BSI Journal - Online Archive


Vol. 1July – August, 1951No. 4

Photo G. Senfft, Darmstadt

A Parasphenodon in Nidularium

A new member of The Bromeliad Society, Dr. H. Oeser of Frankfurt, Germany, who is a most successful grower of Bromeliads, finds them very useful to "house" his collection of frogs.

This frog traveled from Rio de Janeiro to Germany in the leaf cups of a bromeliad and there joined a host of bactrachian friends from all over the world. (See page 39.)


Editorial Office: 718 Magnolia Ave., Orlando, Florida.
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Write to Miss Victoria Padilla, 647 South Saltair Ave., Los Angeles 49, Calif.

Editor's Note

Mr. Emil Sella, Curator of Exhibits, and his assistant at the Chicago Natural History Museum, recently visited the Bromeliarium in Orlando and selected a fine flowering specimen of Tillandsia fasciculata which will be completely reproduced in a model. Represented during the flowering period, it will be made of various materials including glass, plastic, wax and others. When completed the reproduction will he added to the synoptic exhibit of families of flowering plants in the Hall of Plant Life there in the Museum.

A model of a pineapple plant is already completed and it is planned to include Spanish Moss for contrast. In the near future it is planned to send another species from the Bromeliarum to complete the group. This will be a striking aechmea or billbergia.

Mr. Sellas's work is masterfully executed and the Hall of Plant Life is a marvelous instructive exhibit which every plant lover should see.


By Lyman B. Smith

In tracking down the origin of names of bromeliad genera it does not take long to find out that Linnaeus named Tillandsia after Elias Tillands, a professor at Abo in Finland. There most references stop, but look at page 42 of an old volume with this awesome heading: Lachesis Lapponica or a Tour in Lapland, now first published from the original manuscript journal of the celebrated Linnaeus; by James Edward Smith, M. D., F. R. S. etc. President of the Linnaean Society. 1811.

It reads as follows: "The greater part of my way lay near the sea shore, which was bespread with the wrecks of vessels. How many prayers, sighs and tears, vows and lamentations, all alas in vain! arose to my imagination at this melancholy spectacle. It brought to my mind the student*, who in going by sea from Stockholm to Abo had experienced so severely the terrors of the deep, that he rather chose to walk back to Stockholm through East Bothnia, Tornea, West Bothnia, &c., than trust himself again to so cruel and treacherous a deity as Neptune.

*This was Tillands, afterwards Professor at Abo, who hence assumed this surname, expressive of his attachment to land, and Linnaeus named in honour of him a plant which cannot bear wet. See his Ord. Nat. 291.

The Ord. Nat. reference proves to be a paragraph in Latin giving the more definite information that Tillands chose two hundred miles by land rather than eight by sea. Linnaeus had his little joke on his seasick friend but he showed himself a poor observer, for he should have noticed that the scales of Tillandsia function like blotting paper and not like shingles as he evidently imagined.


Jules Chantrier

I have often had, in the course of my life, occasion to prove the truth expressed in this wise saying.

Flower shows and congresses bring together men who have the same tastes, the same aptitudes and the same aspirations, and give them the opportunity of becoming acquainted. Thus men learn to know each other better and to appreciate each other. From this, sympathy springs up, and friendship is established–friendship, that most precious of all good things which sweetens and enriches life and which, in times of trouble, brings us unexpected comfort and relief and provides much food for thought.

On this subject I should like to tell this little authentic story of which I was the most interested witness.

It was in June, 1940. Holland had just been invaded, the Belgian army had been annihilated, the British troops had withdrawn across the Channel after Dunkirk and Hitler's divisions were rushing forward. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers, tipsy with success, were pushing rapidly southwards with a view to making themselves masters of Paris.

Mortefontaine, a little village of 400 inhabitants, lying thirty-five kilometers to the north of Paris, had hurriedly been put in a state of defense; the roads had been blocked and trenches had been dug, in order to check, or at least delay, the thundering advance of the conquerors.

As for me, having fought actively for four years in the first Great War of 1914-1919, in the famous Marchand Division, the heroes of Fashoda, and with the 63rd American Brigade, with the valiant American Generals Louis Covell and Campbell, who have been my. good friends ever since, I had decided to stay put whatever happened. But on June 9th I received formal orders from the military authorities to evacuate the place immediately.

So I was obliged, willy-nilly, to abandon my home, my business, my collections and my hybrids. That morning, having piled up in my little car everything which it could possibly carry we left, we knew not exactly whither–my wife, our old cousin of eighty years who had taken refuge with us, my dog and myself.

My first idea was to stay as near to Mortefontaine as possible. I was hoping for a second victorious counter-offensive along the Marne, as in 1914, and thought that, once across the Seine, we should be in comparative safety, and in a position to return to Mortefontaine if events turned out favorably. So we stopped at Samois, just across the Seine, where we had found two rooms in the house of a friendly nurseryman in which to lodge. But three days later we learned that one German right wing had crossed the river at Rouen and was swinging round to the East, to surround us. Samois in its turn had to be evacuated, and that evening we set out again, with no aim in view, but as chance should lead us.

In short, eight days later, after numerous misadventures, under continuous bombardment from Italian aircraft, on a road crammed with cars, flocks and teams of draught animals of all kinds, where we hardly made 10 kilometers (6 miles) an hour, we found ourselves immobilized in a street in Chateauroux. We had not a drop of petrol left, nor any hope of buying any at any price.

A nurseryman in the place allowed us to install ourselves in an empty potting-shed in his establishment. For want of better, we stayed there, sleeping on the straw and doing our cooking in the open air between two paving stones, in the archaic manner.

Although one Armistice had been signed, we had to wait two months before the High Authorities could allow us 40 litres of petrol for our return journey to Mortefontaine.

Now we come to the point of the story, which may astonish readers, except, of course, those of them who have a genuine love of plants.

I drove back to Mortefontaine, of which I had had no news since leaving. I expected to find that everything I possessed had been destroyed. Well, thanks to a providential coincidence, I found everything at home almost untouched. My house, my greenhouses and my collections had suffered little damage. A German officer who knew me and remembered my address had billeted himself in my house, slept in my room and saw to the aerating and shading of the greenhouses and the watering of the plants until one of my workmen, who had remained in the neighborhood, could return and take up the job.

I learned later on from a village woman, who had looked after the room, that this German officer was himself a nurseryman and that we had met at the Flower Show at Ghent in 1938. I never found out his name, nor heard any news of him. I fear, and am sorry to think, that he must have shared the fate of many of his comrades and had been killed before the end of hostilities.

Mortefontaine (Oise) France

Editor's Note

It is regrettable that Mr. Chantrier has now retired from active work and has disposed of his horticultural establishment. For many years he made innumerable contributions to the world of decorative plants and all Bromeliad enthusiasts owe much to him for his work in this great family of plants, for Bromeliads have held a high place in his love for plants for the past half century.

M. B. F.


Julian Nally

Elsewhere in this issue of THE BROMELIAD SOCIETY BULLETIN is an article by Mr. Chantrier which epitomizes the man in better fashion than could the words of a biographer. Therefore, I write not of his wisdom, his serenity of spirit, his love for his fellow man, but of his love for all growing things, and more particularly, bromeliads, as evidenced in a slender sheaf of letters written to me in the post-war years. Since some of the excerpts below I have translated from earlier letters written in French, I stand responsible for any possible misconception of phrase or meaning which would be the more lamentable since the reader has an example of Mr. Chantrier's faultless English in his own article.

Early in our friendship, Mr. Chantrier sent me a catalogue of the plants he had growing in his greenhouses before World War II. Page after page of exotic species and varieties–lists which arouse the desires of any lover of tropical plants. His specialties were begonias, caladiums and bromeliads. Of the last mentioned, no less than seventy-six species and varieties are enumerated. Among them is the beautiful Nidularium X Chantrieri And. mentioned in Mr. Chevalier's article on "Hybrid Bromelliacae in Europe" in the previous issue of the BULLETIN. Among the species he grew were the Aechmeas, Billbergias, Cryptanthus in variety, some select Tillandsias and a lovely group of Vriesias. Not included among the latter, however, are two of his newer hybrids referred to below. It was a collection of which he might well have been proud, for, as he says, "In 1939, I had a complete collection of the bromeliads introduced in France. Due to lack of fuel during the war years, I was able to heat but three greenhouses in winter. There now remain but a third of the species and varieties I used to possess, and but one or two specimens of each of them." An ironic aftermath to the preservation of his greenhouses and their contents by an unknown German soldier, for the plant holdings preserved through the occupation of the country by the enemy were largely lost during the period of liberation by a friendly force. To continue: "I used to practice hybridization of bromeliads with some success. I send two photos (unfortunately not suitable for reproduction on these pages) which may give you an idea why Vriesa splendens Chantrieri is becoming a desirable house plant. I have grown specimens attaining one meter fifty (nearly five feet) in the first flowering; the same plant producing two or three spathes the second year of flowering, but with smaller spathes. The spathe of Vriesia splendens Chantrieri is a splendid red and the flowers are yellow. More recently, I have obtained a fine hybrid–Vriesia rex candelabra (polyspathe). It is likewise resistant to house conditions and I predict a commercial success for it. The spathes are garnet red–rose–bright rose, and the flowers lemon yellow. The foliage is a fresh spring green and the form excellent.

"You realize how greatly we suffered during this most recent war, which has been a disaster to all Europe. I do not know of a collection of bromeliads in France which has been spared. I do not yet know in what state the collection of the Botanical Garden at Liege may be found: it was very important. I had, before the war, frequent friendly relations with the then Director, Mr. Chevalier, who is a specialist in the genus bromeliacae.

"I recall during the administration of President Hoover in the early nineteen thirties, I shipped two large crates of bromeliads to the White House in Washington, a collection representing in great part most of the types then available in France.

"You ask me of my method of growing bromeliads from seed and I am happy to supply the information. Sow the seeds in an earthen crock, or shallow pot, on the bottom of which one has placed a bed of cinders, about the size of walnuts. Coal cinders may be used, though coke cinders are preferable as they are more porous. Cover the cinders with a bed of humus 3 to 4 centimeters in depth (one inch = 2.5 centimeters). This humus should be fibrous and light. You will find it in the woods, on the slopes or in the hollows–leaf-mold of oak, chestnut, birch and pine give the best humus.

"The bromeliad seed should he scattered on the surface of the soil (which should remain coarse, not crumbled) and be well-watered before letting the seeds fall. It is not necessary to touch them after they have fallen on the surface of the soil: let them remain uncovered. Sprinkle with a fine spray and place the crock on an inverted flower pot resting in a shallow dish filled with a little water. Place the whole inside a glass covered wooden box.

"Keep the box covered with the glass. Keep the humus damp (not too wet) and use rain water. The seeds germinate best in a rather shady spot. The box in which the crocks have been placed should be installed in a greenhouse in a shady location. The temperature should be at least 16 to 20 degrees C, to 30 degrees C. As the seeds germinate, progressively allow more air to enter the box.

"The above is simple, but do not neglect a single detail. Bromeliad seeds germinate chiefly by the action of the air, which must be saturated with humidity–the dishes of water are important. The humus furnishes nitrogen. Humus collected from shady soil is the best for bromeliads."

Gotha, Florida

Editor's Note

From Saxony, Germany, behind the Iron Curtain, via a doctor–bromeliad–enthusiast in Frankfort, U. S. Zone, comes the newest book on bromeliads, The Culture of Bromeliads (Anzucht and Kultur des Bromeliaceen), by Walter Richter, published in 1950, it is an 85-page bulletin. All aspects of bromeliad culture are discussed–growth factors, propagation, diseases, hybridization, families and varieties, all well illustrated with photographs by the author. Of particular interest to American readers will undoubtedly be the discussion of varieties not commonly grown in this country, especially the vriesia hybrids. (Mr. Richter has made a number of successful vriesia crosses.) American growers will probably note a few differences in nomenclature, as, for example, the use of the term "aregelia," instead of neoregelia, and caraguata instead of Guzmania. Richter is a horticulturist of note in his country (Saxony) and this fact is evident in the scholarly treatment of his subject.


Victoria Padilla

Southern California gardeners will always remember with horror the first few weeks of the year 1949. New Year's day dawned bright enough, but something happened to the temperature; and for the next six weeks, Southern Californians shivered and resorted to all kinds of peculiar methods to keep their subtropicals from freezing. Plants were covered with blankets, electric bulbs were kept burning around the less hardy, and all portable materials were brought into the house. There is no evil, however, without its attendant good; and although nearly all of us lost some prized specimens, we learned much about caring for our tender plants when the thermometer hovers around zero.

As for bromeliads–we found that most of them are hardy at 30°. The billbergias were able to withstand freezing better than others of the family. B. pyramidalis was tender, however, and was killed at 25°, as were also B. Porteana and B. Quintitissima. At 16° the foliage of B. Nutans was browned, but it survived to send out blooms shortly thereafter. Also hardy were found to be B. amoena,B. Leopoldi, B. distachia, B. Morelli, B. Saundersii, B. vittata, and B. speciosa.

The writer had these planted under a lemon tree, together with Aechmea Calyculata and Quesnelia Liboniana, and they all came through 23° although they were somewhat burned. Some Cass and some Atkinson hybrids remained unharmed through the six weeks of "unusual weather."

As for Aechmeas–they did not fare so well, and practically all of the softer-leaved varieties succumbed to the cold, which varied in the Los Angeles area from 16° to 26°. A. caudata was only burned at 19; but where the low hit 16° it died. The writer had an interesting experience with A. Weilbachii, which is considered tender. A large specimen, which had never bloomed, was left forgotten in the patio. It became a brown sodden mass and so was thrown into the compost heap. Completely lifeless though it appeared to be, inside of two months the plant recuperated and eventually became such a gorgeous blooming specimen that it won an award of merit at the Horticultural Institute. A friend had a similar experience with A. bracteata, which was frozen to the ground. Months later five offshoots appeared and they lived through the 1950 freeze.

All the tillandsias which the writer grew outdoors were killed, T. usneoides, T. utriculata, and T. fasciculata at 28°. Neoregelia marmorata proved to be the hardiest of its kind, but N. ampullacea and N. laevis were killed. Quesnelia arvensis remained unharmed out in the cold the entire time. Such tender varieties as vriesias and guzmanias perished, however.

Puyas, which are favorites in the cactus garden, proved to be hardy, P. alpestris and P. chilensis being unharmed at 19°. P. spathecea was not damaged at 19°, although it was killed at 16. Hechtia Texensis was burned at 16° but not killed.

Although it gets quite cold in the tropics where most bromeliads flourish, it is the concensus that bromeliads in this country require higher temperatures to reach their optimum development. One commercial grower is of the opinion that bromeliads need warmth in winter and that plants will not flower abundantly where the winters get lower than 45°. He found that the cold nights of the winters of 1949 and 1950 reduced flowering to a minimum and that those that flowered, with but a few exceptions, did not set seed.

It is generally felt by growers of bromeliads and other tropical plants that it was the prolonged period of wet and cold that did the most damage rather than the sudden drop in temperature. Those plants that were dry tended to survive, whereas those which were in damp soil and had water in their cups were more often killed. Overhead protection helped to some extent, although many plants under lath were frozen. It was also discovered that if a plant which appeared dead would be left alone and not cut back or watered, in many instances it would come to life again within a few months. The will to survive is strong.

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


From down-under in Australia cones an interesting letter from Mr. T. R. N. Lothian, Director of the Botanic Garden, in Adelaide. He writes:

We have a small collection of Bromeliads and wish to increase these if possible. If any of your members would be prepared to exchange seeds with us, I will be pleased to forward to them a copy of our Index Seminum which lists a number of Australian trees and shrubs.

Those of us who love our plants and want to see them better known should follow the example of Mr. M. B. Lewis, of Menlo Park, California. He writes:

I have been exhibiting specimens at the California Horticultural Society meetings, where they have always attracted much attention. I also had a display of 20 varieties in the Oakland Spring Flower Show by request of the Horticultural Society. The only kind that people know is Nutans, the billbergia which grows in the garden here, and only about one person in fifty knows its name, or what species of plant it is. I have a neglected one in a four-inch pot with 18 blooms now. It has been in this pot about seven years.


By Mulford B. Foster


For the past twenty-seven years I have literally lived under a canopy of Spanish Moss here in Florida. I have used it during these twenty-five years on wire netting to shade my plants. I have pulled tons of it from the branches of trees. I have enjoyed the exquisite fragrance of its delicate, transparent green flowers which is released between the hours of eight and twelve on the soft April and May spring nights. I've seen the tiny seeds suspended on a silken parachute but I've never planted one of these seeds nor seen the tiny baby plants that emerged from those seeds until a few weeks ago. Yes, I was surprised and very much thrilled. It was Easter Sunday morning.

In our garden is a very much neglected plant of Ligustrum coriacium. It is a slow cautious growing plant with leaves that appear to be only half developed ... curled up and stiff but, like an old bull-dog its beauty seems to be in its homeliness. This Ligustrum was smothered with Spanish Moss and with Ball Moss (Tillandsia recurvata) and a "cat's claw" bignonia vine. Each species of plant seemed bent on strangling and smothering the ligustrum, so I started tearing out these over-ambitious plants, only to find many, many tiny tillandsias clinging to the branches of the Ligustrum; it was virtually an epiphytic plant nursery. And, not all of the little plants were those of the "ball moss" as I at first had thought. I found plants from one to a dozen years of age of the Tillandsia usneoides and they had honest to goodness roots!!! Roots that had held on for several years or long enough that the plant would be long enough to catch on a branch if the wind tore it loose from its birthplace. I found plants, some of them but a half inch long and others to eighteen inches long, still clinging with their little thread-like roots to the bark where the silken threaded seeds lodged during a previous April blow.

The most common of all bromeliads, Tillandsia usneoides, "Spanish Moss" to us in the southern part of the United States, has flown from tree top to tree top for many thousands of years. It has flown and grown in a magic circle down the Atlantic Coast from the south eastern tip of Virginia to 500 miles south of Buenos Aires in Argentina, and from Chile to Lower California in Mexico on the Pacific Coast, thence across Texas to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico over to the Atlantic. And within this circle practically all of the known species of bromeliads are found natively.

This queer plant has been and still is regarded as a parasite by the great majority of people because of its ability to live on the trees without any apparent method of feeding.

The artist and the poet have pictured its charm in pigment and praise. The Primitive has used it for mattress and the Modern for upholstering.

The first white man who landed on the shores of America soon saw this strange plant swaying in the trees. It was a great find for the botanist and he has given it many botanical names, first as a parasite and later upon more careful observation as an epiphyte. It grows and grows and grows. It can be torn in a thousand pieces and each piece can continue the seeming endless and rootless growth as it does not need roots for its continuous growth. It is one of the few plants that the botanists have persistently described as one with "roots absent."

For some reason or other I have apparently gained a reputation as being one who seems to enjoy breaking down traditions and cherished beliefs, even though that belief may have been one I nursed myself. So, when I state that I have told thousands of people about the rootless bromeliad, Tillandsia usneoides, I have little more than related what I had already read in the botanical records regarding this plant. In other words it's nearly always a bit easier to take the other fellow's words and repeat them without bothering about any personal investigations.

And so, one of the most cherished beliefs of the entire bromeliad family–the weird Spanish Moss with "roots absent"–was shattered. Tillandsia usneoides DOES HAVE ROOTS in its early stages just as every other member of the remarkable bromeliad family has, although the roots dry up and are not necessary for it in later years.

718 Magnolia Ave., Orlando, Fla.

Editor's Note

The latest contribution from our director Dr. Lyman B. Smith that might interest our club members is "Contributions from the United States National Herbarium–Volume 29, Part 10. Studies in the Bromeliacee XVI by Lyman B. Smith.

Copies may be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Govt. Printing Office, Washington, D. C. Price 50 cents.


By Dr. Richard Oeser

My interest in bromeliads started via frogs.

As a little boy already I used to breed tropical fish and salamanders.

The breeding of tropical frogs is a difficult job which I grew especially interested in later on. In their captivity the frogs need proper space and conditions. I started to look for plants answering this purpose and found such in the bromeliads: Vriesias and Billbergias.

My interest in animals and plants made me go to tropical countries as ship's surgeon: to India, Africa, and Central America. I was breeding first a Javanese frog, Rhacophorus, then many types from Western Africa, tree-frogs from the Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico, the venomous Dendrobates from Costa Rico, who would lay their eggs on land and carry the tadpoles when they develop on their back into the water. I have bred little jungle frogs throughout many generations and seen that they too may develop albinos (Phrynobatrachus from Western Africa).

And nearly all these frogs felt especially happy in Bromeliads even if they came from Java or Australia where there are no Bromeliads in nature. There are special frogs in tropical America which live in Bromeliads exclusively and also lay their eggs in the natural aquarium formed by the leaves of the big water-reserving Bromeliads.

In this way I became more and more an amateur bromel booster and finally a serious collector of bromeliads. I think no other water is better to moisten bromeliads than the water wherein tadpoles of frogs live, fed by nature's compost. And in turn there is no better water for frogs than that which is held by the bromeliads.

Frankfurt (Main) Germany

Editor's Notes


Q.  Is the spotting on the leaves of Billbergia letzii a virus? When I procured the plant it was spotted. I assumed that this was typical of this species. However, I have noticed that the plants around it are also getting little yellow spots–so I have isolated this billbergia.

A.  Billbergia letzii B. leptapoda B. saundersii, B. amoena var, virdis and B. minarum, are all plants with spotted leaves. While this may or may not be caused by a virus it is certainly not an injurious one nor is it contagious.

In most cases these spots are accentuated when the plant is grown in full light and when in deep shaded conditions they may almost disappear as in the case of B. saundersii.

If your plants are strong, robust and do not have dead leaf tips or decayed brown spots on the leaves you can be reasonably assured that such markings as spots, bands, stripes or marbled effects are a natural decoration and add much to the beauty of the plants.

Look closely, there is a great deal of difference between a natural spot and one that has been caused by a virus or a scale insect–these latter spots look unhealthy and often rather transparent, for the cells have been injured.

M. B. F.


"The name, Tillandsia lindeni sets a new high for confusion in the Bromeliaceae" says Dr. Lyman B. Smith in his latest "Studies in the Bromeliaceae X V I" recently published by the Smithsonian Institution.

As now used it will apply to the long scaped species as first noted by Regel, and not to the "short scaped" species. This long scaped species has been labeled T lindeniana in the few collections where it might be found, and the "short scaped" species has been called T. linden but now the "short scaped" species will be known as T. cyanea. This last species is not common but it is a very lovely bromeliad.

Dr. Smith has been working on this unfortunate confusion of names, which started back in the 1870's and now has finally corrected one more of those nomenclature mixups.

M. B. F.

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