BSI Journal - Online Archive


Vol. 2January – February, 1952No. 1

Billbergia pyramidalis in a naturalistic planting at the base of an oak in the garden of Mr. and Mrs. E. W. Ensign, Orlando, Florida.


Editorial Office: 718 Magnolia Ave., Orlando, Florida.
Annual Dues: $3.50 a year (foreign $4.00) which includes subscription to the Bulletin.
Write to Miss Victoria Padilla, 647 South Saltair Ave., Los Angeles 49, Calif.


Books on bromeliads are scarce, many of them very rare. Most of them have been published in Europe. Members of The Bromeliad Society please be on the look-out for any literature that you may find offered for sale. If you do not wish to procure it, please notify the Editor or your Secretary. We need to build up the best possible library for future reference by members of our Bromeliad Society.

A bit delayed but still good news to bromeliad enthusiasts is the fact that the entries made by the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs in the Pacific National Exhibition at Vancouver, British Colombia, last September, consisted entirely of bromeliads.

This was an international competition and entries were flown from England, Hawaii, Canada and several States in the U.S.A. including California and Florida. Two cash prizes and a silver medal certificate were awarded to the Florida Federation for the entries in the "Flowers By Air" competition. The highest awards for "Distinct Kind of Flowers" went to Hawaii and Florida. Vriesia hybrid Marie and Billbergia pyramidalis each in groups of six were the Florida prize winners.

The Saguaroland Bulletin, of the Desert Botanical Garden of Arizona, had an interesting article by E. R. Blakley on "Ball-Moss In Arizona." Mr. Blakley states that it was first discovered in the Sycamore Canyon near Ruby, Arizona in 1910.

This persistent bromeliad, so common in Florida, has a great range, being found in every American country from Florida to the Argentine Republic of South America.

Growing bromeliads from seeds in earthen bowls which are inserted in glass containers.


by Walter Richter

The possibilities given by nature for the augmentation of bromeliads, are determining by themselves, which methods are to be employed in order to obtain an enlargement of the collection. Although separation of the mostly not over-abundant offshoots is leading to quickly flowering plants, it can, however, hardly be satisfying to the commercial grower in respect to quantity. He will, therefore, direct his attention to the generative multiplication, the growing from seed, thus making it possible to raise practically unlimited quantities of most of the species.

In more than 15 years, during which I have intensively occupied myself with the culture and growing of bromeliads, I have, under repeated variation of methods, grown hundreds of thousands of plants from seedlings. In the following I will try to give an account of my experiences, observations and successes.

Fundamentally, it can be stated that the methods of sowing have hardly undergone any change, as far as the species bearing berry-like seeds are concerned. The grainy seed derived from these is to be disinfected in a chinosol-solution, one gram per liter of water, then sowed out in earthen bowls, filled with quite sandy heathfoliage earth, but under no circumstances must it be covered with soil.

Originally, the seed from species with capsule fruits, which are furnished with hair-crown (pappus) received the identical treatment, i.e. Vriesias, Guzmanias, Tillandsias etc., with the only alteration that chopped marsh-moss (sphagnum) was being added. In many instances, a strong tendency towards the formation of algae stood more or less in the way of a normal cultivation of the developing, germinating plants, thus bringing about inevitable losses.

The new improved method, employed for a number of years, had as its basic principle the creation of the required air-humidity for a normal, highly efficient germination. Shallow, rectangular earthen bowls had been filled to half of their capacity with peatspread, being completely saturated with water. This was topped by a thin layer of rather coarse Osmunda fiber which was spread to a comparatively even surface. Upon this layer the seed had been scattered. The bowls themselves were being inserted diagonally in fitting, transversal standing glass receptors. In the lower corner of the glasses there was water which by continuous evaporation created the necessary air-humidity. The upper side of the container had been tied up with cheese cloth to guard against vermin. The results have always been extraordinarily good. The only care required was the refilling of water once a week, as well as the watering of the bowls. The peatspread provided a constant humidity which again was favorably conducted by the Osmunda fiber to which the young plants were soon clinging.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the glass containers later on could not be obtained anymore. Besides that their duration was limited. For this reason the earthen bowls, being prepared in the identical manner as before described, had been set up on their own. As a protection against excessive drainage with its possible adherent damaging of the tender germinating plants, a coverage of glass panels with transparent paper was resorted to. The latter was being removed after germination had taken place. The panes, however, remained constantly on top of the bowls. As growth progressively materialized the bowls were aired by way of inserting thin wooden sticks on one side of the bowl. Simultaneously the sweat water could run off from the panes. The results have always been satisfying. However, only if enough attention had been paid to the rather high humidity content of the substratum. That, in turn, meant daily controlling, and in the event of a great number of seed bowls, a considerable amount of time.

In search for an improved method, sowing trials had been made, at first on a smaller scale, with Petri-bowls. In the "Gartenwelt" H. J. Hubner reported already in the year of 1936 favorable results by the use of these. Based on my own successful experience with them, this method is now being exclusively used and I shall, in the following, give a description of same.

Vriesia seedlings in the foreground, just after planting; older plantings in rear.

The Petri-bowls, being manufactured in various sizes, find application in the smaller or larger form, according to the amount of seed to be sowed. A layer of pure fleece-paper (cellulose), about one half centimeter thick, is put in, already well saturated with distilled water. After that follows the spreading out of the seed, to be done in such a way that the surface is evenly covered. For the disinfection of the seed as well as seed container, a good spraying with a chinosol solution, in a concentration of 1 gram to 1000 cubic centimeters of water, is required. After a short while the excessive fluidity is to be drained off. Now the bowl receives its cover and shall be placed in the greenhouse or in any other warm spot. According to the species, the germination will take place within 10 to 20 days, if enough shading and sufficient warmth has been provided. The extraordinary constant and high air humidity, which is being created within the bowls, is responsible for the quick development.

Difficulties can be experienced if the disinfection was incomplete which creates a mouldy condition due to the juice sticking to the fruit flesh of some species, as for instance Aechmea and Billbergia; this results in making the seedlings unable to live. Mould formation had also been observed in the cases of Vriesia and Guzmania etc. those genera with seeds from dry capsules. Once occurred, it has hardly ever been possible to save the seed. Therefore, preventive disinfection, as described before, is of great importance. With the progressive development of the young plants, the cover is gradually lifted. Consequently, frequent checking in regard to sufficient dampness is imperative. Sea-weeding of plants and fleece paper is the result of too much water and leads to growth hindrances.

Petri bowls with two months old seedlings.
Left: Orthophytum––Right: Pitcairnia

This method of sowing can be especially recommended in the cases of the rather delicate Vriesias, Guzmanias and similar kinds. However, I myself am also making use of it with Aechmea, Neoregelia, Nidularium and Billbergia if valuable species are involved or seed of new crosses is being put out where losses could not be afforded. Only sowings in bulk are being treated as of old, in earthen bowls, as described before.

If it should be necessary to transplant the seedlings with increasing growth, they can easily be separated from the fleece paper. Even with species which have developed strong roots no difficulties have been experienced in removing them, especially if the fleece paper has been thoroughly moistened before separating the plants. The plants continue their growth after transplantation without difficulty in the mixture of soil usual for seedlings.

In my opinion the method is particularly well adaptable for the growing of small quantities by amateur enthusiasts of these beautiful plants, to whom, perhaps, the culture from the state of germination has heretofore been disappointing.

–Crimitschau, Saxony, Germany (Soviet Zone).


by Frank Overton

The Bromeliad Society actually had its beginning early in 1948 when Mrs. Joseph Schneider of San Gabriel, Calif., wrote to Miss Kemble, organizer of Round Robins for the FLOWER GROWER, asking if she could get a group together who were interested in Bromeliads. She placed a call for members in the February, 1948 issue which brought an immediate response from Miss Victoria Padilla and Mrs. Sue Hutchinson who were soon followed by seven others, and they, in turn, by four more.

This group, with Miss Padilla as director, exchanged their experiences with Bromeliads, by correspondence with one another, for approximately two years. Many good ideas on the culture of Bromeliads were contributed by members of the Round Robin, but it did not completely fill the need, and its flight was rather erratic at times, being subject to long delays, and, on one or two occasions, was completely lost.

In the summer of 1949 it was proposed that a picnic be held in September so that the members could get acquainted with one another, but this excellent plan was not carried out until the Spring of 1950 when a call was sent out to all members of the Robin, and others interested in Bromeliads, to attend a pot luck dinner at the home of Mrs. Dorothy Behrends, on May 21st, to discuss the suggestion made by Mr. Schneider that a Bromeliad Society be organized. The ground-work for the formation of such a group was laid at this very enjoyable and friendly gathering where many of the fourteen who attended met one another for the first time.

This informal get-to-gether was followed by an organizational meeting on September 17, 1950, at the home of the writer, a date distinguished by a very unseasonable and almost continuous downpour of rain. Despite the inclement weather, 21 prospective members were on hand for the opening of the meeting, at which, to the surprise and delight of everyone, Mulford Foster, himself, appeared, having made a special flight from Orlando, Florida, for the occasion.

Much was accomplished at this meeting: Names for the organization were discussed and voted upon; a board of directors and officers for the coming year were elected; a proposed constitution and by-laws were discussed with the aims and purposes we should set as our goal and the means of carrying them out. The close of the meeting found us with a substantial sum in the treasury, thanks to a lively auction of choice plans donated by Mr. Foster and other generous people.

In November, another meeting was called for the purpose of organizing a local group to be known as the Southern California Bromeliad Society to be affiliated with and to hold joint meetings with the International Bromeliad Society. Since that time, five enjoyable and instructive meetings have been held from which all those who attended derived much benefit. The writer recalls with particular pleasure the joint meeting at Oakhurst Gardens in mid-July where, seated under the great spreading oak trees, we were shown Mr. David Barry's splendid collection of Mr. Atkinson's color slides of Bromeliads at their peak of bloom. I am sure that all who viewed them will agree that they have never seen finer examples of color photography.

It is to be hoped that other local groups will be organized elsewhere, to be affiliated with the parent society, as it is the personal contacts and exchange of experiences with others having a common interest that adds so much to the pleasure of being a member of this type of organization.

The Bromeliad Society has now passed its first birthday, and, as we review the past year's accomplishments, we can be pardoned a glow of pride in the thought that with nothing but an idea for a start, we now have a functioning, growing society, international in scope, with an impressive list of members which is still growing, six issues of an excellent bi-monthly bulletin with articles by renowned authorities on Bromeliad culture, with more to come, and a good fund of ideas and plans for further expansion. With such a record of accomplishment for one year's effort, it requires no strain on the imagination to picture what we can accomplish in the future.

–(1348 Winchester Ave., Glendale, California)


by Ladislaus Cutak

I'll never forget the journey to a rain forest in Chiapas, Mexico, the southernmost state in that country and it borders Guatemala.

The rain forest is located in an almost unexplored mountainous region from which new species of plants will undoubtedly be introduced in years to come. Here we found a new begonia with flowerstalks nine feet tall and several epiphytic cacti, aroids, and bromels. At Rancho Recuerdo, located several miles north of the Zogue Indian village of Ocozocoautla, we saw young trees loaded with Catopsis and several species of Tillandsia, the most spectacular being T. streptophylla. The latter is a curious and beautiful plant with a dense pseudobulb formed by the leaf sheaths. The blades are wide at the base, tapering into an acuminate tip, and have the habit of twisting and curling. A much smaller plant with an oddly and attractively spotted inflated pseudobulb was T. Butzii, also found in abundance in the thicket bordering the creek which runs through the rancho. Prominent, too, was the grasslike T. tenuifolia, along with at least ten species of orchids. The bromeliads, particularly the Catopsis, perched like birds on the branches.

From Rancho Recuerdo we hit the trail leading to the rain forest and after several hours plunged into primeval wilderness. In some sections the sun was completely shut off by dense verdure overhead. Here we came upon Begonia imperialis, one of the most striking of all foliage plants. Fallen logs littered with epiphytes impeded our march to Pico Carrizal. One log was covered with clumps of an unidentified Pitcairnia with large leaves and spiny petioles. Until this time I had thought that Pitcairnias were all terrestrials, but was soon convinced that some species grew equally as well on trunks of tall trees. Various other bromels were seen everywhere in endless varieties. Tillandsias were predominant but there were Vriesias, Aechmeas, Billbergias and Catopsis in evidence.

Pico Carrizal is a high promontory which rises from the jungle floor and supports lush vegetation. In making the ascent loose rocks and deep leaf mold made the going tough. We never did reach the top but collected and botanized as much as we could a third of the way up. Here we came across an epiphytic cactus with fishbone-like stems which only last year was described as a new species, Cryptocerus Anthonyanus, and thought to be a link between the Cereus and Epiphyllum groups. Tillandsias, again, excelled in the number of species but there were Vriesias with flattened elliptic flowerstalks, and an occasional Billbergia pallidiflora.

Nizanda, in Oaxaca, is another plantsman's paradise in Mexico. Located a number of miles north of Tehuantepec, it is reached on foot after leaving the train at either Chivela or Nizanda. Bromels, orchids, magueys, aroids and cacti live here in close harmony. Tillandsias are again much in evidence growing both on rocks and trees, some even attaching themselves to the tall torch cacti. The dwarfish compact Tillandsia ionantha cluttered slender branches and led a communal life with T. Caput-Medusae while T. juncea preferred the fissures of rocks. A stiffish, gray-leaved Tillandsia caught my eye as a possible new species. It flowered early in 1951 and now I am checking to find out whether it has ever been described. The elliptic flower spike is eight inches long and is composed of red-tipped and red-margined apple green bracts, from which deep purple pink tubular flowers protrude. It should become a very popular item on the bromel menu.

Mexico still holds many bromel mysteries which I hope someday to make known to bromel fans.

–Missouri Botanical Gardens, St. Louis, Mo.


by Mabel B. Ensign

Although a native of Brazil, Billbergia pyramidalis has found our Florida climate so satisfactory that this species is growing and multiplying at an astonishing rate here, both as an epiphyte and as a terrestrial.

My experience with this prolific bromeliad dates back ten or twelve years when a friend gave me a half dozen plants which I planted at the base of an orange tree. Within a couple of years they had climbed the tree to a crotch about four feet from the ground, making a beautiful display with their bright pink bracts and scarlet petals with blue tips; their blooming period being late summer and early fall. Through the succeeding years they have multiplied so fast that they are now not only growing and making vivid displays around dozens of the trees but also high in the branches of some of the large oak trees where I had fastened a few. Although they will grow in sunny places I find that those in the more shady locations have leaves of a deeper green and produce larger flowers.

This year from August until early October they have produced vivid displays when from fifty to two hundred and fifty flaming flower heads shot up from the green leaf clusters almost over-night.

With little or no care except the transplanting of some when the clusters become too thick, these bromeliads seem to be "happy" in our semi-acid soil with half shade, and offer big rewards with their glorious display of flaming torches.

–Box 854, Orlando, Florida.


by Mulford B. Foster

The deuterocohnias resemble in plant form, the dyckias, hechtias and enchorliriums but their longer tubular flowers are easily distinguished from those of their close relatives. They are found principally in Argentine, Bolivia, Brazil and Peru.

These stiff rosette plants with very spiny leaf margins are highland plants and for the most part can withstand sun and cool temperatures. They make good rock-garden plants and mix well with cacti and other succulents in the dry or rocky sub-tropical areas. Most of them are too large for pot plants.

Deuterocohnia meziana, one of the largest species, comes from Brazil. This unique plant has the distinction of being the only bromeliad and possibly the only known monocotyledonous plant to have a cambium-like layer of growth on its inflorescence. This plant will bloom for several years from the same inflorescence.


The Encholiriums are Puya-like plants growing on ledges and sides of rocky areas in the central part of Brazil. The leaves are very spiny, growing in large clusters but unlike the Puyas their flowers are very inconspicuous, generally being of a brownish or greenish color. The inflorescence arises from the center and its compact tubular spike may rise to a height of six or seven feet. The plants grow in large clusters that increase by offshoots as do most of the Puyas and they are found in desert or rocky areas where cacti and other xerophytic plants are found. Their seeds have a dorsal wing.

There are only seven different species known and but a few plants may be found in botanical collections.


Very few persons have been privileged to see a Cottendorfia. Little is known of this monotypic genus. The plants have narrow grass-like leaves and a branched inflorescence of very small flowers. Cottendorfia florida is the only known species. It grows in the State of Bahia, Brazil.

The Lindmanias which also have a rather grass-like appearance but with wider, spineless leaves, have central inflorescences with small white flowers. They are found from Mexico to Argentine although there are only a dozen species known. L. penduliflora has been in horticulture for many years and is a graceful but not spectacular bromeliad that would add interest to any collection.

(Dwight Winter’s Garden in Pittsburg)

Photo by Mr. Dwight Winter

From Mr. Dwight Winter of Pittsburgh, Pa. comes a photograph showing a naturalistic arrangement of epiphytes in his greenhouse. Mr. Winter, an ardent plant lover, is a member of The Bromeliad Society and it is evidenced that his interest in the bromeliads has led him to make a really interesting setting for their best development and display.

One may possess beautiful bromeliads but they will always be more enjoyed by the grower and his friends when they can be displayed in such a manner that it will give the effect of a naturalistic setting; this applies especially to such tree epiphytes as bromeliads, orchids, ferns, aroids, etc. This romantic setting can be done on a small or large scale according to the size of your greenhouse, or if you are fortunate enough to live in a climate suitable for a back yard hanging garden.

Mr. Winter has fifteen genera of bromeliads in his collection and approximately sixty-three species and hybrids. To give them a more beautiful setting he has many different kinds of foliage plants artistically placed for contrast. When you enter Mr. Winter's greenhouse you soon forget that you are in a greenhouse and feel that you are visiting his own private tropical jungle.

We are indebted to Mr. Winter who has presented the engraving of this photograph to the Bulletin.

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