% 15 ml solution (.75 ml of concentrate) and its inflorescence is now up about 1½ inches after 1½ months.
Vriesea hieroglyphica Treated with a .03% 15 ml solution without any result after five months. Plant is very large and I believe the 15 ml solution may have been insufficient in volume to induce bloom. I plan to treat the plant again with a volume of 30 ml and a slightly stronger solution.
Canistrum lindenii Treated with a .03% 15 ml solution. No definite bloom observable yet after five months, but the center leaves at the bottom of the cup are red and the growing point is enlarged. This also may need a stronger solution.
BROMBLOEI is manufactured by Amsterdamsche Chininefabriek of Amsterdam, Holland and is available in 250 ml bottles at $7.00 each plus about $1.00 in shipping costs. It is made specifically for the blooming of bromeliads and is used extensively by the commercial growers of Vriesea splendens and Aechmea fasciata in the Netherlands.
I regret that I do not have a sufficient number of plants to be able to test a broad range of B.O.H. strengths and also use untreated plants as controls for the foregoing experiments, but the space limitation of my apartment makes this difficult. It is clear that much work remains to be done in this field before definite conclusions can be drawn. BROMBLOEI does appear to have a great potential and is well worth testing. I hope that the large scale growers will take up this challenge.
On Multiplication, Transplanting, and Planting of Epiphytes
In this lesson for beginners, we shall discuss the best way to handle our plants starting from the very beginning. Let us assume that you bought a bromeliad plant in flower and enjoyed its bloom, but now the spike has become brown and unsightly. What shall you do? The plant is not worthless; if it had been treated carefully and the cup always held water, the bromeliad will live on.
Cut away the faded flower stalk and concentrate your attention on the proper development of the pups that will soon appear. Aechmea fasciata, one of the most popular bromels in Europe, and many other species produce side shoots that soon develop roots of their own. As they grow, slowly, the offshoots will eventually get too crowded to go on living attached to the mother plant. The question arises what to do next. In the interest of the best development of the pups, I strongly recommend not to take them away from the old plant too early. It is essential that they be of adequate size, have a number of leaves of their own, and that they look like an independent plant before they can safely be detached. How many leaves they should have and how large these should be cannot be prescribed, for that depends on the peculiarities of the species and on the condition of the mother plant. If you are not quite sure the correct moment has arrived, ask your nurseryman. This advice, however, is given with restrictions because not every nurseryman is familiar with bromeliads. If you can see roots on the young plant you may remove it. Cut the two plants apart, using a sharp knife or garden shears; make the cut near the mother plant on the woody portion of the young stem. Be careful to make a dean cut, spare the old plant, and don't cut yourself when handling the knife. If the cut is made in the soft part of the stem, it might rot. Removal is easy if the pup has only a few short roots; if the young roots have taken hold in the soil, loosen it carefully before lifting the plant.
In some bromeliad species the new shoot grows at the end of a side stalk up to 20 cm long; it may even rise above the mother plant. If you detached such a pup in the manner just described, it would be much too long to fit in a pot. You must, therefore, shorten the stalk. It is hard to say exactly how much of it can be discarded because some of the species are slow to issue roots. In any case, roots develop faster near the ground, so leave a few cm of the woody part that can be stuck into the soil; don't cut away too much.
Detaching Vriesea pups is more difficult, the exception being the varieties and hybrids of the V. splendens tribe. In them the new shoot sprouts in the center right next to the withered flower spike as if it were a continuation of the mother plant. The old plant will die off gradually. It would be impossible to detach the pup, and it would make no sense anyway, as regeneration is spontaneous. Still other species of Vriesea have no stalk at all. Their pups develop in the leaf axils. Utmost care must be exercised when detaching the pups. Don't hurt the old plant, for it will in time produce more pups if it does not get harmed. Pups should have reached proper size before they are cut off. Their base should be slightly woody as a safeguard against decay.
Cryptanthus poses practically no problem. Nearly all of the species produce their pups in the upper leaf-axils and can be easily lifted out when sufficiently grown. In some species the pups are expelled by pressure from the old leaf blade. C. zonatus and a few others produce in addition stolons that can be used for multiplication.
Pups that have not yet roots of their own may be left to dry a few days before potting. This will let the cut heal and avoid decay. But if roots are present and it is good if they are the pup should be planted immediately. The cut may be powdered with a little ground charcoal to avoid decay.
Obtaining the proper soil mix for potting may be something of a problem for those who live in large cities. In no case will ordinary garden soil answer the purpose; the point is to have a loose and porous mix. Half-rotted leaf mold, peat flakes, and sand are acceptable. Those who live near pine forests may use some of the forest soil to advantage if it is not too decayed. In this case the addition of forest moss and sand will correct the condition. Thoroughly crushed fragments of bricks or flower pots also help to aerate the mixture. It should be moderately moist, not too wet nor too dry.
Select small pots for planting. The first thing a pup must do is build up a root system of its own. If the pot is too large, it will retard growth rather than further it. When planting, it is important to give the seedling or offset proper level. If it is sunk too deeply, decay is apt to ensue; if placed too high roots don't get proper support. If the potting mix is very loose, it will be necessary to compact it, else the young plant will not have the proper hold.
Warmth is necessary to permit rapid formation of a good root system, which is the starting point of good general growth. Let us place our charges in a warm location, out of a draft, and where there is light. At first the mix in the pots should be kept only moderately humid. It is a trick to coax the roots to grow. The little plants are moisture hungry, and they can only absorb moisture if they have generous roots. Put water in the funnels and keep adding to it from the very beginning. Young plants need high humidity. This is provided in a glass house, but in the home a glass vault can be improvised by using a dish or jar placed upside down on the pot. As humidity in the mix is increased, it precipitates on the glass and keeps the inside humid.
The development of offshoots is slow. The bromeliad enthusiast does well to keep this in mind from the start. As the plants increase in size, they will have to be transplanted, but don't do it too soon. Bromeliads, especially the epiphytes, prefer small containers. If a plant seems definitely to have outgrown its pot, loosen it carefully and lift it out. Bromeliad-roots make intimate contact with the inner wall of the pot, a habit they brought from their virgin forest home, where they cling tightly to tree bark or to rocks on which they live. If you find the root system very dense and clinging to the pot, it is best to crack the pot instead of unduly meddling with the roots.
The next mixture should be like the old, or similar, that is, coarse, mixed with sand and moss, and half decomposed. Only the hardier species of Billbergia, Aechmea, and Neoregelia tolerate addition of heavier soil. The new pot should be a little larger than the previous one, but not as large as you would choose for an ordinary fast-growing plant. Again it is important to give the plant the correct level. It may be just slightly above the first one. Again compact the mix to give the plant support.
Limit watering during the first period after replanting. As a general rule it is well to replant in spring or in summer in order to profit from the plants' natural inclination to grow during the period. New plants need special care in the form of more warmth and frequent spraying with warm water.
When the development process has been completed and the nursing period is over (it may differ considerably with each species), the plant lover will have the reward of a bloom. It is important that while the bud is forming, the funnel should always hold sufficient water. Water will not harm the bud; on the contrary, too little water may stunt the bud's development, it may even stop the process altogether.
Bromeliads that have a bud deserve a privileged place in the house, a spot where they get light and warmth. The speed at which the spike develops depends on the species. Watching the successive steps of the flower development is a special treat for the true plantsman. When the inflorescence is fully grown, the plants can be moved to a cooler spot this may lengthen the bloom period. A slightly reduced temperature at this stage will cause no harm. Bromeliad growers are reminded that infinite patience is an important ingredient in their cultivation especially if flowers do not appear when expected. When blooming is over, the pups appear. Some species produce offshoots even earlier. The term varies. Now the cycle starts all over again.
No doubt growing bromeliads in pots is by far the easiest and most practical way, but to obtain special effects epiphytic species can be cultivated in a way that more or less resembles their native habitat. It means good-bye to the flower-pot, that supposedly indispensable piece of houseplant crockery.
The idea to fasten the plants on a piece of driftwood, tree bark, or on a stocky root fragment comes intuitively because that is how the plants live in nature in their homeland. Unfortunately our indoor atmosphere is too dry for most species, so that extra care is necessary to keep the plants in good shape. It can be done, however. Bromels selected to lead an epiphytic life should be removed from their pot. Shake out the mix and wrap the root in sphagnum or in the dry roots of Polypodium vulgare. Then tie the plant tightly on the selected piece of support using non-rusting wire. Watch aesthetic proportions: a large plant on a thin twig would never look natural; likewise bulky driftwood makes small plants look puny. Assembling specimens of various size in an artistic disposition can be very effective.
Artificial bromeliad branches of this kind for use indoors should be thoroughly drenched every few days to allow the moss to adsorb the water. The drawback of moss in such an arrangement is that if it gets too dry it will lose its capacity to absorb water. A better method, when using small pieces of wood, is to scoop out grooves in which to settle the plants. Each groove should have a drain to let off surplus water. As most small bromels have only a modest root system the arrangement can last quite a while. Another suggestion is to use sections of thick bamboo. Make a few cuts to hold the plants, hang the bamboo up straight or diagonally. Very pretty containers are made of pine bark or of cork-oak bark; here the artist has free run as long as he allows a hollow big enough to secure the plant. Bark can also be used to make supports on larger bromeliad trees, or you can fix sections of it around the pot if you feel loath to take the plant out.
Watering a bromeliad tree inside the home is not as simple as watering potted plants. Liquid will gather in places, dribble, and tarnish furniture and floors. Thus a tree in a sitting room poses a problem unless a moisture-proof mat can be provided; or the tree can be erected inside a wooden container in such a way that most of the extra water will run into it. The container should also contain plants. (Pages 117-135).
|6 mm|| Ό inch|
|12 mm|| ½ inch|
|25 mm|| 1 inch|
|10 mm|| 1 cm (centimeter)|
|2.5 cm|| 1 inch|
|5 cm|| 2 inches|
|10 cm|| 1 dm (decimeter)|
|1 dm|| 4 inches|
|3 dm|| 1 foot|
|10 dm|| 39 inches, 1 yard, 1 meter|
Two bromeliads collected by M. Lecoufle on his trip to French Guiana.