BSI Journal - Online Archive


Vol. 3September – October, 1953No. 5

Photo by M. B. Foster
Bromeliads with variegated foliage stand out in exciting contrast and add much interest in any group of bromeliads or mixed decorative plants as shown above in Foster's BROMELARIO, Orlando, Florida.

The large variegated bromeliad with flower in upper right center is Aechmea caudata var. variegata. (Botanical description on p. 47). The smaller variegated plant in lower center is a glabrous leaved Tillandsia or Vriesia which was found in Mexico in 1935 by your president. Unfortunately, it succumbed after two years of struggling to acclimate itself to cultivation. The milk-white stripes on the delicate textured leaves made this one of the most outstanding variegated plants ever to adorn the BROMELARIO.


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.


Our secretary, Victoria Padilla, without whose constant and efficient help, the Society could not exist, made a six weeks tour of Mexico during August and part of September, in company with her brother and mother. For anyone on vacation she wrote an amazing number of letters all consciously enthusiastic about bromeliads. They entered Mexico in the northwestern section from California and proceeded south down the western road, returning via the great central Pan American Highway. She wrote in part:

"This countryside is excruciatingly lovely and we are fast going to pieces about the plants and flowers. So many trees are in bloom and every conceivable kind of wild flower covers the landscape. We are taking pictures like mad. I wish I had someone with me who could identify the plants. Tomorrow on to Urapan and then to Patzcuaro. The roads are very fine.

"Later in Mexico City. Though we are not yet in the deep tropics, we have already seen many bromeliads–in the most surprising places. The sub-tropical areas of Urapan and San Jose were densely populated with bromeliads and I have seen many here on the plateau. They sell large bouquets of them here in the market place. In Michoacan bromeliads are called "gallos" but here in the capitol they are called "bromeliads." I was pleased to see my cousin growing bromeliads in her patio.

"I am not familiar with the varieties they sell in the city, although one looks very much like the Tillandsia on the cover of the Handbook (T. multicaulis) with leaves the texture of lettuce, a bright red bract and purple flower. Then there is another variety, much larger, having the same texture of leaves with a large red and fat center inflorescence (probably T. imperialis, see Brom. Bull. Nov.-Dec. 1952, p. 69).

"There were many bromels on the old trees in the Borda Gardens in Cuernavaca and one old large Dracaena was almost completely covered. Practically all the way to Taxco we saw Tillandsias which looked like T. bulbosa.

"On the way home. As soon as we reached the lowlands, the trees actually dripped bromels–and some of them were huge. In one section the Taxodium trees were so full of Aechmea nudicaulis all in bloom, that at first we thought the trees were populated with brightly plumaged birds."

The annual meeting of The Bromeliad Society was held on Sunday afternoon, September 27, 1953, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Edmund Cooke in Los Angeles. Mr. Cooke is the attorney for the Society and is a member of the Board of Directors.

A resume of the progress made by the Society during the past year was given by the secretary. She stated that we have much to be proud of, particularly in the publication of the Handbook, which is a definite contribution to horticulture.

Mr. Frank Overton, treasurer, gave a favorable report on the financial standing of the Society. It is hoped that the Handbook will bring in sufficient returns so that the Bulletin can he enlarged.

One of the highlights of the afternoon was the playing of a tape recording made by Mr. Harold Martin and Mrs. Muriel Waterman of Auckland, New Zealand. It was greeted with great enthusiasm. The members down under are to be congratulated in their activity on behalf of the Society.

The afternoon ended with a tour of Mr. Cooke's fine greenhouses and a pleasant social hour.

Photo by Author
Elegant white margined Aechmea (left); the exact identity is undetermined. Cryptanthus bromelioides var. tricolor (right).


Alfred B. Graf

Of the newer additions in showy bromeliads, there comes, like cream to the top, four outstanding variegated forms which will forcefully brighten any collection of exotic plants. We have other variegated bromeliads, but none showing quite such nice variegation in smaller and more marketable sizes as in the four described below. The white shows in all the leaves throughout the plant and tends to be constant even in older foliage. Whereas other albinos often hold up poorly, these variations are all good keepers and therefore can be recommended for use as ideal decorators in public places and the home.

Unfortunately, propagation by seed cannot be depended on to reproduce variegated foliage. One of our sowings of Neoregelia carolinae var. tricolor (p. 41) resulted in 600 seedlings but even after three years growth, and approaching maturity, none have developed variegated foliage. Propagation from suckers, seems to be the only alternative. Belgian growers have confirmed this to us also.

Cryptanthus bromelioides var. tricolor sported at our greenhouses out of a group of Cryptanthus bromelioides which had been grown exceptionally hot and humid, 75-80° at night and 90° or more in day time, on a high shelf near the glass. It was first discovered about seven years ago by our Department Manager, Frank Turek, who has been reselecting it ever since, in an effort to fix the type. Several variations have been noted including a pure albino. I believe Mulford Foster also had a similar sport appear at his Orlando BROMELARIO; and just a few days ago I saw another one developing out at the New York Botanical Garden.

The Cryptanthus pictured (on page 39) has several bands and stripes, ivory-white shaded into green, in various widths running lengthwise along the leaf and on the edges, some of which are prettily shaded carmine rose. All this contrasts nicely with basic friendly green, and the underside is covered with silvery scales. The flowers are white and have the same habit as C. bromelioides in clustering between the leaves, which latter become very small at the flowering point. C. bromelioides var. tricolor propagates easily from creeping suckers the stems of which can be cut into sections of several joints and each will produce a plant. The value of the parent C. bromelioides is well known as a dish garden plant as it can take plenty of abuse and still look attractive. This lovely variety tricolor is as durable and grows just as fast.

Another very elegant variegated bromeliad is an Aechmea, which came to us under the name of Aechmea Coelestis Albo Marginata, a slender type of plant growing to 1½ to 2 feet. The gray-green leaves are of hard and shiny texture, overlaid with silver scales. Along the edges runs a broad white margin which by its clear contrast gives a striking effect. We have not had this plant in flower, so do not yet know its true identity. It may quite possibly be a sport of Aechmea coelestis or of Aechmea caudata. It shows great promise because it is a very durable, leathery plant and should be ideal as a houseplant and in combination plantings.

Neoregelia carolinae var. tricolor (p. 41) came to us from Europe several years ago. We have found it to be one of the easiest bromeliads to grow because it propagates freely from suckers at the base, producing as many as six per year, after flowering. The mother plant will keep on producing suckers for several more years.

The center cup of N. carolinae var. tricolor is crimson with flowers light lavender, deep in the base. All its leaves are strikingly variegated by a number of ivory to greenish white lines and bands congregated toward the center of the leaf, running lengthwise and contrasting sharply against the shiny deep green color toward the edges of the foliage. This variety prefers semi-shade as do most of the white-variegated bromeliads.

Aechmea fasciata var. variegata (p. 41) has the green leaf with silvery gray cross-banding of its parent but the major part of the leaf, except the edge, is ingrained with ivory-white to greenish-white bands of varying shades running lengthwise throughout the mature leaf. It is so highly variegated that at first glance it could be called an albino. Adding to its attractiveness are the silver cross bands which overlay the white variegation across the spread of the leaf like powdery stratus clouds.

Photo by Author
Bizarre variegated form of Aechmea fasciata (left) Neoregelia carolinae var. tricolor (right).

The inflorescence is the same as Ae. fasciata, the spike bearing a compound head of rose-pink bracts shielding the blue flowers. The blooming period falls normally between July and September, which unfortunately, here in Metropolitan New York, is a bad time for marketing, as business in the city is then practically at a standstill. Every bromeliad grower knows that the bracts will keep for several months especially if the plants are grown relatively cool, but it is too much to expect them to last in perfect shape through our hot summers and still be good at Christmas.

In this connection it might be interesting to note that in Germany experimental work has shown that the blooming period of Aechmea fasciata can be advanced two months if additional light is given during November and December. Of course, this method may not be as foolproof nor as cheap as the application of chemicals to induce flowering such as we have been practicing quite successfully. Mulford Foster touched on this or similar method in the Bromeliad Bulletin of May 1951. In some species, however, flowering can be induced at any time of year by withholding water from their roots. Aechmea fulgens discolor and some Vriesia (magnifica Hort. and carinata), for instance, will flower if kept dry at the roots for about a month until the flower spike is initiated. From two to four weeks later the inflorescence will be fully developed.

A point to remember is that most South American species like a warm temperature and particularly so the variegated ones. This should make them satisfactory subjects for the average superheated home. A bit of good advice would be that it is more important to keep fresh water in the center funnel of the plant than to worry too much about the soil moisture at the roots.


Excerpt from Walter Richter's
Bromeliad Handbook
"Anzucht and Kultur der Bromeliaceen"
translated from the German by Joseph Schneider

Nature has many varied ways to effect pollination. Nectar-secreting organs, intensive colored bracts, attract insects and birds, a part of the inflorescence undoubtedly takes part in attracting pollinizers. Vriesia splendens, Guzmania monostachys, Billbergia rosea and others are self-fertile. Perhaps this compensates for the infrequency of off-sets these plants produce. Seeds of these plants germinate quickly, and easily. In this manner does Nature often insure continuity of the species. Self-sterility is frequent and is an important factor for the practical grower. To insure production of seed at least two specimens of about the same state of development are necessary, a condition often difficult to meet with rarer species, making seed production impossible. The time available to effect pollination is often very short; flowers open often only a few hours, or up to two days. These short-lasting flowers may further limit the opportunity for pollination, opening only nights, or late afternoon, and fade quickly. Some Vriesia species, for instance, Vriesia tesselata, V. fenestralis, and others, open nights only, others in the early morning hours, to close again at sunrise. The length of time the flowers remain open, depends, probably, a great deal upon temperature. Individual florets of winter-flowering Vriesias remain open about two days, while summer-flowering species do so only a single day. For the normal growth of the pollen, temperature, as well as humidity, has to be right. Pollination in winter, with the lower temperatures prevailing, is nearly always a failure. In nature, butterflies, bumblebees, bees and other small insects, the humming-birds, especially, serve as pollinizers. The nectar-gathering species, with their long, sharp bills, can enter flowers that remain, normally, closed. Ants play often an important role as pollinizers. I observed how a very small species of ant that somehow had found entrance into the glass-house effected the pollinization of an Aechmea species that I was never able to pollinize successfully. On the other hand, if ants gain access to flowers, normally remaining closed, that had been cut open to pollinize, they quickly chew off the stigma and pistils, and do considerable damage. To get Tillandsia lindenii, with its varieties vera and tricolor to set seed is very difficult. One must visualize that the seed-producing organs of these beautiful flowers are one inch deep in a long narrow duct that is strongly compressed by the tightly imbricated sepals of the inflorescence. The thinking grower cannot help wondering and being intrigued and puzzled again and again what secrets this tropical plant world conceals. Bromels, are aptly called "Bird-flowers", flower and bird, both combine to convey tropical beauty and unique charm.

Crimmitschau, Germany


Lyman B. Smith

Aechmea lasseri L. B. Smith nov. sp.   
For a second time we note in this Bulletin a bromeliad that is both new and highly ornamental. This new Aechmea was found by two of our Society members, Mulford Foster and Henry Teuscher, while they were guests of Dr. Tobias Lasser at the Biological Station of Rancho Grande in the mountains of Venezuela not far from Caracas (see The Bromeliad Bulletin, volume 1, no. 6: page 55). We take pleasure therefore in dedicating this ornamental bromeliad to Dr. Tobias Lasser in recognition of his manifold contributions to the botany of Venezuela and in appreciation of the bromeliads which he has helped to bring into cultivation.

Aechmea Lasseri

A Ae. filicaule (Grisebach) Mez, cui affinis, inflorescentia apice spicata, sepalis minime armatis, ala sepalorum apicem valde superante differt.

Acaulescent. stoloniferous, 1.2-1.9 meters high with the inflorescence extended (! Foster); leaves 30-86 cm. long, dark green in the shade, reddish in the sun (! Foster), sparsely and inconspicuously pale-lepidote, the sheaths elliptic. 14 cm. long, the blades ligulate, slightly narrowed toward the base, broadly acute and apiculate at the apex, 3 cm. wide, marked toward the base with a broad pale median channel, laxly serrate with rather coarse spreading spines with the lower ones 2 mm. long and rapidly decreasing in size upwardly; scape decurved, very slender, finely white-lepidote but soon glabrous; scape-bracts erect, lanceolate, entire, membranaceous, tan pink, the upper ones about as long as the internodes; inflorescence pendent, laxly compound toward the base but ending in a long spike, finely white-flocculose; primary bracts like the scape-bracts but broader, 6-8 cm. long, spreading; branches fascicled, one-flowered or rarely two-flowered, shorter than the primary bracts, not more than 1 mm. in diameter; floral bracts inconspicuous, orbicular, apiculate, 2 mm. long; flowers sessile, divergent, greenish white; sepals strongly asymmetric, the broadly rounded wing much exceeding the soft minutely pointed apex and giving a total length of 14 mm.; petals 4 cm. long, linear-spatulate, obtuse, bearing two dentate scales at the base; stamens slightly shorter than the petals; ovary ellipsoid, 8 mm. long, epigynous tube crateriform, 2 mm. long, ovules caudate, borne nearly the whole length of the axis.

Venezuela: Aragua: Epiphytic in cloud jungle, Rancho Grande, altitude 1600 meters, October 13, 1951, M. B. Foster & H. Teuscher no. 2737 (Type in the U. S. National Herbarium, isotype in the Instituto de Botanica, Caracas, Venezuela).

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.


Victoria Padilla

Although bromeliads are among the easiest of exotic plants to grow, they do present to the amateur a number of problems. Perhaps the most perplexing of these is the plant that regardless of all that is done for it will not grow. It will not die either, but will just sit and look miserable. Not all bromeliads do equally well everywhere–a statement which is true perhaps of all plant families. A certain rose or lily will thrive in one part of the country but languish in another. Sometimes a plant will do well on one side of the street and given the same conditions die on the other side.

So it is with bromeliads–some flourish one place and sulk in another although they are given identical greenhouse conditions with controlled temperature, humidity and light. Vriesia hieroglyphica is a touchy subject in this regard, doing well in Florida but being definitely temperamental in California.

At a recent meeting of the Southern California Bromeliad Society the members compared notes on their plants. Those residing inland, where it is dry with extremes in temperature (for California) were successful with Aechmeas Orlandiana, Fosteriana and Hybrid Bert, but had difficulty with Aechmeas Schultesiana and tillandsioides. Those residing in the coastal area, where the climate is mild and the humidity high, had just the opposite to report.

What to do? The answer is simple. Unless you like to tackle problems, just grow those plants which seem to like the conditions under which you can grow them. There are many different lovely ones for every variety of climate.

Then again, nearly all growers have splendid specimens of bromeliads which appear to be fully mature and to enjoy the best of health but which have never flowered. Bromeliads generally have to be of a certain age before they will bloom, the time element varying with the different genera. However, even this is not always true. One western grower has had a Nidularium fulgens for almost a decade–a beautiful mature plant all that time–but never a blush in its heart. The writer has had a similar plant for five years with no sign of any change. Nidularium regelioides, on the other hand is an "old faithful" and will flower two years from the time the shoot is severed from the mother plant. Nidularium innocenti in its varying forms takes about five years to flower for this writer, and the same is true of Neoregelia carolinae. Nidularium amazonicum is another type which has never done anything for her–either for better or for worse.

How can you make your plants flower? Experimenting on your part is necessary for their failure to bloom may he due to any number of causes. Shocking the plant, such as changing its environment and the temperature, sometimes is successful in promoting the formation of a flower stalk. Perhaps you are giving your plant too much water, and then again, perhaps you are not giving it enough. Be sure your plant has enough air–air that is humid but at the same time buoyant. Although many bromeliads do not seem to mind extremes of temperature in their native habitat, they are less tolerant of a wide variation under cultivation. One western grower found that bromeliads subjected to temperature under 45 degrees F. for any length of time failed to bloom the following year.

As in the case of orchids, bromeliads require light to bloom, so if your plants are not sending up flower spikes when they should be, increase the light intensity, although by all means avoid direct sunlight. The length of day has been found to be a factor in getting certain plants to flower–experimentation with bromeliads along this line might be revealing.

Although most of the bromeliads that we grow in pots are epiphytes, they do respond to fertilizing–in the rapidity of their growth, in the size and texture of their foliage, and in their tendency to flower. Give your plants plenty of potash and phosphorous. If these chemicals do not seem to effect blooming, try using nitrogen. Again, experiment if you must. Many growers are now having success with the fish emulsions that are recommended for orchids, using a mild solution at regular intervals.

Some growers have also found that leaving a few of the offshoots on the mother plant will induce it to flower. As a last resort, you can always try calcium carbide, as suggested in the previous issue of the Bulletin.

Another topic discussed at a recent meeting of the Southern California group was the handling of offshoots. The following are a few suggestions offered by Mr. Morris Schick, veteran bromeliad grower:

  1. In California and allied climes, grow your bromeliads low in the soil–this will give you more offshoots.

  2. Do not remove the offshoot from the plant unless you are sure that its base is hard. If you are not certain that the shoot is mature enough to remove, wait a bit longer.

  3. There are several ways to remove an offshoot from the mother plant. With the large Aechmeas it may be necessary to use a small saw. With smaller plants, a sharp knife is generally found to be satisfactory.

  4. If you have trouble removing the offshoots or having them rot after they are removed, wrap sphagnum around the base and make just a little cut where the shoot is attached to the mother plant. Wait until the shoot has formed a few roots, then sever completely.

  5. If you are afraid of losing the offshoot, dip the end in powdered charcoal–this will prevent rotting.

  6. Apply root tone to the end of the shoot to promote root growth.

  7. Plant the offshoot in a small pot in regular potting soil. A special mix is not necessary.

647 S. Saltair Ave., Los Angeles, Calif.


David Barry, Jr.

The question may arise, do the wiry, hold-fast roots of epiphytic bromeliads ever perform any other function than securing the plants upon their perch? Especially in the xerophytic Tillandsias, with moisture-absorbing scales, are the roots required to do more than to hold on? In general, it depends on whether the roots are able to reach a moisture and food-retaining material, such as soft bark or trapped leaf mold. When this is possible they change from wire-like roots to finely branched feeding roots; in this way performing a double function. If left exposed, the roots retain their wire-like form. Both single and double function roots may be found on the same plant. It is obviously of cultural advantage to let the wire-like roots touch a suitable medium in order to change them into feeding roots as well.

Photo by Racine Foster
Tillandsia lindenii (left). Tillandsia cyanea (right).


Even though we made an attempt to clarify the nomenclature of Tillandsia lindenii and Tillandsia cyanea, in the July-August 1951 Bromeliad Bulletin (p. 40), there remains confusion, as we find the plants still misnamed.

Disregard ALL former names for the two plants as in photo above! Start over again in learning that the long scaped species is Tillandsia lindenii. This plant (to the left in photo) when it reaches blooming size, is at least twice as large as the smaller species with the short scape, Tillandsia cyanea, which is the plant to the right in the photo. It is the smaller plant showing two flower spikes. This smaller plant, Tillandsia cyanea, shows clearly the short scape (or flower stem) with the short, rather stubby flower head. It has a deep blue-violet flower.

The flower head of Tillandsia Lindenii is two to three times longer than T. cyanea, and also the spike is more compact. The flower is generally larger and lighter.

We hope everyone having these plants in their collections will go out now and label them correctly.

Remember, please, there is no such species now, as Tillandsia lindeniana; this name has been officially discarded. For all the reasons and a complete botanical clarification read what was written by Dr. Lyman B. Smith in "Studies in the Bromeliaceae XVI," in "Contributions from the U. S. National Herbarium," Vol. 29–Part 10, published by the Smithsonian Institution. You may purchase this from the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Gov. Printing Office, Washington, D. C. Price 50c.

M. B. F.


M. B. Foster

Photo Bert Foster   
AECHMEA CAUDATA var. VARIEGATA M.B. Foster var. nov. A var. variegata foliis albo virideque longitudinaliter striatis differt. Cultivated in Orlando, Florida since 1935. M. B. Foster No. 2834. (Type in U. S. National Herbarium).

This new variety of Aechmea caudata is a striking contrast to the typical species A. caudata and has been a collector's item for several years.

An illustration of this new variety is shown on page 10 of "Anzucht and Kultur der Bromeliaceen" by Walter Richter of Crimmitschau, Saxony, Germany and is listed as Billbergia forgetii; this plant has also been sold under the name of Aechmea forgetii.

Rarely does this stunning variegated plant produce an inflorescence and like most such variegated forms does not reproduce by seed. It does, however, readily increase by offshoots whether in flower or not. The typical species, A. caudata being native to the southern temperate part of Brazil, is quite cold resistant.


David Barry, Jr.

It has been noted that some species of bromeliads, such as Aechmea Weilbachii, will produce twice the number of off-shoots at one time when planted deeply in the potting medium than when potted at a height above the medium that more closely resembles a natural growth condition. The theory of this practice is that bud eyes otherwise remaining dormant will be stimulated into growth and development.

In odd contrast is a recent experience with plants of Tillandsia lindenii. The first crop of off-shoots had been detached with a sharp cut along the surface of the stems. To clear the view for such cutting many of the lower leaves had been stripped from the plant to make the point of detachment of the off-shoots visible. This removal left sections of the stems, about an inch in each case, exposed to light, while growing the plants on for a second crop of offshoots. As a result, twice the number of offshoots in the second crops than in the first, quickly and thickly sprang from the bare, exposed stems. None grew out as in the first crop from among the leaves, but from the naked stem. It was apparent that light was the stimulating factor.

These contrasting cases of behavior under cultural conditions are example of a strong difference in degree of epiphytism in the two species. Recognition of such variation may bring interesting rewards to the grower.


Q.   When I receive Neoregelias and Nidulariums from Florida, they are a nice flat shape, but immediately assume an upward or urn-like habit of growth. Do I give them too much or too little light?

A.   Most Neoregelias should have as much light as they can stand without burning; this will give them their best shape and color. Too little light will tend to develop long leaves–more upright and with less color. Nidularium regelioides will take as much light as most Neoregelias. N. amazonicum and N. innocentii are more robust in half shade and require more moisture.

M. B. F.

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