BSI Journal - Online Archive


Vol. 3November – December, 1953No. 6

Photo by Sentinel-Star, Orlando, Fla.


The thrill of seeing strange and unique forms of epiphytic plants growing on limbs as they do throughout the American tropics is a new treat for the American public who may never be privileged to visit the tropics in the "raw." Castles of Florida did this artistic arrangement on a fine old piece of driftwood for the interior of the modern Sunset Terrace Dining Room in Winter Park, Florida.

A partial list of the bromeliads used, starting at the base of the tree, include Ae. weilbachii, Ae. marmorata, Vriesia splendens, Ae. pineliana, Ae. orlandiana, Bill. leptopoda, Neo. marmorata, Till. ionantha and Ae. X Foster's Favorite.

A crisp, colorful piece de resistance such as this will cause more interest, curiosity and admiration than any of the usual forms of plant decoration.


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.


With this issue, the third year of The Bromeliad Society Bulletin passes into history. Later than it should be, but with all the Best Wishes of the Season from the Editor's Desk, this number endeavors to dwell on the theme of decoration.

The art of selection and rearrangement, whether carried out with aid of brush, lense, spade or natural elements, gives each one of us an opportunity to express the inner-self, to re-create our ideals of The Beautiful.

The urge to be original in decorative ability should not be confined to this season only. It should continue throughout the years to come. This desire to interpret beauty can be assisted by the knowledge and use of the possibilities which the family of bromeliads has to offer.

We hope that the members will send in suggestions, photos and contributions which will help others in their efforts to display the great beauty contained within the magnificent family of bromeliads.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Lankester of Cartago, Costa Rica, visited the Bromelario in Orlando on the last lap of an extended horticultural vacation. For an unforgettable week at the end of October the Lankesters and our bromeliads beamed at each other with great devotion. "Don Carlos" as he is known in Costa Rica is one of our Honorary Trustees; he is also one of the six living original charter members of the American Orchid Society. Though he passed his three score and ten, five years ago, his keen eyes see every flower, fossil and fauna. Nothing escapes his attention and appreciation. The horticultural world has known few with a keener perception and appreciation of everything that grows, flys, jumps or swims, than does this most lovable man.

The editor has visited "Las Concavas," the Lankester's coffee plantation in Costa Rica where his fine collection of plants, both naturalized and captive, is a great pleasure to see.

Dr. Bruno Rietman, Society member, of Bahia, Brasil, foremost dermatologist of South America and plantsman par excellence, also honored the Bromelario, with another visit on his return from Europe en route to visit Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

On their annual trek to Florida this December, the Eric Knoblocks and the Morris Henry Hobbs of New Orleans stopped to visit the Bromelario, after a bromeliad collecting trip in the Everglades section of South Florida. They were accompanied by Mrs. Oliver Laurent, one of the Society's new members who is an ardent collector of those "thrilling bromeliads."

These good folks tell us that a second affiliated society may soon be formed in New Orleans. This brings to our attention a letter which we recently received from our Secretary who writes as follows: "The Southern California members wonder why the members in Florida, particularly those in and around Orlando, and those in and around Tampa, do not form local groups?

As Californians are known for their big-heartedness and Los Angeles is a far-reaching community, they invite the Florida members to become a part of the Southern California Bromeliad Society." Such generosity, surely, has no precedent!

It is again tine for Bulletin subscription renewals. Our list of members continues to grow and we are told that the new Handbook has been a worthwhile aid to interest others in joining the Bromeliad Society. Have you sold or distributed your share? We hope every member will make an earnest effort to procure at least one new member in this next year. We would be able to increase the size of the Bulletin at once if this could be done.

Bromeliads are definitely taking their place in plant appreciation and plant conversation but their extensive use has barely begun.

Marbach/Decher bei Stuttgart

Blumenfenster in Kaffee Kranzler

Our Vice President, David Barry, Jr. and his wife have now returned to California from a very marvelous tour throughout Great Britain and the Continent. From all reports it was a real Bromeliad Binge! There must be but few of the more important European collections of bromeliads that they were unable to visit. We are expecting some very interesting accounts of this trip for our Bulletin and are looking forward with great anticipation to more detailed accounts.

In a letter dated November 15th, Nice France, from Mr. Barry, we found the above photo with the following remarks: "The enclosure is a picture of a bromel treatment in the leading cafe in Frankfurt (Germany). Should be reproduced in The Bulletin to show the importance of bromels in Europe. The cafe was really splashy, – musicians in tails; hundreds of people at tea-time mostly eating pastries and ice creams."

While a number of different tropical plants, such as Philodendrons, Begonias, Sansevierias, etc. have been used, by far the greater percentage of plants used were bromeliads. One can identify such bromels as Ae. caudata variegata, Neoregelia carolinae var. tricolor, Crypt. bivittatus and zonatus, as well as numerous different kinds of Neoregelias.

Europe, for years, has known and used these bromeliads as decorative house and conservatory plants and only now in very recent years are the Americas waking up to the fact that their qualities are unmatched in this unlimited field.

Photo by M. H. Hobbs


Morris Henry Hobbs

Here is a novel and interesting way to show your smaller bromeliads. Single plants or groups can be planted in the easily prepared stone. The stone planter can then be placed in a shallow dish, such as is used for a dish garden, and watered from below. The pumice rock is extremely absorbent and will hold more than its own weight of water. To the best of my knowledge, this stone has no alkaline effect on plants that are planted in it.

Pumice stone is available in many paint stores throughout the country. In the Pacific northwest, it can be found in some of the mountain streams. The stone is usually irregular in shape and the first step is to saw it into two pieces, each of which will then have a flat side, which will be the base of the planter. See Fig. 1. Then with a small woodcarving gauge or chisel, dig out the stone in either one or several places, these holes to be filled later with potting medium for the plants. Fig. 2. In the case of several planting holes, it is well to connect them below the surface of the stone, so water will flow freely throughout the planter. Fig. 3 shows a completed stone filled with plants.

If you have a talent for whittling, you will find that small heads, animals, etc., may be easily carved out of a piece of this material. The writer has carved a number of blocks of pumice into heads, some with the top of the head cut out for the plant, others with the open mouth available for planting. The three pumice stone planters shown in the cut are good examples of the possibilities inherent in the use of this material for the display of Dyckias, the smaller varieties of Billbergia, all of the Cryptanthus species, and some of the Tillandsias. A small cluster of Tillandsia ionantha has been growing continuously in a tiny carved pumice head for over two years, yet the planting hole is hardly larger than a good sized thimble.

628 Toulouse St., New Orleans 16, La.


Q.   What causes the offshoots of my bromeliads (particularly Aechmeas and Vriesias) to send out offshoots and then die, instead of developing into mature plants? The offshoot throws out an offshoot after it has been severed just a month or so. Every single Vriesia X Marie which I have started this year has acted in this precocious manner.            (California)

A.   Offshoots on bromeliads appear on most species after the flowering period. If the heart or center of a plant or offshoot is injured, then a new offshoot may appear. If this new offshoot from an offshoot dies it must be because the last offshoot is not strong enough to resist the injury or else it may be potted too deeply. Offshoots should be left on the parent plant until six inches or more in height and should have a hardened base before it is removed.

We have never known this trouble with offshoots on Vriesia X Marie in twenty years of propagating them.

Q.   At what height should seedlings he transplanted from their original growing medium?

A.   This would be somewhat guided by the density with which the seeds were planted and germinated. Most bromeliad seedlings should be transplanted from their seed bed when they are one half to one inch high. They can then be moved to community pots with twenty to twenty-five plants per four inch pot. When they reach two inches and are beginning to crowd in the pot they can be moved singly to 2 or 2½ inch pots.


Victoria Padilla

This is the time of year when one should pause for a moment and take stock of his plants, considering each one carefully to see whether it is as happy and healthy as it can possibly be.

For the most part, bromeliads are robust little plants and will take an exceptional amount of beating before they finally fold up their lovely leaves. However, they require intelligent care and understanding if they are to look their best. As a large number of bromeliads are grown chiefly for their foliage, it is important that the leaves be unscarred. As has been stated many times, it is difficult to make hard-and-fast rules as to the culture of bromeliads; and what holds true for one person's plants may not be true of another's, but a few generalizations here may not be amiss.

It would seem from the many reports received that slugs and snails were particularly rampant all over the world this past year, and many of our favorite plants are showing the battle scars received from coming into contact with these greedy creatures. The author has learned the hard way that the average snail bait is to be used with the greatest of caution and that any item containing arsenic should be definitely avoided.

The local university has found that metaldehyde dust is effective against slugs, and a dusting of the greenhouse floor with it will do much to eliminate these pests. Metaldehyde is not harmful to bromeliads. Where a repellent is used on the benches, it is recommended that it be carefully placed on lettuce leaves between the pots and that none of it touches the pots. One plantsman had a great time controlling snails by introducing a variety of Darlingtonia into his greenhouse. The snails seemed to be attracted to this weird plant, and that was the end of them. However, this procedure would not he generally recommended.

Some plants lose much of their beauty because the tips of the leaves turn brown and the center portions of the leaves are marred by brown patches. These scars may be due to a number of causes–to alkaline water, to fungus, to soil that is too rich, to excessive moisture, to dryness, to cold, to heredity, to sunburn. If your leaves are marred, study the situation in which your plant is grown, make a test of the water you use with a piece of litmus or hydrion paper, check to see that the plant is not receiving a drip from above–or is in contact with galvanized pipe or a copper wire. As you avoid arsenic, so beware of copper and zinc–they are all treacherous foes.

Also be careful as to the time when you water. Some bromeliad growers have found that watering when the sun is bright will tend to burn the leaves. Aechmeas, Neoregelias, and Nidulariums seem to be particularly touchy in this regard. Excessive foreign matter mixed with the water will sometimes tend to cause brown spots at the base of the leaves. Several growers in Southern California are having better success with their plants by keeping them on the dry side, spraying down the benches and walks daily but watering the bromeliads only every week or two.

Bromeliads do not thrive in a dank, dark atmosphere. They want to breathe clean, fresh air, as they would normally do on the tree tops in their native haunts. If the atmosphere of your house tends to be oppressive, it might not be a bad idea to put in a little fan to circulate the air and to keep it buoyant. In the proper atmosphere scale and fungus will not form, and your plants will maintain their unblemished loveliness, which is their right.

At this holy season of the year, it is only fitting that we give special consideration to a bromeliad named in honor of the Queen of Heaven–Aechmea Mariae Reginae. A native of Costa Rica, it is among the showiest of the family and is appropriately named, for it is indeed the queen of the genus. In its native habitat it is called the "Flor de Santa Maria" and is used in decorating the churches. It created quite a sensation when it was introduced into Europe in 1873, and since then it has never failed to stir up excitement when placed on exhibit.

It is a large, sturdy plant–its stiffish, yellow-green leaves reaching almost 24 inches at maturity. The inflorescence reaches a height of two feet, one half of the stalk being covered with large rose-colored convex bracts, which are exceedingly lovely. The white flowers, delicately tipped with blue, are compactly arranged to form a most imposing head. The individual flowers change to a salmon color with age, while the bracts retain their intense rose shade for several months. Many of the boat-shaped bracts are tipped at the ends with a rich contrasting green. The color of the whole inflorescence is unbelievably beautiful.

The plant grows easily from seed and has bloomed for one grower (in Southern California) four years from the time the seed was sown. It seems to be generous in having offshoots, which occur not only around the sides of the plant, but also between the leaves. The plant is quite hardy and is not subject to pests. It has been grown out of doors in Southern California, but the plant that bloomed was grown in the greenhouse of Society member, Susan W. Hutchinson of Glendale, California.

The only drawback that the plant could have would be in size. The author's plant has a spread of over three feet and is difficult to move because of the wicked teeth on the leaves. The plant, however, should be a MUST for every bromeliad grower. Even when not in bloom Aechmea Mariae Reginae is an imposing plant, and when it is in flower in the spring it is definitely heavenly in its beauty.

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

A Living Flower Vase

A novelty with flowers, when company comes, can be arranged in a stiff leafed bromeliad such as the Aechmea fasciata shown here. Perky Gerberia daises and a saucy rooster were on hand for this setting. The natural vase-like form of many of the bromeliads allow them to hold just the right amount of water to keep the flowers fresh for a period of days.
   Photo by Racine Foster
Photo by John Robinson, Concord, Calif.   
Driftwood in The Garden

In a quiet corner of Victoria Padilla's garden in Los Angeles, Calif. one is pleasantly gratified to find a gnarled and weather beaten piece of driftwood holding an air garden of bromeliads, just as if they were very much at home in a native cloud forest. Several Tillandsias surround an Aechmea tillandsioides var. kienastii on the top curve, while a Neoregelia flanked by the tiny Tillandsia ionantha seems satisfied in the central area. Spanish Moss hangs over various forms of Billbergias at the base. Tillandsia simulata seems to enjoy its attachment to a piece of redwood which hangs in companionship to the age old driftwood.

How I Grow Bromeliads In a Dry Climate

Susan W. Hutchinson

Here is proof that bromeliads are extremely adaptable. Bromeliads in their native habitat have just about everything that I am unable to duplicate, and in spite of this I grow these plants quite successfully.

My 9x16 glass house soon became too small to accommodate all of my plants, so the more hardy and more prolific kinds, like the Billbergias, were transferred to the garden with the Puyas, Dyckias, etc. In the glass house the pots are either on slatted benches or suspended by wire hangers from pipes near the roof of the house. I have all my Tillandsias hanging from these.

For potting soil I use a mixture of leaf mold, that I get in the mountains, rotted wood, peat, pulverized cow manure, and some expanded silica sold under the trade name of Zonolite. Tillandsias and Vriesias are all potted in osmundine. I have a few Tillandsias nailed on Cork Oak bark. The ornamental leaved Aechmeas, Vriesias, and Tillandsias are such slow growers that they find ample nourishment in the potting medium without added fertilizer. The unnatural conditions under which these plants are forced to live seems to limit their active growth as effectively as cold. I have tried spraying the plants with a very dilute solution of liquid fertilizer; I like to imagine that it helps them.

In potting I place some wire screening over the hole in the pot to prevent the entry of slugs and sow bugs; I cover this with a bit of sphagnum; next, to prevent the clogging of the screen, I put in a layer of broken pots, the pieces placed upright to promote drainage; then the plant is placed in the pot and the dampened earth tamped around it firmly. Firm potting seems to facilitate rooting. I do not use garden soil; it holds too much moisture.

I try to keep the humidity fairly high, as much as I can above 40 percent. My glass house has ventilators under the benches and an automatic ventilator in the roof, which opens when the temperature reaches 75°. With the automatic sprayers under the benches, when the ventilators are open, there is a rather even updraft of moist air. In hot or sunny weather I cover the plants with a mist spray from the hose; the number of times I spray is determined by the weather. I water the plants individually not oftener than once a week, unless the weather is hot, and less often in cool weather. Thus I have little trouble with rot. In the colder months I keep my plants rather dry; I find it advisable to empty the leaf cups of accumulated water from time to time; this probably minimizes tip burn. Our chlorinated, alkaline tap water is surely harmful, especially when plants are dormant. Overall humidity is a far better way of providing needed moisture.

I heat with electricity; an automatic switch turns on an electric circulating heater when the temperature falls below 60°. Gas, would, undoubtedly, be cheaper and perhaps better.

My neighbor's towering eucalyptus trees give my glass house a north exposure, creating a problem for me. In summer I shade with sections of slats made removable by hooking them to a frame. I remove the slats in winter when the plants seem to be able to stand the midday sun.

A constant vigilance keeps plant pests, and all the above factors, under control. There is, of course, always the feeling that some plants want something which I am unable to supply; yet, all in all, they do well and seem happy; they are a continual source of pleasure to me.

720 Cumberland Road, Glendale 2, Calif.

Photo by Boutrelle, N.Y.   
Flower Show Arrangement

This was an "invitation arrangement" in the March 1950 International Flower Show, held in Grand Central Palace, N. Y. It was intended to he an interpretive composition honoring an outstanding botanist or naturalist; I chose Mulford B. Foster and his work with bromeliads to interpret.

The container chosen was an old Chinese bronze on a teakwood stand. Strelitzia leaves along with Costis stalks and seed heads were used as background material with a Rhapis palm leaf peeking through. The other plant material was bromeliaceous. Small pineapple heads and spotted Ae. marmorata leaves gave weight as well as color; practically the whole plant of Billbergia pyramidalis makes an imposing center focal point, while the handed leaves of Cryptanthus zonatus and Ae. orlandiana added an exotic touch. Colorful heads of the Tillandsia fasciculata gave an informal and sparkling line to other more formal lines. On the table rested a colorful Crypt. zonatus and an Ae. hybrid Bert beside a Nidularium amazonicum which balanced the color contrasts.

This arrangement evoked much curiosity and many "Ohs" and Ahs", because of the unconventional plant material, probably never so used before. It was a source of great satisfaction to me to have created a "conversation piece" with bromeliads.

Louise Aldrich Meissner

   Photo by Racine Foster
Dry Arrangement

One does not necessarily need to have only live bromeliads for decorative schemes about the house! Save the old inflorescences from your Hohenbergias, Dyckias, Hechtias, Aechmeas, etc. for arrangements that are different. They dry into odd curves and give some of the desired contour lines that make a graceful arrangement approved by Flower Show judges!

In the photo at the right one finds a dried Catopsis floribunda inflorescence inserted in a cluster of Tillandsia fasciculata leaves as the central spiraling line, flanked by two inwardly curved lines of Hohenbergia Salzmannii. The mass of whirling lines is contributed by small plants of Tillandsias which retain their original form and color long after they are dead.


M. B. and R. Foster

A few days ago, in our Bromelario, a visitor from the north, as she viewed the many beautiful forms of plant growth, especially in the bromeliads, exclaimed, "How peaceful and restful are these plants, even when they are not in bloom." She looked over at the orchid plants and said, "Yes, they need flowers. But the bromeliads, no, they have beauty without a flower."

She continued, "I have never realized it before, but they are easier to live with the year 'round as house plants than the many plants whose main attraction is the bloom."

"Flowers are exciting. Our shrubbery up north has a quick, exciting flash of color in the spring, then we live with them the rest of the year with a lovely, quiet change of green. I am afraid we would tire of them if they had flowers all the time."

Even though a bromeliad may produce a flower of short duration, if it has beautiful form and rhythm it is desirable. One doesn't expect a Philodendron or a Sansevieria to bloom, and they are possibly the most used decorative plants on the market today. We feel that if in bromeliads there was nothing else to rave about, their form alone should give complete satisfaction to even the most critical eye. When the flowering period comes–that's just an extra dividend!

Orchids are grown almost exclusively for their flowers and are not generally grown for their decorative plant form. Bromeliads, on the other hand, are grown for their plant form and color plus their unique inflorescences which become a decorative feature of the plant, often for months.

Contemporary decor stresses simple structural form and color. A quiet, reserved beauty with individuality. Our daily life is so keyed up with the modern activity, jet propelled and streamlined, that we need the quiet, simple forms in living greens for the more restful moments in the home.

By contrast, in the days of rococo decoration, grandma had, almost exclusively, flowering plants in her home because she didn't get around as much as grandma does today; she stayed home and therefore needed a bit more excitement and company which the flowers could give her.

In our busy modern life we require a greater percentage of plants which will give us the quietude of simple form and rhythm–as well as plants that take a minimum amount of care. Bromeliads, happily, fulfill these requirements.

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