THE BROMELIAD SOCIETY BULLETIN|
The Bromeliad Society Bulletin is the official publication
of the Bromeliad Society, a non-profit corporation organized in 1950. The
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OFFICERS President Charles A. Wiley Editorial Secretary Victoria Padilla First Vice President Jack M. Roth Membership Secretary Jeanne Woodbury Second Vice President Fritz Kubisch Treasurer Virginia Berezin BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Ralph Davis, Florida
George Kalmbacher, New York
Fritz Kubisch, California
W. R. Paylen, California
Ralph Spencer, California
Charles Wiley, California
Wilbur Wood, California
Virginia Berezin, California
George Milstein, New York
Victoria Padilla, California
John Riley, California
Jack M. Roth, California
Jeanne Woodbury, California
Ervin Wurthmann, Florida
William Dunbar, California
Elmer Lorenz, California
Edward McWilliams, Michigan
Patrick Mitchell, Texas
Eric Knobloch, Louisiana
Kelsey Williams, California
Adda Abendroth, Brazil
Luis Ariza-Julia, Dominican Republic
W. B. Charley, Australia
Mulford B. Foster, U.S.A.
Marcel Lecoufle, France
Harold Martin, New Zealand
Richard Oeser, Germany
Prof. Dr. W. Rauh, Germany
Raulino Reitz, Brasil
Walter Richter, Germany
Dr. L. B. Smith, U.S.A.
Robert G. Wilson, Costa Rica
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Tillandsia punctulata, native to southern Mexico and Central America. Photo by Dr. W. Rauh.
|Costa Rica — The Land of the Painted Ox Cart is a gentle yet exciting country.|
It is difficult to write of any aspect of the plant life of Costa Rica without resorting to superlatives, for no other area of equal size in the Western Hemisphere can boast of so rich and varied a flora; and probably no place in the world is more interesting botanically. Certainly, this tiny country is a bromeliad collector's paradise, as it is here that the flora of North and South America overlap.
Although a small area of only 18,500 square miles (it is scarcely more than 100 miles across from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea), there are few tropical regions where there is such a diversity of growing conditions. One passes from the hot, humid seacoast, through steaming lowlands, on to the temperate central plateau, known as the Meseta Central, and then to the high rugged mountain country rising to 12,000 feet, where rain and mists and cold prevail. Almost one third of Costa Rica consists of high hills and mountains, nearly all of which are volcanic in origin and rugged in character. Transportation at best is difficult; roads are poor and few, so there remains much unexplored wooded land for the plantsman in his search of the rare, the beautiful, and the unknown. The bulk of the population lives on the Meseta Central, a delightful area approximately 3,500 to 4,500 feet in elevation. Here is San Jose, the capital, a busy modern city, which is the starting point for all visits to this beautiful little wonderland.
Early this year several of us had the rare good fortune to visit Costa Rica under the aegis of the Organization for Tropical Studies, which has its headquarters in the University at San Jose. This organization is supported by more than two dozen of the leading universities of North America, the purpose of which is to study the plant life of the tropics. Through its assistance, we were able to obtain the necessary busses, Land Rovers, planes, and accommodations that would enable us to sample the various terrains. We were interested in seeing what we could, primarily in the way of bromeliads, orchids, palms, and cycads; but as we were horticulturists we did not plan to overlook the countless aroids, begonias, ferns, gesneriads, etc.
|A typical Costa Rican landscape|
|Tillandsia leiboldiana at home on a living Erythrina fence post.|
Our first few days were spent exploring the countryside adjacent to the capital. I had visited Costa Rica in 1954 (see Bromeliad Society Bulletin, IV, 71) and was surprised to see little change outside San Jose. Costa Rica was still the same green, gentle land with ageratum and epidendrum growing wild along the roadways, with its living fences of erythrinas, its coffee fincas, its amazing diversity of plants and flowers, and always its "simpatico" people. Even nearby Volcan Irazu, which blew its top not so long ago and covered the land with killing fumes and dust, had not seemed to leave too great a mark, the tropical verdure covering most of the scars, although some do remain.
But we must talk about bromeliads, for this is our subject. Bromeliads are abundant in all parts of the country, especially at middle and high elevations. Rare is the tree that does not act as a host to these ubiquitous plants. Even in the towns, despite the fumes of passing traffic, the trees that line the streets or beautify the plazas are laden with Tillandsias. The fence posts of erythrinas seen everywhere throughout the country harbor Tillandsias, Vrieseas, Catopsis, and Aechmeas, often to an overwhelming degree. So it is not necessary for the collector to trespass on private pasture to gather specimens.
Usually, the first trip that a visitor takes is to the summit of Irazu, which rises to an elevation of almost 11,000 feet. The ascent to this volcano is an easy one, affording the traveler unexcelled views of the valley, the town of Cartago, the Reventazon River, Orosi, and the mountains beyond. Every roadside tree, large or small, bears a varied burden of epiphytes—orchids, gesneriads, and brilliant bromeliads. In the rarefied atmosphere of the higher altitudes bromeliads tend to assume a fantastically vivid coloration, which, unfortunately, they lose when brought down to lower levels. Charles Lankester, our late trustee, whose garden near Cartago still draws plant lovers, bemoaned the fact that he found it impossible to grow many of the orchids, bromeliads, and other plants native to the high mountain slopes although his estate was at a 4,000-foot elevation.
At 9,000 feet we entered a cloud forest, a magical place of changing lights and shadows, the tall trees gay with the crimson rosettes of Vriesea irazuensis, a robust-appearing plant with an imposing spike two feet in height. Many specimens lay on the ground—the host trees unable to bear the heavy load of so many epiphytes. These we were able to gather, but tough as these plants appeared, they succumbed to the fumigation they received on their entry into the United States.
One of the unique aspects of the flora of Costa Rica is the high degree of endemism prevalent throughout the country. Every few miles seem to present new and different varieties. For this reason when visiting a certain area it is not wise to pass a desirable plant, for it may never be seen again. When we left Irazu, we said good-bye to its beautiful Vriesea.
Back on the Meseta Central we paid a visit to Las Concavas, the garden-estate of the late Charles Lankester. Because of the great mass of rare plant materials which he had gathered over the many years he had resided in Costa Rica, efforts are being made to turn the site into a botanic garden. The once-beautiful grounds are no longer maintained as they were when the owner could oversee their care, but bromeliads and orchids still abound everywhere. Here, too, many of the plants growing in full light attain a brilliance not to be seen in a less gentle climate. Of striking beauty was the rock wall the top of which was covered with vividly red Tillandsia lindenii.
Again we were on our way, this time to the lovely Orosi Valley, not far from Las Concavas, where the bromeliads clung to the trees in such masses, they all but hid the foliage of their host. This time we did edge through barbed wire barriers to collect some of the myriad of epiphytes that were precious to us but no doubt were weeds to the Costa Ricans. Here grew in abundance the beautiful red-spotted Tillandsia leiboldiana, pictured by Morris Hobbs on the cover of the Bulletin for June, 1961, and described by him as a new variety "guttata." With its bright maroon-edged leaves, it certainly is one of the most brilliant of the species; however, this vivid coloration fades when the plant is brought back into captivity and it soon becomes indistinguishable from the other leiboldianas collected in Mexico and elsewhere.
We also saw countless of the once so-called Thecophyllums (now in the genus Vriesea) ranging from dainty miniatures to plants measuring 18 inches across—all in the brightest hues and mottlings. All were gems, to be sure, but, alas, they were not for us, as most of them pine away when taken from their homeland. Aechmea mexicana was everywhere in evidence, as were other Aechmeas and Catopsis which we could not identify. Among the Tillandsias we recognized were T. anceps, T. adpressa, T. balbisiana, T. brachycaulos, T. punctulata, T. butzii, T. filifolia, T. juncea, T. melanocrater, T. pruinosa, T. schiedeana, and T. tricolor. It was dusk when we drove down the valley to see its famous "Bridal Waterfall," but more inspiring to us were the rock cliffs that towered above the road and that were festooned with bridal veils of Tillandsia usneoides.
But we could not linger, although we were loath to leave this delightful valley. The next morning saw us on our way south to a beautiful area four miles north of the Panamanian border—our destination, the little isolated hamlet of San Vito de Java. Situated at an elevation of 4,500 feet, this village is set among some of the richest flora to be found anywhere. Communication to San Vito is poor; there is no telephone, only radio. The road there from the capital is long and arduous and all but impassable in the rainy season. A small 3-seater plane maintains a fairly regular service between San Vito and San Jose, but the plane is not too young and the going can be perilous in stormy weather. The pilot had to make four trips to take care of our party; the first, leaving at 6:30 in the morning being the only flight that was smooth. The hour-long trip takes one over unexplored mountain country, a happy hunting ground for the botanist who can make his way through the dense jungle.
It took us a half hour to negotiate the four-mile trip over the bumpy road from the air field to the dormitory that was to serve as our headquarters. Several years ago the late Stanley Smith, plantsman from Nassau, was so impressed by the countryside that he built a dormitory to be used by classes from the university or any other serious minded group interested in Costa Rican flora. These are the only accommodations in this area and are definitely restricted, so we felt fortunate indeed to be so comfortably housed.
According to Robert Wilson, whose estate we visited, this area, which is still largely in its primitive state, does not have the quantity or variety of bromeliads to be found elsewhere in Costa Rica, where man has cleared the forests. Bromeliads, as a rule, need light, and in the thick, dark jungles seldom thrive except high on the trees. However, this region appears to be Guzmania country, for G. zahnii, G. patula, and G. angustifolia covered the trees from the lowest level to the top in the densest, dampest forests. G. zahnii, however, was completely green and lacked the size and lovely reddish hue it assumes in bright light in cultivation.
The Reventazon River meanders across|
Costa Rica through lush tropic growth.
|Bill Paylen and Mike Kashkin look over a day's haul.|
Puya dasylirioides growing in a peat swamp on the
Cerro de la Muerte at an elevation of 10,000 feet. The plant in back is the
fern Lommaria wercklei.
Photo by Bob Wilson
|Tillandsia imperialis attains a height of well over 6 feet and is a vivid maroon.|
We were surprised to see growing in the deep woods, where very little light penetrated, a very large Bromelia with leaves a very dark green reaching to 9 feet. We saw no plants in flower, but assumed it was either B. karatas or B. wercklei, both of which grow in Costa Rica.
The most common Tillandsia in this area is T. tricolor and its variety melanocrater. The showiest, by far, is T. deppeana var. costariense, a large rugged specimen with stiff grey leaves forming a rosette over three feet in diameter. This bromeliad grew high in trees which were sparse of foliage and generally out in the open, so the plants received direct light all day long. The imposing flower spike, which measures three feet in height, bears bright yellow bracts which last in color for months.
Aechmea mexicana and A. tonduzii with its interesting round black berries are fairly common, and occasionally one sees A. pittieri and A. veitchii. There are three Pitcairnias to be found here: P. heterophylla, in both the pink and the white flower forms, P. atrorubens, and a climbing Pitcairnia with orange flowers. We saw a number of large Vrieseas, probably of the Gladioliflora group, but none was in bloom. Vriesea incurva, until recently classified as a Tillandsia, was much in evidence. It is a small greyish Tillandsia-like plant, 6 to 8 inches in diameter with a pendent dusty-rose flower spike. It looked husky to us, but none of our plants came through fumigation.
It had been our intention to visit several areas where timber had recently been cleared to make way for new coffee plantations to search out epiphytes on fallen trees, but each night the rains were so heavy (and this was the dry season) the roads were not passable, and so our excursions were limited to the surrounding region. One of our visits was to the estate of Jack Ozanne, a Manxman who had elected to settle in this remote country. Outstanding in his beautifully landscaped garden were the imposing specimens of Vriesea imperialis that were used as accents on his well-manicured lawn. Growing in full sunlight, they were of a deep rich maroon and towered above the tallest of us.
Only Land Rovers or Jeeps can manage to travel over the road that leads out of San Vito and ultimately to San Jose, but we were off in the best of spirits—our valiant Rovers filled to the brim with orchids and bromeliads—and, best of all—we had two new traveling companions, Bob and Catherine Wilson to serve as our guides and constant delight.
Several miles' drive from town brought us an unexcelled view of Mt. Chiriqui (in Panama), the home of many sought-after botanical treasures. Before noon we had reached Golfito, a little Pacific seaport used by the United Fruit Company in the exportation of bananas. This was the tropics as usually conceived by the average person—hot and humid—the sun pouring down on extravagantly brilliant flowering vines and shrubs and palms with their duster-like heads in infinite variety. Felled trees along the sides of the botanic gardens revealed bromeliads so thick and numberless as to be breath-taking. They were all thin leaved, light green rosettes, evidently Guzmania lingulata var. minor, but all too fragile to withstand a long journey and anyway plentiful in the United States. In the afternoon in search of rare palms (which we found) we managed the worst road yet to reach an altitude of 1,500 feet. Here we saw a number of bromeliads, the red form of Aechmea pubescense in particular, but as it was so often the case, all were too high in the trees for us to collect. This area is also the habitat of the sought-after Aechmea dactylina.
Our next destination was the Inter-American Institute of Agricultural Sciences in Turrialba on the Meseta Central, but to get there we had to cross the Cerro de la Muerte at an elevation of 10,000 feet. This road is part of the Pan-American Highway, but it is unbelievably bad. The long ride is a hard one through mountains where the sun shines but rarely, and mists and fogs and drenching rains are the rule rather than the exception. However, this is one of the most interesting floristic regions of all of Costa Rica, for much of what grows here is to be found only in the high Andes, several hundred miles to the south. This purely Andean type of vegetation vanishes before the center of the country is reached.
|Tillandsia deppeana var. costariense is a large species growing high in bright sunlight.|
Here, a source of wonderment to plantsmen is the one lone Puya to be found outside of South America—Puya dasylirioides. Was it possible that this denizen of the bogs was a relative of the Puya that grows on the dry sun-drenched mountain sides of the Andes? The landscape of this part of the Cerro is possessed of an unworldly, mysterious feeling; the tall grey ghost-like stalks of the Puya, reaching to 7 feet and rearing above wet spongy ground, to us resembled plants of another time and space. Also growing in the same area is another sole North American representative of an Andean group of plants, the fern, Lommaria wercklei, with trunks 3 to 4 feet high and resembling cycads until one examines them closely.
We had fully anticipated reaching Turrialba in time for a good dinner, but fate would not have it so, for the rains descended upon us in such fury as to wipe away part of the road and to leave us stalled for several hours in what seemed to us a freezing mountain top. However, eventually after what seemed an interminable wait and drive we found ourselves once more on the Meseta Central and at midnight in Turrialba. As the grounds of the Agricultural Institute cover over two thousand acres, it was difficult to find our way, as the place was dark and closed for the night. Fortunately, we found a night watchman and with his aid located the two cottages allotted to us.
|Stopping to see what treasures lie beyond the roadside.|
The next morning was bright and sparkling, and the extinct volcano Turrialba was outlined against a brilliant blue sky. The grounds of the Institute are excellently maintained, with acres of well-kept lawns, a good-sized lily pond, beautiful tropical shrubs, and a mouth-watering assortment of magnificent bamboos and palms. The trees were so loaded with epiphytes of every description that we became blasé about the countless bromeliads that inhabited every branch. In the savanna which fronted our cottages, the trees contained an interesting small type of Aechmea nudicaulis, the mature plant measuring less than 10 inches.
For those whose time is limited, there are at least two trips in the vicinity that should be made. One is down toward the Reventazon River about a thousand feet below the grounds. The path winds through dense forest and is the home of the sought-after Cycas skinneri as well as many orchids and bromeliads. A fascinating trip for the bromeliad enthusiast who is used to roughing it and is not allergic to snakes, would be to follow this beautiful meandering river from its source to its mouth, for along its banks are to be found many botanical treasures. Although the road is not good, the visitor should drive at least part ways up Mt. Turrialba, for it is the habitat of choice bomarias, ericas, ferns, begonias, orchids, and, of course, bromeliads. A small purple form of Tillandsia complanata with its many string-like inflorescences was in evidence on the living fences that bordered the road leading to the summit, as were also T. multicaulis, T. valenzuelana, T. juncea, T. venusta, and many others which we could not identify.
Our trip to Limon on the east coast was limited to sightseeing rather than plant collecting, but we carried away one unforgettable sight—a sloth high in a tree hanging from a limb festooned with Tillandsias. For those who have the time and fortitude, there are many fine bromeliads to be found along the Atlantic coast: Aechmea angustifolia, A. magdalenae, A. pubescens, A. penduliflora, Tillandsia monadelpha, T. valenzuelana, Vriesea heliconioides, to name but a few.
So far we had not ventured forth into a deep lowland jungle, and this was to be our next and final trip in Costa Rica. Early one morning we boarded a special small plane to Rio Frio, the site of a large banana plantation (over 5,000 acres in extent) belonging to the Standard Fruit Company. Hot and humid, this land to the northeast of Mt. Irazu certainly does not live up to its name, for frio it was not, and there was no evidence of a river. The plantation is ever expanding, and our purpose was to skirt the deep jungles and see what there was among the newly felled trees that were to make way for more bananas.
The forest growth here at 300 feet elevation is deep and almost impenetrable. The greatest danger it presents to would-be collectors is snakes—all deadly. The Standard Fruit Company, having been alerted by the Organization for Tropical Studies, was most kind, a representative meeting us at the airport, taking us to lunch, and driving us to areas where new clearings had been made. Here were many choice ferns and palms and the rare Cycas pseudoparasitica, which brought joy to several members of the group. Bromeliads were everywhere, but usually so high on the trees as to be unobtainable. On the very top of the highest trees were gigantic specimens of Aechmea Mariae-reginae, truly the queen of the forest. In beauty this giant of the genus has few equals among the many beautiful flowers of Costa Rica. Its dense, elongate flower spikes subtended at the base by long soft, pendent bracts, are tinted with the most lovely and delicate pink that it is possible to imagine. It is too large for the average greenhouse, and coming from a hot, humid area will not survive cold weather. We saw many other bromeliads—Guzmanias in particular, especially Guzmania lingulata and lingulata var. minor. Among the Aechmeas we could identify were A. angustifolia, A. pubescens, A. penduliflora. There were many interestingly marked Vrieseas and many Tillandsias, some with foliage which resembled that of cyanea. The fallen trees were literally covered with thin-leaved Guzmanias, but most of them had already wilted under the hot tropic sun. It was a curious sensation to pick one's way through masses of fallen bromeliads.
But our time was coming to a close, for many of us had commitments to meet back in California and we had to have time to clean and assort those plants which we had collected. We allowed two days for this: cleaning the plants thoroughly, then drying them, and carefully packing them in wicker hampers. We took them with us on the plane and at the flight's end delivered them to the quarantine inspector. A day later, we were able to collect them at the quarantine station, but, alas, most of the plants had received a lethal dose and were a sorry sight even within that short period of time. We could not help feeling that the inspectors had taken a malicious delight in giving our plants such a heavy dosage. For two weeks my greenhouse smelt like a morgue so strong was the fumigation used on the plants—the first time this had ever occurred in my many years of collecting.
But somehow the loss made more precious the very few plants that did survive, and nothing can ever eradicate the wonderful memories collected during our Costa Rican interlude.
Up the road to the home of Robert and Catherine Wilson|
and to a garden paradise beyond.
When the Spanish conquistadors sailed their galleons along the Pacific Coast in search of the terrestrial paradise, they would have found their Eden if they had dropped anchor in the serene waters of La Golfa Dulce and proceeded eastward up the mountains. Today, it is less than a half-day's journey from the southernmost tip of Costa Rica to one of the loveliest spots to be found in this tension-torn world.
Situated on a hill above the jungles of the Rio Java, Las Cruces, the garden home of Robert and Catherine Wilson, is a mecca for plantsmen round the world. Several years ago the Wilsons, weary of the anxieties that beset those who dwell in cities, moved from Miami, Florida, to find a place where they could garden to their heart's content. They found their terrestrial paradise a few miles from the little town of San Vito de Java, about four miles north of the Panamanian border. Here at an elevation of 4,500 feet among gentle rolling hills, where the temperature seldom drops below 65 degrees and rarely rises above 85 degrees and the average rainfall is 150 inches a year, the flora attains a variety and a lushness that would set any horticulturist's heart pounding.
|Our genial hosts — Bob and Catherine Wilson, plantsmen extraordinary.|
Now, after several years the Wilsons have made their 360-acre estate a veritable botanic garden; in fact, such is their aim. They are endeavoring to collect all the plants they can that are native to other parts of Costa Rica as well as try out materials from similar climes in other parts of the world. They are keeping accurate, detailed accounts of all their endeavors and have a card file on all their plants. Part of their acreage is devoted to the raising of coffee. Some is dense primitive forest, especially that part that leads down to the river. The portion surrounding their very comfortable and attractive home is the garden proper. Across from the house on a neighboring knoll is the dormitory built by Stanley Smith to accommodate groups of visiting students and over which the Wilsons have supervision.
The house is perched on the top of a small hill to protect it from flood damage at the time of heavy rains and also to take advantage of the superlative view of the surrounding countryside. Thus the garden around the house is sloped and is in a series of terraces. To appreciate the garden fully and the great amount of effort and knowledge which has gone into its making, one cannot take just a casual walk through the grounds but must devote much time to studying what has been accomplished and what is planned for the future.
|Part of house, showing living room window and bromeliad garden.|
|View of garden and mountains beyond from living room window.|
When the Wilsons left Miami and their nursery known as "Fantastic Gardens," they brought with them many of the plants which they had collected throughout the years. From trips to South America and to the islands of the South Pacific they also brought back many choice orchids and other tropicals. So while much use has been made of indigenous materials—epiphytes, trees, shrubs, ferns, and palms—these are intermingled with aliens such as cymbidiums, camellias, and other denizens of far-away places, and all dwell happily together.
Of especial interest to the bromeliad grower is the garden of epiphytes in which ferns, gesneriads, bromeliads, and orchids are grown together to present an unforgettable display. To show off the bromeliads to their best advantage, the Wilsons secured trunks of tree ferns that had been cut when surrounding forests had been cleared. These the Wilsons reversed, using the large root end for the top and inserting the thin woody section in the ground. Dozens of these imposing fern trunks planted with bromeliads line the paths that wind about the hill. Most of the Aechmeas, Vrieseas, Tillandsias, Guzmanias, Neoregelias, and other genera are choice collector's items and hard to obtain in the United States as well as difficult to grow well. Many were in bloom, but those that seemed outstanding were Aechmea veitchii with its brilliant red cone-shaped flower head, Vriesea incurva with its long pendent dusty pink flower spike, and Aechmea tonduzii with its interesting large round black berries. Here at Las Cruces they have found a condition which suits them to perfection. Now the Wilson's problem is that there is a shortage of large tree fern trunks, and their epiphytes, all so happy, are really growing out of bounds. But what else can one expect in a situation where all plants needs are so readily met?
At the bottom of the hill a path leads into a dense forest, still in its primeval state, except for the passage way hacked out by the Wilsons to facilitate study of the jungle growth by students who make use of the dormitory. A fascinating place, it is the home of all kinds of extraordinary plant life—ferns, palms, aroids, gesneriads, little known vines and shrubs of all sorts, and bromeliads and orchids competing with each other for space on the trees. Here it is dark, for the thick foliage will not allow the sun to penetrate, so only those bromeliads such as Guzmanias, which prefer shaded conditions, abound. This is the home of Guzmania zahnii, of G. angustifolia, of G. patula. Truly this is a wonderful place for all plant lovers, but progress for the visitor is slow because every footstep reveals new, exciting beauties. It is a spot to return to many times.
For those of us who must continually battle the blessings of urban living—the noise, the smog, the pollution of air and water, the depletion of life-giving chemicals in the soil, the harassment of pilferers, the ever-increasing encroachment of freeways and high rises, Las Cruces truly seems a heaven on earth. Here it is quiet, the air is clean and pure, the neighbors few and distant, the soil rich, and the climate kind. Perhaps it was like this in the original Eden.
|The Wilsons' private jungle.|
|Aechmea tonduzii in fruit.|
AMELIA SMITH CALVERT AND PHILIP POWELL CALVERT(Editor's note—In 1917 The MacMillan Company published A Year of Costa Rican Natural History. Chapter XIII "Juan Vinas—The Tenants of Bromeliads" is of special interest to would-be bromeliad collectors, for the authors tell of their experiences looking for insects in these plants. The following are a few excerpts from this chapter.)
The pineapple is the most familiar example of this family of plants but many of the other members are epiphytic. Such are the Tillandsias, or Spanish mosses, which form long grey-green festoons both in tropical and sub-tropical America. Other epiphytic bromeliads of Costa Rica, which in general appearance are more suggestive of pineapples, are of the genera Androlepis, Aechmea, Billbergia and Pitcairnia. Collectively they range from sea-level to the craters of such volcanoes as Irazu (11,000) feet, but they are much more abundant in the moister parts of the country. Sometimes they are situated close to the ground; frequently they are attached to an unbranched trunk thirty or forty feet from the soil, or may be lodged among the branches at a still greater height. Their narrow leaves, often two feet or more long, taper gradually to near the tip; they are toothed or spined on their edges and in color a bright green or a beautiful pink or red. The leaves spring from a very short stalk so that their bases are pressed closely together. As a rule a number of stocks grow side by side on the same host tree; whose trunk or branch they may completely encircle, and as the stocks may also be attached to each other it is not easy to separate one individual plant from its fellows. The leaves diverge from their bases and either stretch up stiffly for their entire length or droop gracefully near the tips; owing to their stiffness and their serrated spiny edges they must be handled carefully to avoid scratched and bleeding hands.
P. examined some of the more accessible of these plants on the Reventazon road. The first was quite a thick clump, not more than eight feet above the ground with many vines growing about it. I threw a rope, weighted with a stone at one end, over it and by pulling on both ends brought the whole mass to the ground much more easily than I expected, leaving the tree-trunk to which it had been attached quite clean. Some large, black, rather slender ants (Odontomachus hastatus) appeared very soon after the mass fell. They were 5/8 inch long and had long slender jaws bent near the tip; as they ran about they carried these jaws wide open, so that the tips were nearly a quarter inch apart and when they closed them, as they did in a mechanical sort of way with a sudden snap, there was a distinctly audible click. I do not doubt that these ants can inflict a painful bite, although I did not experience it.
I cut across each leaf near its base, beginning at the outside of the clump and working in toward the center, so that I could see whatever might be lodged between the bases of the leaves. When the mass of plants first fell, considerable water ran out from between the leaves, derived of course from the rains. In all the bromeliads examined this day there was also much mud between the leaves, especially the outer ones, as well as dead leaves which had fallen from above or perhaps been carried in by winds.
The second bromeliad examined was lying on the ground at the bottom of the Reventazon valley, still attached to its host tree with which it had fallen. The third was near the second on an upright tree, but although I got the rope over it I was unable to dislodge it, pulling with all my strength, and as I shook down a great many of the Odontomachi I had some doubts whether this plant would have yielded many other insects. The fourth and last was in the forest about 200 feet above the river, perched on a tree-trunk ten to twelve feet above ground. The unavoidable shaking, produced by my repeated attempts to throw the rope over it in just the right spot, brought down a few small ants (Apterostigma) but none of the larger Odontomachus, which I took to be a favorable indication. After half an hour's tugging and pulling the mass, consisting of three plants and weighing surely not less than fifty pounds, fell to the ground I cut off the leaves as before and soon found a dragonfly between two leaf-bases not far from the circumference. In an hour's further searching no other such larvae were found.
All four bromeliads examined were inhabited by some animals. The fourth, besides containing dragonfly larvae, was tenanted by a young scorpion two inches long which had just shed its skin, the latter also found; several species of daddylonglegs (Phalangids), and of Pseudoscorpions; the latter are miniature scorpions but without the long slender hind abdomen. There were also several species of beetles, both adults and larvae, certain of the latter seemed especially well adapted to life between the appressed leaves of the bromeliad. A caterpillar, perhaps of the moth Castnia, also lived in this plant, and in the mud between some of the leaves dwelt a fair-sized earthworm (Andiodrilus biolleyi), quick in its movements and with a peculiar smooth proboscis.
In the first and second bromeliads were also a large scorpion six inches or so in length, round beetle larvae of the "June bug" style, a species of snail, earwigs, smaller ants, isopods, collembolans and a smaller species of earthworm . . . .
In the afternoon of April 26 we walked along the railroad from Juan Vinas station to a fresh clearing planted with beans. Here the ground sloped more gradually than in many parts of the bank below the railroad and on the edge of the clearing was a tree with some large bromeliads that seemed to be accessible. So thither we went with our rope and big knife, pail and bottles, to secure the vast horde of Mecistogaster (dragonfly) larvae that ought to be living there. Arrived at the bean patch we found a man busily weeding and asked his permission to go through, which was readily granted. We worked all afternoon on the various clumps of bromeliads and found a few larvae of Mecistogaster, with an accompaniment of mosquito larvae, spiders, cockroaches, slugs, planarians, earthworms, and the big-jawed blank ants . . . .
The Costa Rican naturalist, Senior C. Picado, has published in Paris (1913) a thorough and detailed study of the epiphytic bromeliads and their fauna. He groups the members of the latter as: 1. Those which attack the plant itself, 2. Those which feed on the vegetable debris and the fungi which develop there, and 3. Predaceous animals. He has brought together a long list of about 250 species included under these three categories . . . .
Senior Picado has likened the totality of the epiphytic bromeliads to a great interrupted marsh extending throughout tropical America. Noticing the purity of the water retained between the leaves where one would expect foulness from the decomposition of the organic material, he made some chemical researches and experiments from which he obtained highly interesting results. The bromeliads produce a gum which has a digestive action on starches and on nitrogenous materials (albuminoids). The products of the digestion of the vegetable and animal detritus retained between the leaves, as well as mineral salts, are absorbed by the plant. A bromeliad is thus a veritable dialyzer which constantly removes from the pools formed between its leaves all the products of decomposition.
CHARLES A. WILEYThe problem of fumigation has not been considered here. The grower can do little about this problem but much about procedures after the plants are unpacked.
Success in the importation and subsequent survival of bromeliads is dependent on the ability of the grower to obtain information on two important factors: 1. What were environmental growth conditions prior to shipment? and 2. How long were the plants in transit? Success is also dependent on the grower's ability to spend time to make an analysis of the plants, formulating a plan to acclimate the plants and then following through with the plan.
A rigid formula to guarantee success for everyone is not possible. Growing conditions and the ability to modify environments vary for every grower. It has been helpful for me in formulating my plan for survival to keep the following factors in mind.
- Bromeliads have the ability to adapt to environmental
- A rapid change, however, from the native habitat
environmental conditions to the grower's conditions may result in failure.
- Bromeliads collected during the early period of the normal
dry season have the best probability of survival.
- When bromeliads are a long time in transit and become
dehydrated, they are so weakened that survival is not very probable.
- Probability of survival can be improved, however, if sugar
is provided for the plants to absorb directly until they are able to
manufacture their own supply.
- To nurse a debilitated bromeliad back to health, it must be
maintained at a relatively constant temperature, have good light but no direct
sun, good air circulation, and frequent misting with distilled water but never
- Unpacked plants are spread out on an open lath bench so
that none of them overlay one another. The bench is located in a shaded area
with freely moving air. The plants are turned over three or four times during
the next 24 hour period.
- On the second day the plants are soaked in a tub for 10
minutes using two cups of sugar to 15 quarts of water. Following this process
they are returned to the bench and allowed to dry.
- The treatment outlined above is a two-day procedure. During
the next five to seven days, the plants are turned over every day and misted
with distilled water two or three times a day.
- An alternative to the last part of this seven-day period may
be substituted if the plants have been noticeably dehydrated, or if additional
precautions are deemed desirable. In this case, on the third day the plants are
soaked again for 10 minutes. This time vitamin B instead of sugar is added to
the water. A number of commercial brands are available and the dilution
recommended on the bottle is used. After this treatment, the plants are
returned to the bench, drained, and allowed to dry. During the next two days,
the plants are not allowed to become excessively dry. This is accomplished by
an occasional misting.
- On the fifth day the plants are soaked again for 10 minutes,
this time in a weak fertilizer solution. Subsequent handling is the same as
outlined above for the next two or three days.
- The plants are now ready to be potted, not in their
permanent pots but in pots to be used to establish the plants. All plants
should be established before they are located in their permanent situation.
This is especially true for those plants to be mounted on wood forms or rocks.
The establishing procedure is one of fastening the plants on a piece of wood or
tree fern. The mounted plant is then placed high against one side of a pot and
packed in with any standard potting mix. The mix is used for the first 2/3rds
of the pot. The top third is mixed with an equal quantity of chopped sphagnum
and topped with a dressing of 100% sphagnum, to come in contact with the base
of the plant. After the plants have been secured in this fashion they are
- The next step is to sort out the plants as to natural
growing requirements. The soft-leaf moisture-loving plants in one group, the
extremely dry growing xerophytes in another group, and the balance in a third
The dry growing xerophytes are hung in good light with some filtered sun and good air circulation. This group of plants must be allowed to dry out between waterings. Any of this group that comes from high altitudes where their principal source of moisture is from clouds at night are misted in the late afternoon with a weak fertilizer solution made up with distilled water.
The intermediate group between the first two is treated the same as the dry growing group except with no direct sun and the drying out period is not as long.
Most likely every grower's own survival procedure will be unique, tailored to his own conditions, largely influenced by his own rapport with his plants. There is only one firm requirement that is mandatory for each grower's design of his own survival plan for imported bromeliads and that is—analyze with all your senses, all of your plants when they are unpacked. Take time to do this, think, and consider all possible alternatives to possible methods of treatment.
—Palos Verdes Estates, California.
WILLIAM T. DRYSDALEOne of the most noteworthy of Aechmeas is Mariae-reginae, a native of Costa Rica and discovered by Hermann Wendland around 1863. About twenty years later it was reported as being in the conservatories of the White House along with other bromeliads whose names I have been unable to determine. It is strange that a plant of such easy cultivation and striking beauty should have so long remained uncommon in the United States.
In Europe it was widely cultivated shortly after its introduction. The following excerpt appeared in the Gardener's Chronicle (Vol. 31, 1871, p. 106):
"Under the name of Aechmea Mariae regina since has appeared at our flower shows during the present summer one of the most beautiful Bromeliaceous plants ever introduced to our gardens. It was first exhibited at the Regent's Park early in July, by its introducer, Mr. Wendland, Inspector of the Royal Gardens, Hanover, and received a First-class Certificate, and, in addition, a silver medal for its superior excellence and extreme beauty. We are informed that the flowering specimen may still be seen in full beauty at the establishment of Mr. B. S. Williams, at Holloway, who has arranged with Mr. Wendland to receive the entire stock.
"This handsome plant is of somewhat robust habit. The leaves are 18 inches in length, arranged so as to form a beautiful vase-like plant. The flower-spike rises from the center and attains a height of about 2 feet; half the length is clothed with large boat-shaped bracts, some 4 inches long, of an intensely rich rose pink; the flowers, which are tipped with blue and change to salmon colour with age, are arranged compactly upon the upper portion of the spike, and materially add to the beauty of this extremely grand plant. The bracts are very persistent, retaining their rich colour in full perfection for several months. This superb plant, when known, cannot but become a universal favorite, and no doubt Mr. Williams will soon be able to distribute this treasure to the lovers of rich and rare plants, in whose gardens it is sure to find a welcome."
Culturewise it is accommodating as most Aechmeas and verges on the "hardy." A plant here in Riverside, California, grew in an area under fiberglass roof, but exposed at the end and naturally without heat. It did very well over all when the temperature outside plummeted to 26 degrees. Sometime the immature leaves developing in the cup had the tips rotted off, but these soon grew out. Strangely, the plant "went" in one of our mildest winters when we had a late cool spring. It seems, not unnaturally, that a prolonged chill does more harm than a colder on of shorter duration.
Aechmea mariae reginae grows on the highest limbs of the highest trees in its native Costa Rica. When in bloom it can be seen by low-flying airplanes. Years ago when Lindbergh made his famous goodwill tour to Latin America he commented on the beautiful pink blossoms which he saw growing high on the trees.
BROMELIADS OF COSTA RICA
|Vriesea irazuensis on a fallen tree limb.||Aechmea mariae reginae|
|Pitcairnia atrorubens||Tillandsia fasciculata|