BSI Journal - Online Archive


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.


Greetings of, the Season and may Good Wishes go with you throughout the year.


"A Celebration of Bromeliaceae" is a painting done by Brian Connelly, Society Member, as a tribute to the bromeliads which he finds "always remarkable, often beautiful, ideal companions and enormously gratifying pets." He says further, "I deeply appreciate their wonderful behavior when neglected – their surprising and marvelous reaction to just a little care."

This painting is what one might call a greenhouse in a dream for it conveys a perfect feeling of the greenhouse – the moisture on the glass, even to the feeling of heat.

This work was prepared for a group of paintings to be exhibited in most of the major Art Museums of America. It is a canvas twenty-four by thirty inches, and is for sale.

But most of all it is a glimpse of a person who intimately feels and understands what bromeliads have to say.

How Bromeliads Are Used for Decoration is again our Holiday theme; we hope that members will take a tip and find many unique and various ways to decorate with bromels in their homes this year, and take photographs which could be used in next year's Christmas issue so that other members might share the creative fun.

The Cultural Handbook of the Bromeliad Society would make an excellent gift to your garden minded friends . . . to botanist friends or to those who are seeking a new hobby. Also, it would not be amiss to make a presentation of our Handbook to your local Public Library, to your school's library, as well as to their Botanical Department, and to your Garden Center library. If each member would make two each of these presentations, we could sell over 600 books! Show it to the garden book counter of the big department stores. This could be a great cooperative effort.

The paper cover edition is only $1.50; cloth covered, $3.00.

We regret to admit that a most unfortunate error has just been found in the Handbook . . . In Mr. Henry Teuscher's article on "Feeding Bromeliads," page 49. The proportions of the potassium monophosphate are all wrong and one ingredient has been left out entirely. With several proofreaders working on the copy it is difficult to understand how this error passed. It should read as follows:

45 lbs. urea (46% N )
25 lbs. potassium nitrate (44% K2O, 13% N)
20 lbs. potassium monophosphate (33% K2O, 52% P2O5)
10 lbs. ammonium monophosphate (11% N, 48% P2O5

At the October meeting of The Florida West Coast Bromeliad Society – when our hostess was Mrs. Ida Kaufhold, 5000 Gulf Blvd., Pass-a-Grille – a vote of thanks was given Miss Mary Gilchrist, Garden Editor of The St. Petersburg TIMES, for spreading interest in bromeliads in this area through her articles in the TIMES and her many generous gifts from her personal collection of these beautiful and interesting plants.

Fern W. Lawrence, Corresp. Sec.

The Reader's Digest for December 1954 condenses from "Advertising Agency" an absorbing article by Frank J. Taylor on the pineapple, a "Billion-Dollar Rainbow." How Jim Dole transformed this bromeliad fruit into Hawaii s principal crop makes fascinating reading.

Photo by Author
Scene in the street near the market in Tegucigalpa taken on December 24, 1953. There are palm leaves, Tillandsia fasciculata and another Tillandsia, as well as orchids and ferns shown.


Louis O. Williams

The country people of Honduras collect several kinds of ornamental plants from the forest and bring them into the markets about Christmas time each year. Bromeliads, orchids, palms, ferns and aroids are the families of plants most commonly brought in.

Most of the showier Tillandsias are in flower at about this time of the year and are the most conspicuous plants in the market, due to their brightly colored bracts, and also are the most abundant.

There are several Tillandsias that are commonly seen in the Christmas market. The commonest is Tillandsia fasciculata, probably because it is an attractive species and is exceedingly abundant in some places. In the vicinity of Comayagua there is a place in the xerophytic forest where there must be literally millions of individuals of this species in an area of perhaps a thousand acres.

Tillandsias from the high mountains are brought into the markets also but are always in smaller numbers for they are more widely scattered in the forests and quite often are on tall trees and difficult to secure.

Photo by Author   
Tillandsia ponderosa collected from the market in Tegucigalpa on Dec. 24, 1953.
The mountain species which I have observed in the markets in Tegucigalpa or Comayagua are the following: Tillandsia punctulata, T. fasciculata var. rotundata*, T. Deppiana, T. lampropoda, T. ponderosa, T. orogenes and T. Standleyi.

These seven Tillandsias from the mountains and one from middle elevations are certainly a fine lot of species. The rarest one, T. ponderosa, is perhaps the showiest species which I have seen in the market and I have seen it only once. The photograph is of a specimen collected in the market in Tegucigalpa a year ago Christmas. The species is known to grow in Honduras in the San Juancito and Santa Barbara mountains, and doubtless occurs in other mountain groups here. Tillandsia ponderosa was originally discovered in Guatemala.

Certain of the mountain species of Tillandsia from Honduras might do well in the frost free portion of Florida. Some are well worth a try. Tillandsia punctulata, T. lampropoda and T. Standleyi are almost entirely confined to the pines as hosts, and might well take to the Florida pines.

Tillandsias seem to be very difficult to root when mature plants are brought in from the forest. I have discovered no way to make them take hold of trees in my yard. There have been Tillandsias and other genera of Bromeliaceae in my yard for some years and I have hoped that the seed, which is abundant, might take on other of the trees. When seed is ripe this year I am going to mix it with water, then throw the water onto the boles of palm trees to see if I cannot get them to stick and germinate in this manner. I have dozens of seedlings of one species of Tillandsia which were sown accidentally in this way.

Escuela Agricola Panamericana, Tegucigalpa, Honduras.


* Which seems to me to be distinct from the typical T. fasciculata.

Photo T. MacDougall


Mulford B. & Racine Foster

Thomas MacDougall, veteran plant collector, was lucky enough to be on hand in southern Mexico when this plethora of bromeliads as seen in the above photo was put to decorative use at the time of a religious holiday. The scene is in a home at San Cristobal Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. The picture was taken in February, 1948, just after the shrine had been adorned for a fiesta. For us it would have been no less than bromeliad worship with such a display before jaded eyes.

Such prodigal use of inflorescences makes us a little aghast when, by comparison, the appearance of one or two flower spikes in our home collection is so greatly cherished by most of us. This three to four foot pendent raceme is, in itself, a lavish complexity of little flower heads and perhaps it is little wonder that it is called Tillandsia prodigiosa. Sometimes an inflorescence will attain even six feet.

This Tillandsia is common on hills around Las Casas, and in some other parts of Chiapas. It grows on trees in pine and oak forests at nearly 6,000 to 8,000 feet altitudes. The showy inflorescences develop through the winter and into spring.

Mr. MacDougall comments on the fact that several collections have been made of this Tillandsia in different sections of Mexico and that there have been quite a variance in the size of the inflorescences and some variation in color as well.

In 1888 Baker described Tillandsia prodigiosa in the journal of Botany XXVI. It had formerly been described by Lemaire in Illustration Horticole XVI in 1869 as Vriesia prodigiosa.

Going over these first and later descriptions one will find no hint that the inflorescence of this spectacular Tillandsia is pendent, in fact, it has always been described as erect. This, no doubt, has come about from the fact that in the herbarium specimens the inflorescence has been separate from the leaves, and there was no indication as to which end was up or down. Evidently the original collectors have not made any very careful description of its appearance in natural growth habit.

That this striking bromeliad has been known for centuries and used as a decoration by the Indians is not too hazardous a presumption. No Indian could miss this exciting pendant, dangling from the trees. Such a showy series of compact Vriesia-like heads enclosed by elliptical bracts, brilliant in rousing red, could never be overlooked. But, that it could have been known by botanists for nearly one hundred years and so incompletely described, is a bit difficult to understand.

We hope that sometime this strange and spectacular plant may be able to adapt itself to horticulture, although as its habitat is in the higher altitudes it may not be happy in our greenhouses.

M. B. and R. F.


Is something wrong when you have to paint the lily? Adding color to the colorful bromeliads seems no less than a sacrilege but – there are times when it may be justified!

Mrs. Dave Lane of Haines City, Florida, has a driftwood tree completely decorated with bromeliads which have given her immense satisfaction in colorful flowers. However, there comes a time, alas, when these fade. Yet, the drying inflorescences remain on the plant. So, Mrs. Lane takes tiny pieces of red wool yarn and inserts them between the bracts of, say the "Painted Feather." This is done cleverly enough that from a distance one cannot guess that it is an artificial imposition. She has fun fooling her friends!

Photo M. B. Foster
The large heads of Aechmea magdalenae are piled in front of huge mounds of moss. Tillandsias and Thecophyllum type of Vriesias are in the foreground. On the box are Guzmanias, Tillandsias and Vriesias.


Mulford B. Foster

Just imagine, if you can, stacks and stacks of bromeliad blooms! Thousands of them heaped high in the market places!

The urge to decorate for the Mass of Christ is prevalent in many countries, and throughout Central and South America the custom of gathering fresh flowers from the jungle – especially bromels and selling them in the local markets at Christmas time – is one of the more colorful events of the season. In Costa Rica at this time there are very few cultivated flowering plants sold (as we sell Poinsettias) – it's the wild "parasitos" instead . . . and a more riotous advantage I have seldom seen. Where bromeliads are growing rank, almost in their back yards, they use them as lavishly as the wild flowers they are.

The country folk of Costa Rica go up into the moss forests of the mountains to bring down cart loads of Vriesias, Guzmanias, and Tillandsias which are in flamboyant color at holiday time. In greatest demand are the species with tall branching flower stalks which have the loosely hanging sizeable red bracts – like so many waving ribbons. Varying with the species, these bracts give the vivid touches of rose-red, yellow-red and cerise (so dear to the heart of an Indian) against a canvas of yellow-greens, blue-greens or olive-green – all mingled with dashes of bronze or blue. All this blends to create a seasonal chromatic symphony quite in contrast to the traditional holly and poinsettia theme prevailing in the northern climes.

From the high moss forests, along with the bromeliad flowers, the country folks also gather great sheets of mosses and lichens from trees and rocks to heighten the effect of their naturalistic arrangements, typical of the Christmas season, which they arrange throughout the house, but especially in the "corredor," the open gallery around the patio.

From down along the warm coastal areas brilliant flower heads of Aechmea magdalenae, the robust pineapple-like plant, are brought to the highland markets and serve as a sturdy supplement to their flower arrangements.

The principal use of this Aechmea which at one time was called "Ananas," is for fiber which for centuries has been extracted from its leaves. The native recognizes utility as well as beauty in the plants around him.

All of these native arrangements remind us of the many garden club enthusiasts who avidly read their "Flower Arrangement" books so that they might do a bit of "original" designing for their Spring Flower Show.

Appreciation of the Beautiful is born in the blood, and our most primitive peoples in all the warmer climes have shown their love of the great wealth of Beauty found in the Gardens of Nature. Notably in our Latin American countries do we find this appreciation of flowers. For in every Fiesta and Fair, whether for fun or worship, you will find flowers – flowers for weddings, for funerals and "Flores para el Corredor" as they say in Costa Rica at Christmas time.

Little wonder that bromeliads are used in decoration in the pastoral country of Costa Rica, for it is a verdant land of lush growth on low or high mountain areas. There the flora of North America and South America seem to join hands for a great celebration. The absence of desert or arid areas is noticeable. The great forest covered mountains hold a vast treasure for the botanist and plant hunters. With all of these elevations centered between two great oceans, only a day apart, Nature has built a fantastic garden where the bromeliads, as a family, have taken advantage of these favorable conditions and, literally decorated every tree with Tillandsias, Vriesias, Guzmanias or Catopsis. Aechmea, Bromelia, Billbergia and Pitcairnia have their representatives in some very interesting species. And then such rare genera as Androlepis and Araeococcus may he found, but aside from the one species of Puya, and one or two of Greigia, few of the other genera of Bromeliaceae have representatives there. What they lack in number of genera they quite make up in the great quantities of plants in the Tillandsia, Vriesia and Guzmania groups.

To Carlos Werckle, who lived in Costa Rica for 25 years as a tireless collector and botanist, goes the credit for having discovered more Vriesias of the Thecophyllum type and other members of the Costa Rican species of bromeliads than any other person. He was a champion and great admirer of the bromeliad family although he did not confine his botanical work to this group.  

M. F. B.


Victoria Padilla

This is a favorite time of the year for many gardeners. In most parts of the country the weather is so inclement that all he can do is to sit by the fire and dream over flower catalogues. However, for the bromeliad fancier, this is not the case. If he grows his plants out of doors, the weather will be so mild that he will have no excuse not to work outside. And if he grows his bromeliads in a greenhouse – his labors are never ending.

This is the month to take stock of one's greenhouse, to clean it thoroughly, to check over one's plants, segregating those which are scale infested or need special care. Scale should be eradicated as soon as it is first noticed, for if it is left to spread, the plant may soon become unsightly. The soft-leaved Vriesias and Guzmanias have caused the writer much grief this past year. Several malathon sprays are now obtainable on the market. Malathon has been found to be effective in curbing scale on bromeliads, but some of the products now on sale seem to contain such a large amount of oil that they should be used with caution. Oil sprays are dangerous to bromeliads.

For those who must contend with alkaline water, a very slight addition of an acid fertilizer to the water will be helpful. The liquid fertilizer can be effectively used by spraying on leaves and filling leaf cups.

Bromeliad growers should never be in too much of a hurry to cast aside old or sickly plants. Most bromeliads are very generous when it comes to having offshoots, and until the mother plant has completely rotted away, there is a possibility that more "pups" may be forthcoming. If due to injury or the entrance of a substance toxic to the plant, the heart begins to decay, the plant will in all likelihood throw off a number of side shoots, so be patient and do not relegate the plant to the rubbish heap until all hope is gone.

When the author had her greenhouse built, she had the glass extend all the way to the ground, thus allowing for good light under the benches. This area she has found excellent for those plants which have had their bloom and are busy putting out offshoots. Usually plants at this stage are no longer so attractive as they were but are still valuable for propagation purposes.

One of the most attractive greenhouses that this writer has seen is one in which the benches on one side of the house are but a few feet high. Thus one can look into the heart of each bromeliad and enjoy its full beauty. The benches on the opposite side are of regulation height, and on these the grower has set those plants which have not attained their full perfection. Under these benches he keeps his Nidulariums and those bromeliads which prefer dense shade.

A letter recently received from our trustee in Australia, Mr. Charles Hodgson, contains an interesting note on the method of growing bromeliads in the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. He writes:

"Thanks to the head nurseryman, Mr. Laurie Egar, the bromeliads are getting the attention they richly deserve. Upon looking through the propagating house one finds quite a large number of offsets being rooted in palm fibre, a good medium for the purpose. In another house, seedlings in limited numbers are being grown to add to the steadily increasing collection. Quite a good idea adopted by Mr. Egar is a new method of creating a better display of each variety. Oblong wooden boxes have been made, about two feet, six inches long, nine inches deep and a similar width. Into these boxes about a half dozen plants of each variety have been planted, which gives a grouped, and when the plants develop, a massed effect. This keeps the varieties together and also gives a better idea of their general characteristics. Another advantage of this type of culture is that when an old plant has flowered and new offsets are made, the old plant can be cut away without spoiling the general effect. Too, the general public gets a much better idea of the beauty of the different varieties."

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


Q. What causes bromeliads to bloom prematurely? How can one avoid this? I have had a great deal of this trouble lately, especially with Aechmeas, and the blooms are about one half the size they would be normally.

A. A very difficult question to answer. A long dry spell – a complete change of light exposure – a leakage of gas from a gas heater – any of these conditions might cause a premature flowering. If the blooms are half size, then the shock has most likely been gas or some chemical change introduced.

Q. What is the best method of applying liquid fertilizer? Do you advocate spraying or should the potting medium be saturated?

A. Liquid fertilizer may be applied through your watering hose or sprinkler. It is better to feed oftener with a greater dilution than directions on spray material suggest. It can be sprayed on both the plant and the potting medium.

Q. How do you keep very young seedling in the ground? Mine will not stay in the soil mixture.

A. Have never known of this trouble except when roaches or other insects uproot the small seedlings and eat the roots, or if the seedlings are too close and too dry. Watering should be watched very closely. Too dry or too wet could cause drying off or rotting off of seedling roots.

Q. Is there a safe fungicide for bromeliads?

A. Fermate is possibly the safest fungicide for bromeliads. Newly separated offshoots can be end-dipped directly in the powder without injury. Fermate can also be used in the water that you sprinkle on your small seedlings. Fermate can be rubbed on or sprinkled on any injury or infected part of the base of the plant or offshoot.


Racine Foster

Photo by Author   
Aechmea filicaulis
As always, man finds that in his creative expression he is not as original as his ego would like him to be. At best man re-expresses through his personal concept age old principles which have already been utilized throughout Nature in its myriad forms.

Even as ultra as the Mobile is in contemporary art, we find Nature was ahead, and even in the bromeliad family!

A Mobile can be explained in simplified layman's terms as one of those things which has a lot of forms suspended on fine wires; it gives you an airy feeling–a freedom from the conventional use of dimensions and other canvas technique. It has a fluid mobility of spatial values. The observer must reverse his conventional self and entertain a new concept concerning the decoration of space.

How many centuries ahead in the new trend were the bromeliads, it is hard to calculate, but it is no risk to say many thousands!

From an aerial perch in the lofty mountains of Venezuela hangs a natural Mobile issuing forth in delicate splendor out of the water-filled center of Aechmea filicaulis.* Under a cover of bright crimson bracts emerge chaste white flower tubes at a forty-five degree angle from an umbell of flowers suspended along a spidery-thin stem six feet long. It's an inflorescence which stops you cold, not because of the usual startling color prevalent in bromeliads, or of its size, but because it is so fragile, so unearthly, so much like something from fairyland.

718 Magnolia Ave., Orlando, Florida


*(See Brom. Bull. Vol. 1, No. 6, p. 55)

Walter Singer (Society Member) of the New Botanical Garden has a photographic story of how to grow a pineapple as a house plant in the Dec. 1954, Flower Grower.


Mulford B. Foster

Photo by Author   
Aechmea Racinae
The greatest number of bromeliads have upright or slightly leaning inflorescences, and even those species with side or lateral inflorescences have a stiff flower stem that either curves upward or comes out at right angles.

In the minority, however, are the species with the pendent flower spike, a few of which have their flowers arranged on a very thin or thread-like scape and may sway in the soft jungle air even as a pendulum counting the beats of Mother Nature's timeless efforts to decorate her tree forms.

Aechmea filicaulis (thread-like stem), (see p. 95), with its six foot long inflorescence is possibly the most delicate of these swaying pendulum flower stems. However, a recent new species Aechmea Lasseri*, discovered in the Venezuelan mountains by the writer in nearby regions to A. filicaulis, is its close cousin and rival in delicacy.

Most pendent inflorescences are on a stiffer and more rigid stem, such as T. prodigiosa (see p. 89) and generally carry larger and a greater number of flowers. Possibly one of the most outstanding examples, at least in massive weight, is the giant Tillandsia demissa (hanging down) (see photo), discovered by the author in Ecuador. This bulky flower stem, five feet in length, hanging far below the plant defies credulity. Perhaps this size makes up for the lack of flamboyant color, for the bracts are pale green; the petals, however, are an attractive lavender with darker edges, if you can see them between the many close fitting flower heads. These giant Tillandsia plants, clinging to perpendicular rock walls, weigh, when in flower, as much as fifty pounds each.

   Photo by J. G. Bacher Portland, Oregon
   Billbergia vittata X nutans
The cause of, or the reason for, the pendent inflorescences would be difficult to determine because one might find species such as the small V. simplex or Aechmea Racinae (see photo) with their pendulum-like flower spikes, growing only a few feet away from a magnificent specimen of V. hieroglyphica which has a three foot upright multiple branched head. With all of these species growing in similar semi-shade conditions and with such a difference between the weight of the smaller and larger species, it can be neither the weight nor light exposure element. Not far distant in this same Brazilian forest from these three species I found a striking Vriesia (V. retroflexa) which although starting out with a pendent inflorescence, seems to change its mind and then turns upward with the flower head, thus giving a reverse curve to its curious beauty.

Photo by Author   
Tillandsia demissa
Occasionally we find a small plant with a very voluminous inflorescence and the sheer weight will carry the flower head downward, but we may find another species of similar size with a small inflorescence such as Tillandsia incurva with both the plant and the inflorescence bending over as though attempting a headstand in mid-air.

Possibly a greater proportion of the species of Billbergias are pendent or semi-pendent than of any other of the larger genera. The completely upright inflorescence as in B. pyramidalis or B. horrida is the exception as most of the Billbergia species are either nodding or completely pendent, such as B. porteana, B. zebrina, B. Venezuelana, (see cover Vol. 3-No. 3 Brom. Bull.) and others.

There are a number of bromeliads such as Quesnelia liboniana or Aechmea marmorata that may exhibit their inflorescences in almost any degree from upright to completely pendent, and in such individual cases the reason would be almost entirely the amount of light in which the plant is grown. The less light, the longer and more drooping the inflorescence.

Whatever the reason for these out-of-the-ordinary methods of producing their flower heads, the results are always curious and nearly always strikingly decorative and they add enough to the varietal interest of our plant collection, that we may enjoy, at eye level, a look up or down, viewing grace in all its many forms.

718 Magnolia Ave., Orlando, Florida


* (See Brom. Bull. Vol. 3, No. 5, Sept.-Oct. 1953, p. 43)

Let's Decorate With Bromels

Mulford B. Foster

Photo M. B. Foster   
Vriesia splendens


Ever think of using bromeliads for table decorations? A most unusual decorative scheme was devised by Victoria Padilla last spring when she was put in charge of the decoration for a luncheon honoring the Deans of the Schools of Education of the local universities.

Eight tables were embellished with magnificent specimens of Vriesia splendens, which were lent by David Barry. Plants that can be designated as "splendid" without reservation were in finest color–their healthy green leaves banded by rich darker maroon green were courageously counterpointed by scintillating spikes in the full color of their coruscating golden-orange.

The general effect was indeed dazzling and the educators were even more impressed when they were told about the "Flaming Torch." It was explained that the flaming inflorescence symbolized the torch of learning rising out of the prison of ignorance–the prison being typified by the barred leaves.

The coloring of the plants was carried out in the place mats and napkins which were two shades of green, and in the place cards which were the color of the torch itself.

   Photo Racine Foster


A captive in irons this stylized Vriesia doorstop is ever a joy to bromeliad enthusiasts. It was designed and executed in wrought iron by Robert Savage, of The Forge in Barto, Pennsylvania. Mr. Savage's interest in bromeliads started in the Bromelario, Orlando, Florida, ten years ago.

Photo Dittrick   
Created by Castle's of Florida


Bromeliads have a perfectly balanced association with driftwood as well as with living wood. The informally twisted shapes of the weather-hardened wood is a setting incomparable to the soft texture of Vriesia (hybrid Marie) leaves which, being softly informal are styled with formality; the mellow grey of the driftwood is a perfect foil for the shiny green leaves and the brightly tinted flower head–called "The Painted Feather."

Few plants outside of the bromeliad family can adapt themselves so well to the indoor "outdoor" planting on a log as can bromeliads which have a water reserve system . . . a contributing factor in their easy care.



"The Enchanted Forest" was the theme of the Society exhibit at the International Flower Show held at Inglewood, California, last March. "Enchanted," indeed was the word for it, for under capable direction of Ben Rees, Wilbur Wood, and Jules Padilla, arose an exhibit that was indeed "out of this world' and one that enchanted all who beheld it. However, it was due to the combined efforts of all the members residing in this area that the Society was able to put on an exhibit that almost stopped the show. Robert Carter arose gallantly to the occasion by lending his precious collection of centuries-old juniper logs, that had been brought down with much difficulty from the highest spots of the Sierras. David Barry came forward with his finest of Vriesia hybrids; Morris Schick, with his Neoregelias; Wilbur Wood, Frank Overton, and Edmund Cooke, with many of their choicest plants.

The scene depicted a cloud forest–the dominant tone being gray–the only spots of color being those contributed by the bromeliads. Gorgeous indeed were the bromeliads–all perfect specimens of their kind. No other plant was introduced to take away from their beauty. In the accompanying photo can be recognized Vriesia X Marie, Vriesia retroflexa, Vriesia Roehr's Favorite, Vriesia magnifica, Vriesia Splendens, Nidularium regeliodes, Neoregelia Foster's hybrid, Tillandsia lindenii, and Tillandsia fasciculata.

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