BSI Journal - Online Archive


M. B. Foster, Editor, 718 Magnolia Ave., Orlando, Florida.
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Hohenbergias are not too well known horticulturally, but certainly there are a few species that have a definite place in our collections. In this issue we are endeavoring to glean a bit of information concerning this genus so that we can be better acquainted with some of the species.

If you have not seen a living Hohenbergia, then the next best thing would be to see it in a color print. We wish that it could be possible to include a beautiful bromeliad portrait, in color, in each issue of our Bulletin but the cost makes that prohibitive. Our Society is young, our exchequer is small, however, our dreams and aspirations are not limited.

We were fortunate to find, at the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami, Florida, among its beautiful post cards, one picturing Hohenbergia stellata, taken as it grows in their garden alongside of Aechmea Mariae-Reginae. The black and white photo of this pair was printed in the Bromeliad Bulletin last December, 1955, Vol. V, No. 6, p. 84.

Our Cover Subject: Huge clusters of Hohenbergia penduliflora on Sabal palms in Cuba. This fine photo was taken by Dr. B. E. Dahlgren, who was Curator of the Department of Botany in the Chicago Museum of Natural History for many years. A noted specialist on palms, he is still an indefatigable collector who spends months every year in the field, concentrating on the Copernicia palms in Cuba.


Die Farinosae in der Vegetation von El Salvador. By Otto Rohweder. xvi + 197 pages; plates 36 including 171 figures and 60 half tones. Cram, de Gruyter & Co., Hamburg, Germany, 1956. DM 35.00. (In U.S. $8.40)

Dr. Rohweder's book is in effect an encyclopedic treatise on the Bromeliaceae of El Salvador, the other families of the Farinosae playing a minor role. Those of us who can read German will find it a mine of information about the geography, climate, and general vegetational formations of El Salvador and the characteristics and preferred habitats of the different species of bromeliads. For everyone the excellent maps, diagrams, and illustrations speak a universal language.

Fifty species of Bromeliaceae are treated including a new Vriesia and several species published previously by the author. The figures emphasize the basic differences between the species and the various scenes of cliff and forest are enough to make any bromeliad fan want to catch the next plane to El Salvador.

Lyman B. Smith, U. S. National Museum.


B. E. Dahlgren

The photo on the cover was made in 1948 in western Pinar del Rio province, Cuba. At a point about 70 kms. from Havana on the main highway westward, half way between Las Mangas and Candelaria, scattered Sabals and the light green foliage of Copernicia glabrescens Wendl. begin to be visible on one or the other side of the road. The Copernicias, "guano blanco," have probably by now been much reduced in numbers and their stems converted into fence posts, especially near the side of the road where the ground they once occupied has been plowed up for root crops. The Sabals are much more likely to be left standing but have generally had to part with most of their leaves, which are much esteemed for thatch for the countrymen's dwellings, and as such are an article of commerce throughout the length of Cuba. The butts of the leaf stalks left afford places of attachment for climbers such as vanilla and small-leaved aroids, epiphytic ferns and a few bromeliads, the largest and most conspicuous one being a Hohenbergia. Occasional large masses of these present a remarkable sight. I took for granted that the one I photographed must be the Hohenbergia penduliflora (A. Rich.) Mez, listed and illustrated in Vol. I of Bro. Leon's Flora of Cuba, and filed the photo away as such. On a recent visit to the Herbarium here in Chicago, Dr. Lyman Smith called my attention to the length of its peduncles, which he said reminded him more of the Jamaican form of this species than that of the Cuban.

At the time the photo was made one to two kms. south of the highway, I was interested chiefly in the Copernicias that formed clumps, as if from basal offshoots rather than from seedlings. Before leaving the clumps of palms (not to be seen in this photo) I decided to use one of the remaining films to photograph the bromeliads I had already noticed. On foot, with my camera and tripod to attend to, and not equipped right then to collect anything out of reach of a short machete, it seemed to me that I would have enough difficulties negotiating the barbwire fences over a rough and wet terrain without encumbering myself with more to carry back to the spot where I had left the highway. Thus I made no specimen, unfortunately, of this Hohenbergia.

I promised Lyman Smith, however, that at my very first opportunity, on passing that way again, I would make an effort to collect a specimen if still to be found there.

The photo shows the trunk of the palm somewhat deformed near its base as the result of former damage followed by effective repair. The second largest palm included appears to have reached a stage of decline, with a slight curvature as if from winds of hurricane force, and minor irregularities marking successive cuttings or other vicissitudes.

Chicago Natural History Museum, Chicago, Ill.


Lyman B. Smith

Hohenbergia laesslei L. B. Smith Type
The outstanding bromeliad specialty of Jamaica is the genus Hohenbergia, so I was not greatly surprised when another new species appeared in a collection sent me by George R. Proctor of the Science Museum of the Institute of Jamaica. I take pleasure in naming the species after its discoverer Mr. Albert M. Laessle.

The species is closely related to Hohenbergia inermis Mez and H. fawcettii Mez but differs from the first in its smoothish dark-spotted floral bracts and from the second in its elongate lower peduncles. Unlike either it has persistently white-lepidote spikes and the spines on its sepals are larger. The following Latin version of the above notes makes the species strictly legal: HOHENBERGIA LAESSLEI L. B. Smith, sp. nov.

H. inerme Mez atque H. fawcettii Mez affinis, a priore bracteis florigeris sublaevibus atro-pictis, a posteriore pedunculis inferioribus elongatis, a ambobus spicis persistente albido-lepidotis, spinis sepalorum majoribus differt.

Epiphytic; flowering shoot decurved, 1 m. long; leaves 7 dm. long, densely punctulate-lepidote throughout, sheaths elliptic-oblong, 25 cm. long, pale brown, blades ligulate, 12 cm. wide, laxly serrate with dark spreading teeth 2 mm. long; scape stout; scape-bracts erect, densely imbricate, lanceolate, acuminate to a dark indurate apex, membranaceous; inflorescence bipinnate, slenderly pyramidal, 4 dm. long, finely white-lepidote; primary bracts like the scape-bracts, exceeding the lower spikes; peduncles spreading, slender, complanate, to 5 cm. long; spikes subcylindric to ellipsoid, 35 mm. long, 10 mm. in diameter; floral bracts broadly ovate with a mucro 2 mm. long, nerved at least near the margin, yellow with a dark castaneous median spot, slightly shorter than the sepals after anthesis, the lower broadly acute, the upper rounded; sepals 5 mm. long exclusive of the 1 mm. mucro; petals appendaged; ovary subglobose, placentae subapical, ovules obtuse.

Type in the Science Museum of The Institute of Jamaica, collected near Sweetwater, Cockpit Country, St. James Parish, Jamaica, altitude 570 m., August 16, 1952, by Albert M. Laessle.

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.

Hohenbergia stellata Schult.


Mulford B. Foster

Very few Hohenbergias have been introduced into horticulture, possibly, for at least two reasons. First, most of the species are large and but few of them have showy inflorescences.

The genus was founded by Schultes in 1830 and was named for the Prince of Wuertemberg, known in botany as Hohenberg.

One of the first species to enter horticulture in Europe was H. penduliflora (A. Richard) Mez and it was grown at Havre, France by Mr. Quesnel in 1843. It was first named Pitcairnia penduliflora by A. Richard in Cuba. Later it was called Aechmea Wrightii by Baker but received its present name, H. penduliflora, by Mez in 1896.

The first species to come to the Florida gardens was also H. penduliflora for it was brought here by Charles Torrey Simpson from Cuba. Mr. Simpson, one of the earliest plant collectors in Florida, came here in 1882, and in his book Out of Doors in Florida (1923), page 263, he writes:

"I have in my grounds a large bromeliad (a species of Hohenbergia, perhaps) which I obtained in Cuba where it is abundant on trees. Its hard, indigestible seeds, surrounded by a sweet, very sticky mass, are contained in dry capsules and the pulp is much relished by birds in the island. In getting it, a part of the contents is daubed on their beaks, feathers and claws and when they alight on other trees it sticks to their bark. They also swallow the whole capsules and pass the seeds out undigested, so this crafty plant has two perfectly good means of distributing and planting itself on the bark of trunks and branches. One might say that part of them rode to their destination on the cow catcher while the rest took inside passage."

After Mr. Simpson's introduction of the plant, it became known, locally, as Aechmea Simpsonii as well as Hohenbergia Simpsonii; to this day it is often found in gardens of South Florida.

Although there is little color in the entire inflorescence and the flowers are pale greenish, the large stiff leaves, which often reach two feet in length, are of a blue-green color which makes the plant an interesting addition to any epiphytic garden or rocky ledge.

When von Martius made his famous expedition into Brazil, he was the first to discover Hohenbergia stellata being so named by Schultes in 1830, but it was first introduced into cultivation in Europe by M. Porte about 1860.

There are thirty-three (including the new one, this issue) known species of Hohenbergia; they are found native from Cuba throughout the West Indies, Guatemala, Venezuela and Brazil. Brazil has the greatest number of species, sixteen, being found along the Atlantic coast from the north to Santa Catarina in the south, but most of the species are in the northern states of Pernambuco and Bahia.

The greatest concentration of Hohenbergia species, however, is to be found on the island of Jamaica where there are twelve known species; because of this great concentration we are led to believe that this area is the original home of the genus. In every section of the island may be found Hohenbergias.

My first sight of a Hohenbergia in flower was in 1939 when Racine and I visited Bahia in Brazil. Here we found H. stellata in the trees very near the city's edge. It was a glorious sight with clusters of brilliant crimson red bracts, flowers like so many stars shooting beautiful blue petals from their strobilate heads. This was one bromeliad, we were sure, that must go back alive to Florida to brighten our garden in the winter months; thus, H. stellata came to American horticulture. Only a colored photo (which we are pleased to include) can express its startling brilliance.

   Photo by author
Hohenbergia Salzmannii Morr.
We had been in the state of Bahia but a few days when we visited the coast north of the capital city, Sao Salvador. It was on May 29, 1939 when we first explored the great sand dune areas of the coast. Here we found the largest bromeliad we had ever seen, H. Salzmannii, a giant growing on the pure white sand dunes.1 Many gallons of water were held in the leaf reservoirs of this gargantuan cousin of our Spanish Moss. With leaves eight to ten inches wide and from three to four feet long, this stiff, armored bromel with an open branched inflorescence which rose three feet above Racine's head, was a real challenge to two enthusiastic neophyte plant collectors who had promised to collect herbarium material of everything in bloom, for Dr. Lyman B. Smith (then with the Gray Herbarium at Harvard). We looked at our little twelve by seventeen inch herbarium press that Dr. Henry Nehrling had used in years past. Racine placed it on the ground and looking first at the plant, which weighed at least one hundred and fifty pounds, (including the water, frogs and other fauna), and then at me who did not weigh nearly that much, she said, "And just how do you press this giant between two thin sheets of herbarium paper?" By the time I had succeeded in wrenching off three of the leaves and cutting down a part of the inflorescence with my facao, we were ready to call Lyman Smith by long distance phone and tell him to come down and make his own herbarium specimens! This was only a sample of what was ahead of us. The miniature lavender flowers, with petals barely one eighth of an inch long seem to be a very weak gesture as a floral display on this giant plant but they are sufficient for the normal functions of a flower. They are fragrant too and each flower is filled with nectar. (We have a large plant now in flower, Aug. 1956, in the Bromelario.)

This herbarium specimen problem, however, was only the beginning of six months of trouble in making specimens.

Before the day was over we were hot, tired, hungry and thirsty; we sat down on the beach and then on the rocks nearby. I was too tired to rest, so, I managed to cross a narrow tidal stream over to the mainland where I found a large area completely covered with great beds of terrestrial bromeliads. Very stiff cylindrical rosette plants eighteen to twenty inches in height growing in close formation in the broiling sun, just as one would find the endless sea of "scrub palmettoes" Serenoa repens along the Florida coast.

This was to be our first new species of Hohenbergia, H. littoralis and our second new bromeliad species since our arrival in Brazil.

A few days later we went by coast steamer to Ilhéos where we discovered two more new species of Hohenbergia, H. disjuncta and H. minor,–the later being the smallest member of the genus.

It was in that same area of Bahia that we found a very old species H. Blanchettii,2 another giant; we were most fortunate to bring back safely for our collection, live plants of H. Blanchetii, H. Salzmanni, and H. stellata, as well as H. catingae.

We collected all but five of the known sixteen species of Hohenbergia in Brazil but most of them preferred to live there and not in Florida.

Later in 1954, when I visited Jamaica,3 I collected most of the twelve species native to that country, but brought back successfully only a few live species; H. Urbanii, one of the most showy species in Jamaica is, fortunately, alive and thriving in Orlando. With its clusters of yellow flowers it will make a nice addition to our living collection of eight species in this interesting genus.

718 Magnolia Avenue, Orlando, Florida


  1. See, Foster and Foster: "Brazil, Orchid of the Tropics" (1945) p. 45, 48. Ronald Press, Publishers, N. Y.
  2. Brom. Cultural Handbook, page 32.
  3. Brom. Soc. Bull., Vol. IV, No. 5, p. 77.


Racine Foster

A great deal has been studied about the bromeliads in the fields of ecology, taxonomy, horticulture, as well as the useful by-products in food, fiber and medicine; what has been written on the fauna inhabiting bromeliads is not generally known but the work is sizeable and remains a fascinating subject.

One of the most interesting and complete studies on the fauna is that submitted by Senor M. C. Picado, Naturalist of Costa Rica, for his doctorate degree at the University of Paris in 1913, entitled, Les Broméliacées Epiphytes Considèrèes comme Milieu Biologique. It is a 329 page book with twenty-four plates, four of which are in color. It is a most comprehensive and detailed account of the fauna of bromeliads as found in Costa Rica where Dr. Picado made his field studies.

Among much interesting material on the inhabitants themselves is an impressive list of authors and their works, in chronological order, which deal exclusively with the animals of bromeliads.

Being the initiator in this kind of study, Fritz Mueller and his Elpidium bromeliarum, has first place in this bibliography. Mueller studied the fauna in bromeliads in Brazil between 1879 and 1884. Elsewhere in this issue, p. 60, Padre Raulino Reitz of Brazil has ably discussed this first to be described bromeliad inhabitant.

Other students of this fauna research, as Picado has named them, are: Fridenreich (1883); D. Sharp (1884); F. W. Kirby (1897); Ohaus (1900); C. Werckle (1910); W. Michaelsen (1912); F. Knab (1912) to name only a few. These men named the following animals which prefer a bromeliaceous milieu; this habit is indicated in their Latin names, such as a butterfly, Pentameria bromeliarum; a planarium (or flat worm), Rhynchodemus bromelicola; a water spider, Mongoma bromeliadicola; a weevil, Metamasius bromeliadicola; a dragonfly, Limosina bromeliarum; and another butterfly, Valentina bromeliae.

Further works cited deal with, 1) those which treat exclusively the animals of bromeliads; 2) those which treat the biology of the epiphytic bromeliads; 3) those which show the relationship or dependence of fauna on bromeliads.

Dr. Picado does not stint in any way his full consideration of the bromeliads as a preparation to his understanding of their inhabitants, in such chapters as, "The Organization and Physiology of Bromeliads"; "Research on the Phenomenon of Nutrition in the Epiphytic Bromeliads"; "The Milieu of Bromeliads" which includes a fascinating discussion of his distinction between what he names "L'aquarium", (the central cone of water) and the "Le terrarium" (distinguished by the periphery or debris around the "aquarium" which makes a "black earth.") He considers the rapport between bromeliads and their fauna as well as their origin and distribution in this specialized habitat.

Among many other works, Dr. Picado cites that of Adoph Lutz of Brasil (1913) (famous for his work with malaria mosquitoes in bromeliads) who was the first to observe the "double constitution of bromeliads in the "l'aquarium and le terrarium", an idea which Picado maintained and fortified.

Another scientist's work with the biology of bromeliads was called to our attention by Picado: Dr. Philip Calvert, who was Professor of Zoology at the University of Pennsylvania and was editor of the Entomological News. Dr. and Mrs. Calvert's book A Year of Costa Rican Natural History (1917) (which, incidentally, has been resting on our shelves, unread, many years) now has newly focused interest, especially in his chapter, "Juan Vinas – The Tenants of Bromeliads".

Herewith follows extracts from this chapter which may interest students of bromeliads. Although interested in all entomological specimens, Dr. Calvert's main search in bromeliads was for dragonflies, the entomological details of which we omit.

A trip along the Reventazon Road (near Cartago) in December yielded some big bromeliads which were examined carefully. "All four bromeliads examined were inhabited by some animals. The fourth, besides containing dragonfly larvae, was tenanted by a young scorpion two inches long which had just shed its skin, the latter also found; several species of daddy-longlegs, and of Pseudoscorpions . . ." "There were also several species of beetles, both adults and larvae; certain of the latter seemed especially well adapted to life between the appressed leaves of the bromeliad . . .". "A caterpillar, perhaps of the moth Castnia, also lived in this plant, and in the mud between some of the leaves dwelt a fair-sized earthworm . . .". "In the first and second bromeliads were also a large scorpion six inches or so in length . . . round beetle larvae of the "June bug" style, a species of snail, earwigs, smaller ants, isopods, collembolans and a smaller species of earthworm."

"Some [bromeliads] we tried to reach were perched too high, as we discovered when we attempted to throw the rope around them. But we did succeed at last in pulling down a big one, although it took all our combined weight and strength, and were rewarded by finding seven or eight dragonfly larvae of different sizes. This bromeliad, among other animals, contained a few of the black Odontomachus (ants), so that their presence does not necessarily preclude the existence of dragonfly larvae in the same cluster of plants."

"Other bromeliads in this valley which we examined in March contained no dragonfly larvae but many planarians, (Rhynchodemus bromelicola), flatworms 20 mm. (¾ inch) or more in length, striped lengthwise with black and dull yellow."

The following quotation, from the Calvert book, gives us not only a thought about how dragonflies originally got into bromeliads, but also a speculative thought about how some bromeliads might have climbed into the trees.

"The origin of the bromeliadicolus habit of the larvae of Mecistogaster modestus (dragonfly) may possibly be accounted for in the following manner. The majority of the species of Mecistogaster are South American and some of them occur along the Amazon, where also are the headquarters of the Bromeliaceae. As is well known, 'thousands of miles of forests' along the river are inundated each wet season, so that a person 'will travel this forest for days, scraping against tree-trunks and stooping to pass beneath the leaves of prickly palms, now level with the water though raised on stems forty feet high' (Spruce, Wallace). At such periods of high water, epiphytes, whether of the Bromeliaceae or of other families, would often be just at the water's surface, or only slightly submerged, and would offer to dragonflies quite ordinary and usual places of oviposition. An association with certain plants might thus be formed by Mecistogaster or its ancestors which would persist even when the water-surface was much below the level of the epiphytes. Only such plants as could retain water for long periods of time (weeks and months) would permit the development of essentially aquatic larvae and the water must be renewed from time to time. Once the association of this insect with bromeliads or any other suitable plant was formed it might persist with the spread of the insect away from the regions of deep yearly inundations ...".

"The favorable character of bromeliads as shelters, or as sources of food for animals is indicated by the fact that the cluster from one height on a tree at Juan Vinas which has been designated the "fourth bromeliad" yielded twenty-five species associated at one and the same time, although one of these species was an external parasite on the body of a beetle."

Dr. Calvert, full of admiration for Dr. Picado's work in Costa Rica quotes and translates him from his "Les Broméliacées Epiphytes Considèrèes Comme Milieu Biologique" concerning the epiphytic bromeliads and their fauna. Picado groups the members of the bromeliad habitat as "1. Those which attack the plant itself, 2. those which feed on the vegetable debris and the fungi which develop there, and, 3. the predacious animals. He has brought together a long list of about 250 species included under these three categories."

Quoting Calvert further: "The inter-relations [as suggested by Picado] of members of these different elements are interestingly shown by our "fourth bromeliad". The ants brought from it were described by Prof. W. M. Wheeler as a new species, Apterostigma calverti, of which we had also other specimens." . . . "We had suspected these latter to be fungus-growing. Professor Wheeler wrote of them, "As you surmise it is a fungus-growing ant of the most primitive and, at the present time, most interesting genus of Attii. No species of this genus has ever been taken in Bromeliads. All of the known species have been described from cavities in rotten wood where they build a peculiar fungus-garden using caterpillar excrement as a substratum, and enveloping the whole garden in a mycelial web, which is not known to exist in any of the other genera of Attiin ants."

Calvert says further: "We have made no direct observations of the nature of the fungus-garden of Apterostigma calverti in the bromeliad; but in view of Professor Wheeler's statements it is apparent that the excrement for the growth of the fungus may well be furnished by the caterpillars or by some of the beetles which were found there. This affords, then a glimpse of the food dependence of a member of the second group on those of Dr. Picado's first group."

It remains a question as to just how far the inhabitants of bromeliads are limited exclusively to this milieu but certain observers suggest that this might' be the case.

Mr. F. Knab (1912) "believes that the beetle larvae of the family Cyphonidae inhabiting bromeliads are distinct species from those which breed in tree-holes", and he adds, "My belief, in the meantime, gains support from the fact that the Diptera [flies] breeding in the bromeliads have been found to be, almost without exception, confined to this habitat."

Dr. Calvert goes on to say [and translates for us] what Dr. Picado has concluded. He "has likened the totality of the epiphytic bromeliads to a great interrupted marsh extending throughout tropical America. Noticing the purity of the water retained between the leaves where one would expect foulness from the decomposition of the organic material, he made some chemical researches and experiments from which he obtained highly interesting results. The bromeliads produce a gum which has a digestive action on starches and on nitrogenous materials (albuminoids). The products of the digestion of the vegetable and animal detritus retained between the leaves, as well as mineral salts, are absorbed by the plant. A bromeliad is thus a veritable dialyzer which constantly removes from the pools formed between its leaves all the products of decomposition."

And so we have a glimpse into a world complete unto itself, independent, yet depending upon other worlds; all this before our eyes, yet unseen by most of us in the human milieu.

718 Magnolia Avenue, Orlando, Florida


Racine Foster

   Photo Staff Chicago Nat. Hist. Mus.
A termite nest model, made at the Chicago Natural History Museum where it is on display. This illustrates the close association of epiphytes, on a tree branch in the South American tropics.
An association of "ant gardens" or termite nests and bromeliads is inevitable in the tropics.

When E. Ule collected bromeliads in Brazil he observed "ant-gardens" as he first named them. He distinguished two kinds of ant gardens according to the kind of plants included and the size of the ants.

Large ants had made a nest around plants of philodendron, anthurium and epiphytes besides two bromeliads, Streptocalyx angustifolius Mez and Aechmea spicata Mart. [now named, A. mertensii (Meyer) Schult.]. A small type of ant chose smaller epiphytes in similar families including a bromeliad, Nidularium myrmecophila Ule. [now in genus Neoregelia by L. B. Smith].

Ule went so far as to propose that the ants collected seeds of epiphytes and planted them in their nests. We quote him as found in Wm. M. Wheeler's paper "Parabiosis and Ant Gardens of British Guiana," in Ecology, Vol. II, No. 2, April 1921:

"On several occasions I squeezed the seeds out of the berries of a Nidularium, another Bromeliad related to Portea, and one of the Gesneriaceae onto the branches, and observed the behavior of the ants. At first they merely lapped up the juice, but on finding the seeds carried them away forthwith to the protection of their nests. On one occasion the little creatures seized the seeds at once and made off with them."

But Dr. Wheeler backs up his criticism of Ule's unconvincing claims, saying, "I am skeptical in regard to the ability of some of the ants nesting in the gardens to collect seeds of the size mentioned by Ule. Seeds 4 mm. long, like those of the Nidularium could hardly be collected by such small ants as the Cremastogasters and Aztecas, and the Anochetus has mandibles of a shape peculiarly unsuited to collecting or carrying seeds of any kind . . . "even his [Ule's] experiments do not completely prove his point, owing to the fact that ants are so greedy and acquisitive that they will often carry all sorts of portable organic bodies into their nests, only to cast them out later when they find them useless."

"Ule asserts that the ants not only sow the seeds in their gardens but actually cultivate the growing plants. He records no convincing observations in support of this contention, and my own observations are purely negative."

Nevertheless, ant and termite nests are a familiar part of the arboreal world in association with bromeliads. There is much evidence that there is a "regular and intimate ethnological relationship between an ant and certain epiphytes." [Wheeler]

from Fritz Mueller Werke, Briefe and Leben by Dr. A. Moeller
Elpidium bromeliarum Fritz Mueller
1. Bivalve shells seen from top to bottom.
2. The same seen from bottom to top.
3. After removal of one shell seen at the right side.



Padre Raulino Reitz

Many kinds of animals find a place to live in the tanks of bromeliads. Animals of the most diverse classes and orders, from microscopic protozoans to frogs (Hyla) and snakes, dwell in the water or in the mud between the bromeliad leaves.

C. Picado distinguishes a terrarium which is formed by the bases of the outer leaves and contains humus, from an aquarium formed by leaves whose bases form still smaller lakes that collect not only rain water but also fog.

We should like to call attention to the crustacean, Elpidium bromeliarum, described by Fritz Mueller in Kosmos 6:386. 1879-80, which is one of the most interesting representatives of the bromeliad fauna of Santa Catarina and perhaps of all Brazil.

Besides being notable for this unusual habitat, it is also interesting because of its extraordinary shape. Although the tiny shells of Elpidium bromeliarum attain a maximum of 1.3 mm, the animals already have their final form when half this size and have begun to propagate. They live between bivalve shells that have a flat ventral face and are much wider than high. Their other characters are as follows: a single eve, anterior antennae with five (or exceptionally six) spines and posterior with three, one of which is serrate in males, legs the same in both sexes, all alike (?), basal sections of the first pair of legs armed with a terminal spine, apical sections of the third pair very long and slender, caudal appendages not articulated, covered with bristles.

Elpidium is almost the only one among the numerous visitors to the bromeliads that lives there from birth to death. Many animals come to visit the bromeliads, whether it be to find shelter there or to feed on the organic substances that accumulate between the leaves or to deposit their eggs. These visitors present a tremendous variety, including turbellarian worms (Geoplana), isopod crustaceans (Philoscia), arachnids, myriapods, numerous species of insects, and even snakes. Other species live there as larvae, leaving at the conclusion of their metamorphosis, as in the case of the batrachians and various insects Orthoptera (Agrionidae), Neuroptera, Trichoptera, Coleoptera (Parnidae) and Diptera (Culicidae, Tipulidae, Syrphidae and others). There is no difficulty in explaining the presence in bromeliads either of these visitors or of these larvae. With Elpidium the case is different. These tiny ostracods not being able to migrate from bromeliad to bromeliad, much less from tree to tree, how is it that in spite of all this they establish new colonies? In spite of their migration seeming to be left thus to chance, it is accomplished with the same regularity as the transport of pollen by insects from one flower to another, as is proved by the fact that there is almost never a bromeliad without its colony of Elpidium.

C. Postal 8, Brusque, Santa Catarina, Brasil


MOELLER, Dr. Alfred–Fritz Mueller Werke, Briefs and Leben, 1:793-799, 1915, pl. 57. MUELLER, Fritz–Arch. do Mus. Nac. do Rio de Janeiro, 4:27-34, 1945. 1879, pl. 2.

PICADO, C.–Sur la nutrition chez les Broméliacées epiphytes in Compt. rend. Acad. Se. Paris 154:607. 1912.

PICADO, C.–Les Broméliacées épiphytes considerees comme milieu biologique, in Bull. scientif. France et Belgique 7:sec. 47. 1913.


From the "Zoological Series of Field Museum of Natural History"
Chicago, Oct. 31, 1936–Vol. XX, No. 17

Karl Schmidt

"The moisture requirements of salamanders make the relatively constant humidity of the cloud-forest an ideal habitat for them. It is consequently not at all surprising that four species, [of the genus Oedipus], engelhardti, franklini, bromeliacia and flavimembris are confined to this zone on Tajumulco, Guatemala, and that the population of a fifth, goebeli, falls mainly within it. Nor is it surprising that within this zone three species have adopted the favorable habitat niche afforded by the bromeliad epiphytes."

"My brother reached the lower part of the cloud-forest, between six and seven thousand feet, on the Volcan Atitlan, and there found Oedipus franklini and O. engelhardti in great abundance, just as exclusively confined to the bromeliads as they are on Tajumulco."

"Oedipus helmrichi appears to be a distinct, small species confined to the bromeliad habitat at high altitudes in Alta Verapaz."


Excerpts from article in Der Deutsch Gartenbau, Sept. 1954
Walter Richter

The growth habits of epiphytic species differs much as compared with those of terrestrial plants in their manner of taking up nourishment; it varies considerably from those usually observed.

No universally applicable instructions can be given and no recommended method is good under all conditions and in all locations; often methods practiced with great success by some, may mean possible failure with others under different conditions and localities.

While bromeliads are evergreen and appear to be ready at all times to take up nourishment and to grow continuously, it is not feasible to force their growth and shorten the time it takes to mature a plant and to bring it to flowering by injudicious application of fertilizers. In their natural habitat they do grow continuously but only because temperature and light conditions are at their optimum–conditions impossible to duplicate in cultivation. Winter temperatures can rarely be kept high enough; light intensity is generally much too low between November and February.

It is well to abstain from feeding a plant that is not actively growing and can utilize additional nutriments; this applies especially to the so-called Proto-epiphytes, i.e. those that take up nutrients almost exclusively out of the atmosphere.

In a not much lesser degree this is valid also for the Nest-epiphytes who accumulate their own humus and to the Tank-epiphytes holding water in their funnel shaped leaf-bases, equipped with special absorption cells.

Bromels, growing equally well in soil, are least sensitive; they tolerate and utilize feeding with natural or artificial manures fairly well at all times. Proto and Tank-epiphytes should always be fed more sparingly, less often and with weaker concentrations; since their growth is slow, the need for nutrients is much less. Epiphytic bromels depending for their sustenance upon the water-soluable nutrients carried by rain, take these up through special cells in the basal part of their leaves and through the velamen covering their roots; to apply fertilizer solutions in any but the weakest concentrations could prove fatal or at least cause serious damage.

The practice of spraying the plants with fertilizer solutions has gained much favor and found beneficial by many growers; it seems to imitate the natural conditions closest, i.e. a steady but weak supply of nutrients as supplied by rain-dissolved minerals. At all times it should be kept in mind that salts dissolved in water of the leaf-bases may, by prolonged contact, or by evaporation, reach a damaging concentration.

In sum, as stated, feeding with natural or artificial fertilizers has been found to be beneficial, showing a rich development of foliage and large, sturdier inflorescences. Failures are attributable, for the most part, to feeding at improper times, or the use of too concentrated solutions.

Fortunately, bromeliads, show an almost unbelievable adaptability and tolerance enabling them to persist and grow under a minimum of required conditions, far below those of other ornamentals. This should not tempt us to take their modest requirements for granted. By an understanding compliance of their needs, results far above the usually observed, may easily be attained.

Extracted and translated by Joseph Schneider, San Gabriel, Calif.


Roger K. Taylor

The plant-hormone auxin, formed in the growing parts of plants, plays a number of roles; among them are the diverse ones of both stimulating and inhibiting growth. The direction from which the larger amount comes, that is to say the auxin balance, determines which effect predominates; auxin from above inhibits, from below stimulates. Thus it is common experience that following the removal of the growing tip of a shoot, one or more lateral buds will develop; as long as the tip is present its auxin keeps the lower buds dormant.

The views have been held that on the one hand deep planting, on the other hand exposure to light, favors the development of suckers on bromeliads. It has occurred to the writer that to whatever extent these ideas are justified, the common factor actually responsible may be the removal of leaves–directly when they are taken off to give access of light to the plant base, indirectly when deep planting induces rot and ultimate disappearance of the lower leaves. When the leaves are gone their auxin no longer holds the buds at their bases dormant, and the suckers can start. In similar fashion the growing of side-shoots after the central growth of the plant is checked, by blooming or otherwise, and the observation that from a single plant a larger number of suckers form when they are successively removed, may be rationalized.

Perhaps this notion, though of little or no practical significance, may serve to unify some apparently unconnected observations.

3122 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 18, Md.

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