BSI Journal - Online Archive


Vol. 2March – April, 1952No. 2

Photo by Lad Cutak
Billbergia vittata Brong.

This beautiful billbergia, discovered in Brazil more than a century ago, has as many different names as it has different phases of leaf patterns. See article page 20.


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.


In the article, "Bromeliads in Ghent, Belgium," Ernest De Coster tells an interesting story of bromeliads in horticulture. He informs us that there is not a person in Belgium who does not know the beautiful plant Aechmea fasciata; we might add that there is not more than one person in 50,000 in the United States who knows this plant.

This past month of Flower Shows in the East, South and West has done much to add to the education of plant lovers so far as the bromeliads are concerned, for more than a half million people who attended the shows saw bromeliads in exhibits. many for the first time.


Distance means nothing to Mrs. Muriel Waterman of New Zealand when it comes to getting the plants she wants. Although she has one of the largest bromeliad collections to be found anywhere, she is ever on the lookout for new specimens. She recently received two fine shipments–one from Europe and one from U.S.A. with but very minor losses. She is going to write an article telling us of her importing experiences and how to care for newly imported plants.

While we in Southern California were experiencing one of the worst winters in our history, it was interesting to learn that our friends down-under were having a "shocking summer" with temperatures over 100 and were worrying lest the weather be too hard on their bromeliads.

Mr. Reginald Horner (5 Charles St., Chester Hill, N. S. W., Australia) should get in touch with Dr. Richard Oeser (Tiroler Strasse 12, Frankfurt, Main, Germany) as they both are raising frogs in their bromeliads. Mr. Horner writes: "Although my frogs are all locals, quite a few of the Bromels have their froggy occupants. I made no attempt to introduce them to each other; the frogs have chosen their plants as a source of permanent water supply and have taken up residence there. A change in the weather is always heralded by a chorus of croaks in the glass house, from alto to double bass, the trumpet formation of the Bromels acting as a megaphone and amplifying the sounds."

The youngest member of the Bromeliad Society is Dick Felger of Los Angeles. Although only 17, his knowledge of such rare plants as cycads, orchids, aroids, palms, and bromeliads is nothing short of remarkable. He won first place for his outdoor exhibit of rare plants at the recent Pasadena Flower Show.

Mr. David Barry, Jr., of Los Angeles has long held the place of Bromeliad King of the West Coast, but his position is being jeopardized by Mr. Edmund Cooke, whose collection is growing so fast and furiously that Mr. B. will have to look to his laurels.

A big hand should go to Mr. Barry, however, for his outstanding display of bromeliads at the California International Flower Show. Using 70 plants of Vriesia Splendens interspersed with magnificent specimens of Portea petropolitana, he attained such a stunning modernistic planting effect that it all but stopped the show.

Growers of bromeliads will be interested in the publication of a new magazine devoted solely to the growing of orchids, "The Orchid Journal." Alex Hawkes is the editor. This magazine provides a wealth of valuable and interesting material.

We welcome the following new members: Dr. John Cummings of Hollywood, California; Jack Holmes of Tampa, Florida; Mrs. Lyle B. Moore of El Paso, Texas; Gilbert H. Moore of Fort Myers, Florida; Dr. H. G. Mealing of North Augusta, South Carolina; Arthur H. McIndoe of the Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia; Stanton E. Nadig of Quakertown, Pennsylvania; Mrs. J. B. Pike of Daytona Beach, Florida; Mrs. H. G. Roebke of Jack Jackson, Texas; Glenn Warmack of Los Angeles, California; Walter Richter of Germany; Dr. C. R. Marlatt of Powell River, British Columbia; and Mrs. Olive S. de Govea of Havana, Cuba.

Bronze Medal Award–Bromeliad Exhibit At Pasadena, California


by Dick Felger

At the Annual Southern California Spring Flower and Garden Show, The Bromeliad Society of Southern California won the Bronze Medal. The show was held at the Fannie E. Morrison Horticultural Center in Brookside Park, Pasadena. California, from March 2 to March 9, 1952.

An old fig tree, seventy-five years old, was placed in the exhibit and various epiphytical bromeliads mounted in the tree. Surrounding the tree among rocks and fallen logs were billbergias, aechmeas and other epiphytic as well as terrestrial bromeliads; fifteen genera in all were represented. Spanish Moss hung from the higher limbs of the tree. On one branch were about six Tillandsia ionantha plants in brilliant flower, the purple petals contrasting beautifully with their bright red leaves. The center of attraction of the entire exhibit was a specimen of Tillandsia cyanea grown to perfection with a pink flower spike supporting large violet-blue flower. Neoregelia carolinae with its brilliant cerise bracts and Cryptanthopsis navioides with its radiant whorl of bright red leaves added a fine note of color to the display.

Aechmea X "Foster's Favorite" attracted much favorable attention for its form and the fine reddish green leaves; Nidularium amazonicum and Nidularium innocenti variegata for interesting color patterns of their leaves. Cryptanthus zonatus and C. bromelioidies were among the smaller plants placed upon rocks in the foreground of the exhibition where they command particular attention.

Credit for the exhibit goes to Mssrs. Edmund Cooke, and J. N. Giridlian, with plant assistance from Mssrs. Frank Overton, David Barry, and Mulford Foster.


by Breta L. Horner

Bromeliads are rapidly coming to the front and are more and more popular. In four recent Flower Shows in South Florida they had prominent places and aroused much interest.

On March 8-9 at the Fruit and Flower Exhibition held at Fairchild Tropical Garden in Coconut Grove, the colorful and exotic collection of Mrs. Robert Montgomery vied in beauty and interest with an unusually lovely collection of orchids.

In the Metropolitan Miami Flower Show held in the beautiful Miami Beach Auditorium on March 14-17, a blooming Hohenbergia stellata had a place of honor in the center of the elevated stage. A collection of thirty-two specimens in a realistic setting won a Blue Ribbon prize, while a collection of seven plants and three other single specimens all won various prizes. Several arrangements contained bromeliads, and one, made of Hohenbergia stellata blossoms and pineapple leaves won a Blue Ribbon.

The First Florida State Flower Show, held in Lakeland, March 21-23, was the proud possessor of three outstanding bromeliad exhibits. Mr. Mulford Foster of Orlando brought specimens of his most colorful and beautiful plants, arranged them on cypress logs and Spanish Moss and made a breath-taking exhibit of unusual loveliness. This exhibit was entered in the name of The Bromeliad Society and it was awarded a Gold Medal Certificate by the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs for "great excellence of horticultural achievement."

The other two exhibits were from private collections, one consisting of five very large plants, the property of Mrs. H. H. Cutten of Coconut Grove, not for competition but much admired. And the other of about 100 plants of various sizes belonging to Mrs. J. F. Hughes and Miss B. L. Horner of Daytona Beach. The latter exhibit was awarded Gold (on Blue) Seals of Merit and Distinction.

On March 27-30 in "Everybody's Flower Show" at Daytona Beach, Mrs. Hughes and Miss Horner displayed their exhibit out under the trees. Spanish Moss dripped from the oaks, and concealed the pots placed in the ground; graceful branches, ferns, and small palms gave the exhibit a naturalistic appearance as many of the specimens were hung in the trees and branches. As this exhibit was educational, not competitive, native Florida tillandsias were shown as well as the cultivated bromeliads.

Among the specimens a large H. stellata, a huge Brazilian pineapple. Ananas bracteata, in bloom and a brilliant Vriesia, (hybrid Marie) vied with the pink bracts and pendant flowers of the Billbergia distachia which was accommodating enough to bloom luxuriantly just in time for the Fiesta. This exhibit was awarded a gold seal, a special award and also ranked high in the popularity votes cast by the visitors.

From the general interest shown in these exhibits it is felt that soon many more bromeliads will be grown by flower lovers in South and Central Florida and that they will continue to be among the most decorative of plants for exhibition.

323 Wisconsin Place. Daytona Beach. Fla.


by Racine Foster

Flower stems in some of the bromeliads have amazingly rapid growth. Some years ago when I made a photographic series of the progressive stages of the pushing up of the flower spike of Aechmea marmorata, I took notes and timed the unfolding of the inflorescence. Perhaps you would like to share my astonishment.

On May 19 the top of the bud, tightly encased in rose-pink bracts, was barely showing above the center leaves. This seemed like a normal state of affairs, but when over night it had grown four inches my eyes popped!

By three o'clock that afternoon (May 20th) it had grown four more inches so by now the inflorescence was above the top of center leaves and two blue flower buds were peeping up beyond the rose-pink bracts. By 9:30 that night I could hardly believe that it had pushed out two and a half inches more.

At 9:00 A.M. the next morning (May 21) this amazing inflorescence now eight inches long had added one and a half inches and by 3:30 P.M. that afternoon it had attained 10 inches, having added one and a half inches in six and a half hours; six more flower buds were showing beyond the bracts.

On May 22 by 9:30 A.M. it had grown another inch and a half and the first flower bud opened showing its clear lavender-blue flowers.

By Monday morning (May 24) the semi-pendent inflorescence had reached its climax of fourteen inches; nine flowers had opened and already turned to an old rose red. By evening the remaining flowers were freshly opened and from that point on the glory of Aechmea marmorata was on the decline, although for many weeks thereafter the colors remained in varying degrees.

When studied in detail the color combination is quite delightful:

Bracts: a brilliant pink-red
Stem: light pink
Branches: light pink
Calyx: light green
Sepals: light lavender-blue
Petals: deep lavender-blue

Other bromeliads such as Billbergia zebrina, B. Porteana and B. Meyerii show a similar speed in putting out its bud, but Aechmea marmorata is the only one I have actually timed. Perhaps you too can have this experience, come the month of May, Aechmea marmorata's blooming month, if you keep the plant at hand for close observation and a ruler nearby for detailed measurement.

In spite of the beauty of the marmorata's bloom it seems that it is an inflorescence which doesn't really belong to that plant. The plant itself is such an artistic climax that it doesn't need a flower; it is of such classic shape that its beautiful inflorescence appears to have an almost awkward grace in comparison.

The flower comes and goes quickly because, in spite of its own beauty, it cannot surpass its elegant and classic holder. As my husband says you cannot paint the lily!

Horticulturist Ernest De Coster's fine establishment at Ghent, Belgium.


by Ernest De Coster

Horticulture isn't flourishing at present. Before the war about 90% of the plants produced were exported. But actually, because of the various political and financial difficulties in certain countries, or because of protectionism or sanitary measures (Quarantine Act for exp.), export is very low and many important enterprises, having numerous personnel and functioning despite losses during the past years, are liquidated or winding up. The wealthy plant lovers of past years have disappeared too, as the hired help and the upkeep of hothouses have become most expensive. And so we have had to adapt ourselves to a regime of economy; we cultivate only those plants susceptible of leaving us some profit. The private collections of our horticulturists become exceedingly rare. We must keep in mind the high cost of coal and of the salaries, and on the other hand we must produce plants that are not too expensive for the Belgian customer. This customer buys much more in flowers than before the war, but this doesn't make up for the loss in exports.

This is why the bromeliads, large and beautiful, but costly to produce, are but little grown. As a set off, the Aechmea fasciata, A. miniata and others, the Neoregelia Meyendoffii and N. tri-color are grown in great numbers. Whereas the Ananas folis var., the Vriesia splendens, splendens major, Poelmani, viminalis x Rex, psittacina, fenestralis, tessellata, Nidularium innocenti and fulgens and the tillandsias are much less grown, prices seeming too high for the general public.

Personally, I have in the past sown a lot of Vriesia viminalis x Rex; the varieties obtained are innumerable and the branched flowers (divided) are yellow, light red or dark red. These varieties are not named–it would be endless–if it isn't that one wants to propagate by slips or cuttings a new variety, especially beautiful.

Since the war I practically do not grow Vriesias anymore. But I sow by the thousands seeds of Aechmea fasciata which is in great demand. Actually, there isn't a Belgian anymore who doesn't know this plant (although not always under its real name.) People call it "zebra" or "tin-plant."

I also, sow thousands of Nidularium Meyendorffii hybrid seed; these plants have shorter and broader leaves than the type generally grown; the bracts are dark red, poppy red or liliaceous red.

I propagate by cuttings quite a number of Aechmea fulgens discolor, miniata and two hybrids, as well as some Nidularium fulgens and tri-color, Vriesia (Encholirion) Saundersi, Canistrum leopardinum, Guzmania tri-color and Cryptanthus. In the other establishments growing bromeliads you will find more or less of one or another type, but the Aechmea fasciata will rank first.

Many selections and cross breedings have been tried by our horticulturists around Ghent and what would most surprise a botanist, I think, is that you will find in Ghent very few plants of the original type, other types more beautiful or of better sale value having replaced them. This is also the case for most of the exotic plants which may give seeds in our hothouses.

And speaking of hothouses we are reminded that our climate isn't Florida's. The heating of a hothouse of Aechmea fasciata of a ground surface of about 2370 square feet, needs yearly between 22 and 25 tons of anthracite coal. Thus, at great cost do we maintain the Belgian's great love of bromeliads, the fascinating Aechmea fasciata.

109, Brusselsche Steenweg, Melle-by-Ghent, Belgium

Aechmea fasciata by the thousands in De Coster's greenhouse in Belgium.


Billbergia vittata Brong. versus Billbergia leopoldi

Billbergia vittata was first described in 1848 but has, like many other bromels, been listed under a number of synonyms such as B. zonatus Hort., B. Moreliana Lem., B. amabilis Morr., B. leopoldi C. Koch and B. Rohaniana DeVriese.

Billbergia vittata was illustrated in color plates in La Belgique Horticole in 1874.

B. leopoldi E. Morr. was illustrated with a beautiful color plate in 1871 in Belgique Horticole and has an inflorescence very similar to B. zebrina and B. porteana. It was first listed as B. Helicodea in 1864 but has now been thrown into synonymy and the new name given by Lyman Smith is Billbergia brasiliana.

Both of these species B. vittata and B. brasiliana (B. leopoldi) have leaves with grey bands and the layman could easily be confused when looking at the leaves only. The flowers, however, are quite different and one small feature alone, the color and shape of the sepals and ovary is an easy mark of distinction. The true species of B. vittata has dark blue sepals which have an interesting little twist to them and this character shows up in every hybrid I have ever seen with vittata as one of the parents. The sepals of B. brasiliana (leopoldi) are white and mealy as well as is the ovary.

So far as I know the species B. brasiliana which has until recently been recognized as the true B. leopoldi has never been grown in the United States, but the name B. leopoldi has been erroneously given to B. vittata especially in California and unfortunately B. vittata has been sold mostly under the name of B. leopoldi there. I have had several specimens sent to me from California for identification and in every case the species has been B. vittata and NOT B. leopoldi.

To add to the confusion, I have three distinct phases of this B. vittata plant which I collected in the wilds of Brazil. They are different in leaf appearance from the one popularly sold in California as B. leopoldi. But the flowers of all four phases are so nearly alike that there is no doubt about them all being the same species, although they could easily be mistaken when not in flower because their plant shapes and color are so variable.

The showy inflorescence of B. vittata is somewhat drooping but flowers are erect; the erect scape bracts are bright red. There are often three or four flowers on the lower branches. The exposed part of petals are violet, lower part green. Sepals are reddish with violet tips twisted to a cuspid or point. Anthers on stamens are bright orange-yellow.

In 1894 a hybrid between B. decora and B. Saundersii was made in Europe and even this was named B. leopoldi!

It is to be hoped that this B. vittata versus B. leopoldi will he straightened out by the Society members and growers whenever it is possible. It can do away with much confusion.

Let us drop the name B. leopoldi NOW! There is NO such species. B. vittata is the proper name for all plants which have been called B. leopoldi and distributed principally from California.

M. B. F.


Nomenclature Clarification No. 1 was on Tillandsia Lindeni and T. cyanae, see p. 40 July-August 1951 issue of this Bulletin.


by Mulford B. Foster

What is the best potting material for bromeliads? This question is so often asked, not only by the amateur who has just discovered the charm of these decorative plants, but by the person who might have been growing them for some time.

The writer has been growing many kinds of bromeliads for the past twenty years and is just as anxious to experiment and to listen to other growers as he was the first year he began.

There is no one all inclusive answer to this very important question as any plant grower could quickly discover. When one realizes how many different conditions there are under which the bromeliads thrive and that a great number of them thrive in nature without any perceptible method of feeding, we marvel at their great ability to adapt themselves so well to the many ways and efforts of plant lovers and horticulturists to understand them.

Knowing that most of the bromeliads are acid loving plants will give us a basis on which to work. Some of them, however, which live on or near the sea coast must have some alkaline tolerance, but this may be taken care of by the leaves which must be tolerant to the salt air. This may account for the profuse flowering or lack of flowering of some species even more than the potting material.

Some of the bromeliads are so tolerant to many of us growers that we may continue to have them in our collections without finding out the really best method to prepare the potting material.

I feel, very definitely, that much more experimenting should be done by the growers and the results should be published in the Bulletin. This will be of equal importance to all, especially the bromeliads.

The most successful potting material formula which I have used for the majority of bromeliads has been a mixture of three shovels (or its equivalent) of sand, three shovels of leaf mold, and three shovels of a combination of German peat, shredded osmunda and/or sawdust; to this 3-3-3 mixture add ½ shovel of pulverized cow manure.

Leaf mold, I believe, is fundamental as a food for bromeliads since the majority of the species growing in trees, receive and retain falling leaves from the branches above. Which leaves are best I do not know. We use oak leaves. Do not use wild cherry leaves. When dried they will kill a goat and I have also found them very detrimental to most bromeliads, although many of our bromeliads are as tough as goats!

The sand in this mixture should be as coarse as possible; it can well include crushed granite for this is a very excellent acidifying agent for bromeliads. Many bromeliads grow natively on granite rocks and granitic soil in Brazil.

The German or Dutch peat, the shredded fresh osmunda fiber, or even fresh sawdust all serve to give acidity and aeration to the mixture.

Certain genera such as Vriesia, Guzmania, Tillandsia enjoy being potted in osmunda fiber only, just like an orchid, mainly because they usually need more aeration about their roots.

Remember this, however, that a certain mixture which does very well in Florida may not be the best in California or vice versa. Try the different methods, watch the results; change for newer experiments and then when you feel you have found something worthwhile, send it to your Bulletin.

Remember, always, bromeliads want good drainage . . . . lots of air . . . . moist atmosphere . . . . plenty of light. And quite naturally, they would prefer a bromeliad lover to take care of them.

When thinking about potting soil I always want, first of all, to consider in what soil the plant grows natively. This brings to mind that certain genera such as Thecophyllum, bromels closely related to Vriesias and Guzmanias, may be very selective as to the localities in which they thrive. Most of the Thecophyllum species are native to Costa Rica although they are found in other Central American and northern South American countries. So far as I know there have been few if any growers who have had any great degree of success in growing them. Many of the species are native to the volcanic mountains of those regions. Undoubtedly the volcanic ash in these areas gives off minerals and gasses which may, possibly, be especially beneficial to these Thecophyllums.

Also another unknown factor of probable benefit to bromeliads is the air currents which carry air food to the bromeliads in their native haunts. The air factor is to be considered when we discover that it is not uncommon to find great quantities of bromels growing in the trees on one side of a mountain and very few just across the opposite side of the valley.

In considering these factors which we cannot give the bromeliads so readily when we transfer them to our greenhouses, it would seem that we must find a substitute for them, and in addition to our regular potting formulas I believe we should also use liquid fertilizers which will supply additional nutrients and give us greater success with bromeliads.

In the small amount of experimenting by trial and error methods the results have not been near as efficient as the adaptability of the bromels themselves in learning to live with us in spite of conditions.

This amazing adaptability has been developed through long centuries of the rise and fall of the great land masses which harbored bromeliads. The first members of the bromeliad family were terrestrial plants depending on their roots for food but the great changes of conditions in those areas have caused the more recent species to adapt themselves to an epiphytic (1) or saxicolous (2) way of life. The roots had to become more hold-fast implements than feeding organs and the leaves have gradually functioned as feeder parts.

When we bring these plants into our homes and greenhouses we have eliminated the possibility of the plants catching leaves and decaying material that would be falling from the forest trees into their cups to be used by them as food, as they must adapt themselves to the new conditions and revert to their ancestral habit of feeding through their roots as do most of the other plants on the earth.

In making any horticultural suggestions for the better growing of bromeliads, I make them, always with reservations. Because there can usually be found exceptions to any broad cultural statement. And in transplanting bromeliads from South America some very baffling situations appear and it is very thought provoking as to what to do to solve the situation. I might relate just one of many such situations which I have encountered and still do not know the answer.

In Columbia, South America, I found both Guzmania lingulata and Guzmania musaica, two beautiful species, growing side by side on the same tree trunk, both very vigorous. I brought a few plants of each species home with me.

But, here in my Florida greenhouse, with both species receiving the same treatment, the result is quite different. G. lingulata thrives and blooms, but G. musaica finally pines away.

This is only one of the many experiences that have happened and it is all the more baffling because of the fact that both plants thrived so beautifully together in their native habitat.

Thus, in growing bromeliads, acid food as nearly resembling nature's own compost as possible, and favorable air currents are two factors having considerable influence in success with these plants living under our conditions rather than theirs. The other two factors of light and temperature will be under discussion in another issue.

It will be a great help and service to both yourself and to the plants and to all who are striving to understand their needs, if you will record your experiences and let other Society members know about it through the Bulletin.


by Mulford B. Foster


This is a genus of but three or four known species and one of the most recent genera to be described. (Mez 1927) They were first found in Argentine; later one species was found in Bolivia.

It will be some time before it is a very well known plant to the bromeliad enthusiast. The abromeitiellas grow in large dense masses on the rocks in rather dry areas. They resemble huge clumps of moss when first seen. These small rosulate forms with stiff leaves barely an inch long, are most interesting, especially when in flower, each rosette bearing a single flower in the center.


The second largest genus in the Bromeliaceae is Pitcairnia. There are well over 200 different species described. They abound from Mexico to Argentina but are found most abundantly in Columbia, Peru and Brazil. The genus was named for Dr. Pitcairn in 1789.

Nearly all of the known species are found growing in the ground or on rocks and quite often in shaded and moist locations. However, I have found a few of them growing on the limbs of trees in Columbia and Venezuela. Most of the species are grass-like but a number are climbers and some are almost yucca-like in their forms. The long grass-like leaves have smooth or entire edges in most of the species although some have spiny margins and many have very spiny short leaves rising from the bulbous base of the plant.

The tubular formed flowers generally are red, although yellow and white flowers are not uncommon. Petals may be from one inch to six inches in length. While an inflorescence may be producing flowers each day, the individual flower rarely lasts more than one day.

Pitcairnia seeds are quite small with a thread-like appendage on each end. When the dry capsule bursts open the tiny winged seeds are usually dispersed by the wind.

Generally speaking I would not consider very many of the species as suitable house plants, although P. tabuliformis is a most attractive plant and just as formal and symmetrical as an echeveria. There are a number of species that will do well in the sub-tropical gardens and I believe will be used much more often as garden plants when they are better known, because they are showy spring bloomers and often continue in flower for several weeks.

The only bromeliad ever recorded as found outside of the Americas is Pitcairnia feliciana, which species is reported to have been collected in French West Africa.

(to be cont.)

Send comments, corrections and suggestions to:
© 1951-2012 Bromeliad Society International, All Rights Reserved.
All images copyrighted BSI.