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The Bromeliad Society Bulletin is the official publication of the Bromeliad Society, a non-profit corporation organized in 1950. The Bulletin is issued six times a year. Subscription to the Bulletin is included in the annual membership dues. There are four classes of member-ship: Annual, $5.00; Sustaining, $7.50; Fellowship, $15.00; and Life $100.00. All memberships start with January of the current year. For membership information, write to Mrs. Jeanne Woodbury, 1811 Edgecliffe Drive, Los Angeles, California 90026. Please submit all manuscripts for publication to the editor, 647 South Saltair Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90049

PresidentDavid Barry, Jr. Editorial SecretaryVictoria Padilla
Vice PresidentFritz Kubisch Membership SecretaryJeanne Woodbury
Treasurer           Jack M. Roth

Board of Directors
Warren Cottingham
Ralph Davis
Nat De Leon
Mulford B. Foster
James N. Giridlian
Marcel Lecoufle
J. G. Milstein
Julian Nally
W. R. Paylen
Dr. Russell Seibert
O. E. Van Hyning
Charles A. Wiley
Wilbur G. Wood

Honorary Trustees
Adda Abendroth, Brazil
W. B. Charley, Australia
Charles Chevalier, Belgium
Mulford B. Foster, U.S.A.
A. B. Graf, U.S.A.
C. H. Lankester, Costa Rica
Harold Martin, New Zealand
Richard Oeser, Germany
Raulino Reitz, Brasil
Walter Richter, Germany
Dr. L. B. Smith, U.S.A.
Henry Teuscher, Canada

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President: Mrs. F. B. Hanson, 270 Mt. Wellington Highway, Panmure, Auckland. Tel. 576-830.
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THE OLD ADAGE, "There is an exception to every rule" applies to the Hechtia group of bromeliads as will be shown here.

In retrospect and with some nostalgia, the Hechtias came to have a special place in my study of the bromeliads.

My very first discovery of a new species in the bromeliad family was in June, 1935, when crossing the state of Guerrero, on my first trip to Mexico. It was on the way to Acapulco on the west coast where, in the 'Canyon de Sapilotes', was found this first new species. The land is so arid that it has the reputation of being desolate to the point that even the buzzards (Sapilotes), in crossing this section, have to carry their own rations! Here I found a Hechtia plant, although at that time I did not know to what genus it belonged. I felt sure that it was a bromeliad even though none of these plants showed any trace of an inflorescence.

Ten years later, in January 1945, I was able to study the flowering stalk; the live plant which I brought back had flourished in Florida conditions and produced an inflorescence. It rose up to 7½ feet directly out of the center (axis) of the plant. The small, white female flowers were without doubt those of a Hechtia. Dr. Smith later named it Hechtia melanocarpa.


This central inflorescence was an exception that caused me some embarrassment. I had just submitted an article to be published in the National Horticultural Magazine (Jan. 1945), titled, "Lateral Inflorescences in the Bromeliaceae", which stated that all Hechtia species produced their inflorescences laterally. This generalization was based on the fact that other Hechtia species taken on that first trip, as well as on later trips in Mexico, all had lateral inflorescences.

Hechtia integerrima M. B. Foster

Twenty-two years later, I find that another assumption is erroneous. Heretofore it was observed that all known Hechtia species had leaves that were armed with spines on the edge of the leaf. Now, a new species appears which upsets this assumption and presents to us a Hechtia with entire (spineless) leaves as well as the central inflorescence. Such an exceptional Hechtia should have an appropriate name.

A H. lindmanioides L. B. Smith, H. tillandsioides (Andre) L. B. Smith, atque H. lundelliorum L. B. Smith, cuibus affinis, foliis integerrimis differt.

Plant flowering over 2 meters (6 feet) high. Leaves nearly 1 meter long, entire; sheaths broadly ovate, 5 cm. long, dark brown toward base; blades very narrowly triangular, long-attenuate, dull, glaucous-green, soon glabrous above, white-lepidote between the nerves beneath. Scape central, slender; scape-bracts subfoliaceous, mostly spreading. Inflorescence diffuse, much branched; axes very slender; floral bracts triangular, about equaling the slender 2 mm. long pedicels. Staminate flowers white. Sepals ovate, obtuse, 1 mm. long. Petals narrowly ovate, obtuse, 3 mm. long, exceeding the stamens. Pistillate flowers unknown.

MEXICO (?): Cultivated M. B. Foster no. 3072 (Type in the U. S. National Herbarium no. 2,479, 888).

A Hechtia without spiny edged leaves has thus for been unknown, but now this one has that distinction. Hechtia integerrima has absolutely smooth-edged leaves. During the ten years before this plant flowered, I felt that it might be a smooth-edged Cottendorfia. But when a seven foot spike of delicate white, male Hechtia flowers appeared, and the leaves had no Hechtia-like spines, I was perplexed. Later it was proven to be another Hechtia species.

Because labels and records have been lost, it is not possible to give an exact location of collection.

—Orlando, Florida



Rare is the plant family that can produce colorful bloom the year round. Some are summer bloomers, some spring or fall, but only a few will gratify their owners with color all year long. Bromeliads fall into this latter class. A well-chosen collection will be producing new flower spikes every month of the year, and not taken into consideration is the fact that many of the genera keep in color for the better part of the year.

A visit to my greenhouse on Christmas morning disclosed the flowering plants in flower: Aechmea chantinii, A. ramosa, A. ramosa × A. weilbachii, A. ramosa × A. fulgens, A. miniata var. discolor, A. tillandsioides (Amazon variety), A. weilbachii, Guzmania erythrolepis, G. lingulata var. cardinalis, G. × 'memoria,' G. × 'Magnifica,' Vriesea carinata, V. petropolitana, V. schwackeana, V. × 'Mariae,' V. × 'vigeri,' V. × 'polonia,' V. × 'poelmannii,' and Tillandsia cyanea.

Outdoors were too many Billbergias and Tillandsias to mention. Also not taken into account were the many Neoregelias and Nidulariums that had been in good color for the past six months. It was interesting to note that plants of V. schwackeana and V. fenestralis hybrid growing in the rockery (in rather poor soil) were as colorful as their counterparts in the greenhouse, despite several weeks of very cold weather. Also, a check of records kept for the past year indicated that practically the same plants had been in flower the previous holiday season.



Figure 1. Hybrids in the subgenus Billbergia reported in the literature.

BILLBERGIA SPECIES ARE among the most commonly cultivated bromeliads. There has been a great deal of confusion over the identification and nomenclature of some Billbergias. This is partly due to the large number of species that hybridize freely; figure 1 shows some of the Billbergia hybrids involving species in the subgenus Billbergia which have been reported in the literature. Many of these hybrids are important cultivars in the trade.

The subgenus Helicodea of Billbergia has been discussed by Dr. Lyman B. Smith in volume 13, pages 6-8 of the Bromeliad Society Bulletin. The present article attempts to supplement this work by discussion of the subgenus Billbergia. A dichotomous key to all the known species is provided in order to facilitate identification. No formal descriptions are provided although brief discussions are given after each species.

Several species, including Billbergia laxiflora and B. pohliana, are listed which are not presently known in cultivation since it is expected that they will be introduced to horticulture in the near future. Specimens of B. chlorantha and B. seidelii from cultivation were not seen. However, these species are presently listed in at least one Brazilian nursery catalog.

The author wishes to express his indebtedness to Dr. Lyman B. Smith for his assistance and advice during this study.


I. Petals spirally recurved at anthesis; inflorescence simple; flowers always sessile ... Subgenus Helicodea

II. Petals erect at anthesis not spirally recurved; inflorescence compound or simple; flowers sessile or not sessile ... Subgenus Billbergia

1. Inflorescence compound; flowers always sessile.
2. Petal blades wholly blue or violet above the sepals.
3. Inflorescence smooth.
4. Sepals setiform apex, orange or pink except for a blue apex; petals violet; inflorescence pendulous; leaves white banded, in a tubular rosette ... B. vittata
4. Sepals not setiform, green except for a blue apex; petals blue; inflorescence erect or sub-erect; leaves green, in a funnel rosette ... B. buchholtzii
3. Inflorescence lepidote or flocculose.
5. Inflorescence erect, very laxly paniculate; petal scales lacinate; sepals green ... B. tweedieana
5. Inflorescence pendulous, not laxly paniculate; petal scales fimbriate; sepals wholly blue or blue at the apex.
6. Upper floral bracts minute, not hiding the ovary; inflorescence lepidote; leaves with pale bands; rachis not geniculate; sepals blue only at the apex ... B. reichardtii
6. Upper floral bracts large, hiding the ovaries; inflorescence; white flocculose; leaves wholly green; rachis geniculate; sepals wholly blue ... B. bradeana
2. Petal blades not wholly blue or violet above the sepals.
7. Petal wholly green or greenish yellow.
8. Sepals 20-30 mm. long; leaves 3-6 dm. long, silver banded or green; inflorescence glabrous; (fig. 2) ... B. amoena
8. Sepals not over 16 mm.; leaves not over 3 dm. long; leaves all green; inflorescence densely covered with scale.
9. Primary bracts narrow, 1-1.5 cm. wide; apex of sepals blue; leaves green, forming a narrow tubular rosette; leaf spines to 1 mm ... B. laxiflora
9. Primary bracts broad, 1.5-3 cm. wide; apex of sepals not blue; leaves with a purple tinge, forming a broad funnel-form rosette; leaf spines to 4 mm ... B. chlorantha
7. Petals not wholly green.
10. Leaves white banded.
11. Ovary 5 mm., obovoid, inflorescence pendant, lepidote ... B. Seidelii
11. Ovary 10-15 mm., cylindric; inflorescence erect, glabrous (fig. 2) ... B. amoena
10. Leaves not white banded, wholly green
12. Inflorescence pendant, compound nearly to its apex; floral axes glabrous; leaf margins with black spines to 7 mm. long (fig. 5) ... B. sanderiana
12. Inflorescence erect, compound primarily at its base.
13. Inflorescence smooth, petals yellow ... B. amoena
13. Inflorescence lepidote.
14. Petal scales lacinate and oblique; inflorescence rachis geniculate, sub‑corymbose with the lower branches elongate ... B. tweediana
14. Petal scales fimbriate; inflorescence rachis straight.
15. Inflorescence simple above the middle, exceeding the leaves; leaves narrowed to an elongate point ... B. elegans
15. Inflorescence compound all along the rachis; leaves exceeding the inflorescence; leaf apices not elongated ... B. pohliana
1. Inflorescence simple or pseudosimple, flowers either sessile or pedicellate.
16. Petals red or orange; inflorescence pyramidal ... B. pyramidalis
16. Petals not red or orange; inflorescence not pyramidal.
17. Flowers sessile.
18. Inflorescence smooth, or lepidote only at apex of bracts.
19. Scape erect or ascending.
20. Petals wholly blue ... B. buchholtzii
20. Petals blue at the apex only or wholly green.
21. Extreme apex of sepals white flocculose; sepals 13-15 mm. long fimbriate scales not below two narrow flaps ... B. horrida
21. Extreme apex of sepals not white flocculose; sepals 20-30 mm. long; fimbriate scales below two narrow flaps ... B. amoena
19. Scape decurved or pendant.
22. Floral bracts long and acuminate, exceeding the sepals; sepals and petals dark blue at the apices or wholly pale yellow ... B. iridiflora
22. Floral bracts reduced or minute not exceeding the ovaries; sepals and petals not pale yellow.
23. Petals blue on margins; leaf blades 6-17 mm. wide, leaves fasiculate ... B. nutans
23. Petals not blue on the margins; leaf blades to 50 mm. wide, leaves forming a bulbous rosette (fig. 6) ... B. distachia
18. Inflorescence lepidote or flocculose except for the petals.
24. Petal blades blue-purple, sepals 10 mm. long; leaf blades white banded; no longitudinal flaps above the fimbriate scales ... B. brasiliensis
24. Petal blades pale green below the blue apices; sepals 12-18 mm. long; leaves various; two longitudinal flaps above the fimbriate scales.
25. Lower floral bracts bright red, large, ample, concealing most of the dense inflorescence; leaves concolorous ... B. morelii
25. Lower floral bracts white to pink, small and narrow, not concealing the inflorescence; leaves usually banded (fig. 3) ... B. euphemiae
17. Flowers on pedicels.
26. Inflorescence smooth.
27. Pedicels 40-50 mm. Long ... B. viridifolia
27. Pedicels less than 20 mm. long.
28. Upper floral bracts minute, not exceeding the pedicel.
29. Petals blue on the margins and apex; leaves 6-17 mm. wide, fasciculate, green, not mottled ... B. nutans
29. Petals blue only at the apex, not on the margins; leaf blades wider than 17 mm., forming a narrow tube, leaves green, mottled, with white spots ... B. minarium
28. Upper floral bracts large, exceeding the pedicel.
30. Ovary and sepals red, acute; leaves green (fig. 4) ... B. lietzei
30. Ovary and sepals green, broadly rounded; leaves with pale spots, sheaths pale violet ... B. leptopoda
26. Inflorescence lepidote or flocculose.
31. Leaves concolorous; axis of inflorescence stout; sepals 24-35 mm. long; margins of petals blue ... B. macrocalyx
31. Leaves spotted or banded; sepals 20 mm. or less in length; margins of petals green.
32. Inflorescence erect; two dentate lateral folds above the fimbriate scales; sepals lavender; leaves cross banded and lepidote ... B. fosteriana
32. Inflorescence pendent; no folds above the petal scales; sepals red; leaves white spotted, not lepidote ... B. chlorosticta (B. saundersii)
Figure 2. Billbergia amoena (Lodd.) Lindl. var. amoena
(from Belg. Hortic. 25:19, pl. I-II. 1875)

Figure 3. Billbergia euphemiae E. Morr. var. euphemiae

Figure 4. Billbergia lietzei E. Morr.
(from Belg. Hortic. 31:97)

Figure 5. Billbergia sanderiana E. Morr.
(from Belg. Hortic. 34:17, pl. I. 1884)

Figure 6. Billbergia distachia (Veil.) Mez. var. straussiana (Wittm.)
(from Belg. Hortic. 30:166, pl. VIII. 1880)

Billbergia amoena (Lodd.) Lindl. Bot. Reg. 13: pl. 1068. 1827.
Leaves variable usually green but sometimes tinged with red in var. rubra Foster or white-spotted, 17-55 mm. wide. The scape is usually erect but sometimes it is pendent (var. penduliflora Foster). Inflorescence compound or simple, lax, glabrous; floral bracts minute and the flowers are sessile. The sepals are green except for the dark blue apex in the typical variety (var. amoena). The sepals are red toward the apex in var. minor Smith. The petals are dark blue at the apex and elsewhere green in the typical variety but the petals are wholly green in var. viridis Smith. B. amoena, like the great majority of Billbergia species, is native to Brazil. It is one of the most common Billbergias in cultivation.

Billbergia bradeana L. B. Smith, Arquiv. Jard. Bot. Rio de Janeiro 10:143, fig. 3. 1950.
The leaves of this species are over 9 dm. long and serrate with dark spines. Inflorescence few flowered and white flocculose; floral bracts to 28 mm. long, hiding the ovary. The flowers are erect and both the sepals and petals are blue. This species does not seem to be in cultivation at the present time.

Billbergia brasiliensis L. B. Smith, Arquiv. Bot. Estado Sao Paulo Nov. ser. 1:105. 1943.
Billbergia leopoldii Linden ex Houllet, Rev. Hortic. 41: 87, fig. 28. 1869.
B. brasiliensis has leaves in a subtubular rosette up to 8 dm. high. The leaf blades are white banded and up to 7 cm. wide. Scape-bracts are massed beneath the pendulous inflorescence. The inflorescence is simple and flocculose. The floral bracts are minute and the flowers are sessile. The petals are dark blue-purple. This species was introduced to horticulture in 1869.

Billbergia buchholtzii Mez. Repert. Sp. Nov. Fedde 16:7. 1919.
The pale green leaves are in a slender funnelform rosette. The leaves are obscurely spotted. This species is very similar to B. amoena but with petal-blade wholly blue. The taxon is often misidentified in the trade.

Billbergia chlorantha L. B. Smith, Contr. Gray Herb. 154:32, pl. 3, figs. 3-6. 1945.
Leaves to 3 dm. long, pale green with purple spots. Scape bracts whitish; inflorescence compound. The primary bracts cover the flowers until anthesis. The petals are pale green. This species is presently listed in at least one South American nursery catalog.

Billbergia chlorosticta Hort. Saund. Ex. Gard. Chron. 1425. 1871.
B. saundersii Hort. Bull. Ex. C. Koch, Wochenschr. 12:116. 1869. Nomen.
B. saundersii Hort. Bull. Ex. Dombrain, Floral Mag. ner. ser. pl. 106. 1864.
The earliest validly published name for this species is B. chlorosticta. The plant has leaves in a short tubular rosette with conspicuous white spots. The inflorescence is simple and flocculose. The pedicels are 5-10 mm. long. The sepals are red and the apex of the petals is dark blue and the remainder is greenish yellow. This species has been used as one of the parents of several common hybrids. The species is one of the common Billbergias in horticulture.

Billbergia distachia (Veil.) Mez. Fl. Bras. 3, pt. 3:417. 1892.
Leaves few in a slender rosette, usually concolorous but white spotted in var. maculata Reitz. Inflorescence pendent, pseudo-simple with very short spreading branches. Sepals and petals in various color combinations. In the typical variety (var. distachia) the sepals and the petals are blue at the apex. In var. straussiana (Wittm.) Smith the sepals are blue at the apex but the petals are wholly green. Var. concolor Reitz is characterized by green sepals and petals. B. distachia is commonly cultivated.

Billbergia elegans Mart. Ex. Schult. in R. and S. Syst. 7, pt. 2:1265. 1830.
Leaves in a tubular rosette, about 3 dm. long, concolorous. Inflorescence pendulous, compound at base and simple above the middle. Flowers sessile; sepals and petals with a blue apex, petals yellow green. This species is not commonly cultivated.

Billbergia euphemiae E. Morr. Belg. Hortic. 22:11, pls. 1, 2. 1872.
Leaves in a tubular rosette, green or with cross-bands. The leaves are purple in var. purpurea Foster and pale spotted in var. saundersioides Smith. Scape bracts large, pink, the upper bracts massed beneath the inflorescence. Floral bracts like the scape-bracts in var. euphemiae. Var. nudiflora Smith is characterized by minute floral bracts. The inflorescence is pendulous and simple in all varieties of B. euphemiae. The sepals are white to pink and the petals blue or lavender toward the apex and elsewhere green. This species was cultivated as early as 1872.

Billbergia fosteriana L. B. Smith, Smithsonian Misc. Coll. 126:21, fig. 122. 1955.
Plants terrestrial and stoloniferous; leaves cross banded. Leaves forming a very slender tube to about 8 dm. Inflorescence erect, simple and laxly few-flowered. Petals green with blue-green apices. Introduced to cultivation by Mr. Mulford Foster in 1955. This species is not widely cultivated at present.

Billbergia horrida Regel, Ind. Sem. Hort. Petrop. for 1856:17. 1857.
Leaves green with pale bands in the typical variety. Var. tigrina Baker has purple brown leaf blades. The leaf margin is laxly serrate with dark spines: The inflorescence is simple, erect and dense toward the apex. Sepals are white flocculose at the apex. Both the petals and sepals are blue at the apex and elsewhere green. Fimbriate scales borne at the base of two longitudinal narrow flaps (calli). B. horrida is commonly cultivated.

Billbergia iridifolia (Nees and Mart.) Lindl. Boet. Reg. 13:pl. 1068. 1827.
Leaves in a short tubular rosette, pale brown or gray green. The inflorescence is pendulous, simple and glabrous. Floral bracts are all large and exceeding the sepals. The flowers are short pedicellate. Floral color varies with variety: var. iridifolia has red sepals with a blue apex and yellow petals with a blue apex. In var. concolor Smith the petals are wholly pale yellow. This species has been cultivated since 1823 or earlier.

Billbergia laxiflora L. B. Smith, Arquiv. Jard. Bot. Rio de Janeiro 10:145, fig. 5. 1950.
Plants epiphytic with tubular rosettes. Inflorescence laxly bipinnate, white-flocculose, shorter than the leaves. Floral bracts minute; sepals red margined and the petals green. This species apparently is not cultivated at the present time.

Billbergia leptopoda L. B. Smith, Contr. Gray Herb. 154:33, pl. 3, figs. 7, 8. 1945.
Leaves few in a tubular rosette up to 4 dm. high. Leaves white spotted and pale violet. Inflorescence simple, erect and glabrous. Pedicels slender, 5-20 mm. long. The petals are green except for a blue apex. This species is widely grown in horticulture.

Billbergia lietzei E. Morr. Belg. Hortic. 31:97, pls. 5-7. 1881.
Leaves whitish beneath, the blade mucronate. Inflorescence nearly erect, simple and glabrous. Pedicels slender, 3-5 mm. long; flowers to 6 cm. long. The sepals are red and the petals greenish yellow except for the blue apex. B lietzei was named from cultivated material and does not seem to be known from the wild.

Billbergia macrocalyx Hook. Bot. Mag. 85: pl. 5114. 1859.
The leaves are marked with spots or broad bands and laxly serrate with small spines. Propagates by long stout rhizomes. Inflorescence erect, simple and white-farinose except for the petals. The petals are pale green with a blue apex and blue margins. This Billbergia is cultivated to a limited extent.

Billbergia minarum L. B. Smith, Smithsonian Misc. Coll. 126:22.
Leaves concolorous and laxly serrate. This species reaches a height of about 4 dm. with the inflorescence extended. The pendulous inflorescence is pseudosimple with short 1-flowered branches. Pedicels are slender, to 3 mm. long; the sepals and petals are green except for dark blue apices. This species was first collected by Mr. M. B. Foster in 1955. It does not seem to be widely cultivated at present.

Billbergia morelli Brongn. Portef. Hort. 2:97, pl. 1848.
Leaves wholly green and without spots. This species is similar to B. euphemiae except that the lower floral bracts are bright red and so large that they conceal most of the inflorescence. This species has been in cultivation since at least 1848.

Billbergia nutans H. Wendland ex Regel, Gartenflora 18:162, pl. 617. 1869.
Leaves usually fasiculate and not over 17 mm. wide; margins of the leaves serrulate in var. nutans. Var. schimperiana (Wittm. ex Baker) Mez has entire margins. The inflorescence is simple and glabrous with minute floral bracts. Sepals are usually rose with dark blue margins and the petal color varies with the variety. In var. nutans the petals are green at the extreme apex and blue along the margins while in var. schimperiana the petals are blue at the apex as well as the margins. B. nutans is one of the most widely cultivated Billbergias.

Billbergia pohliana Mez in Mart. Fl. Bras. 3, pt. 3:403, pl. 78. 1892.
Leaves in a tubular rosette. The inflorescence is very lax and paniculate. The petals are probably blue. This species is not cultivated and only a few specimens are known from the wild.

Billbergia pyramidalis (Sims) Lindl. Bot. Reg. 13: pl. 1968. 1827.
The leaves of this species are light green but they often have a purple tinge. Inflorescence erect, simple, flocculose and densely pyramidal. The flowers are short pedicellate with red sepals. Petal color varies with the variety. In var. pyramidalis the petals are blue toward the apex and red elsewhere. Var. concolor Smith is characterized by wholly red petals. This is probably the most common Billbergia in horticulture.

Billbergia reichardtii Wawra, Oesterr. Bot. Zeitschr. 30:115. 1880.
Leaves in a tubular rosette, marked with broad pale bands. The inflorescence is pendulous, compound and sparsely covered with dry scales. Floral bracts minute; sepals and petals yellow or green except for the dark blue apex. This species appears to be rarely cultivated.

Billbergia sanderiana E. Mort. Belg. Hortic. 34:17, pls. 1. 2. 1884.
The green leaves of this species form a funnelform rosette. Inflorescence pendulous and compound nearly to its apex. The floral bracts are about half as long as the ovary. The petals and sepals are blue and elsewhere green. B. sanderiana is often cultivated.

Billbergia seidelii Smith and Reitz, Phytologia 10:485, pl. 2, figs. 6, 7. 1964.
Leaves with prominent white bands and brownish spines. The primary bracts are spreading and about equaling the petals. The branches of the inflorescence are short and 2-flowered. Flowers are sessile and the petals are blue purple toward the apex. This species is presently listed in only one Brazilian nursery catalog. It is possible that B. seidelii may become more widely cultivated once it becomes better known.

Billbergia tweedieana Baker, Handb. Bromel. 73. 1889.
Leaves green with white spots in a slenderly tubular rosette. Plants often densely aggregated and up to 2 meters high. Scape bracts and floral bracts green and the latter are 3-4 mm. long. The inflorescence is erect and very laxly paniculate. The three varieties are separated primarily on the basis of sepal length. Var. tweedieana has sepals 16-20 mm. long and three times as long as wide. Var. latisepala Smith is characterized by much shorter sepals not over 13 mm. long. Plants with long acute sepals, 24 mm. or longer, have been described as var. minor Smith, this variety is much shorter than the other two. B. tweedieana is presently cultivated to a moderate extent.

Billbergia viridiflora H. Wendl. Allg. Gartenz. 22:154. 1854; Mart. Fl. Bras. 3, pt. 3:424. 1892.
Leaves green often marked with cross bands on the back. The scape is erect and about equaling the leaves. The inflorescence is simple and laxly racemose. Pedicels up to 5 cm. long. The sepals and petals are green. The mature fruit is orange. This species is native to southern Mexico and Guatemala. B. viridiflora is cultivated to a limited extent.

Billbergia vittata Brongn. ex Morel. Portef. Hort. 2:353, pl. 1848.
Leaves in broad tubular rosettes marked with white spots or bands and sometimes tinged purple. The inflorescence is compound at the base and either erect or pendent. The floral bracts are one half the length of the ovary. The sepals are dark blue at the mucroniform apex and elsewhere orange-red. Petal blades are dark violet and the remainder is pale green. This common species was introduced to horticulture as early as 1847.


1. Horticultural Botanist, University of Michigan Botanical Gardens, Ann Arbor, Michigan.



(Translated by Adda Abendroth, Teresopolis, Brazil)


Descriptions of travels to the native habitats of bromeliads will perhaps serve to give the reader a rapid appreciation of the growing conditions of the Bromeliaceae.

The famous French landscape architect Edouard Andre, who traveled in South America in the middle of last century and brought home many tropical plants, wrote a charming account of bromeliads. According to him, epiphytic bromels, thanks to their great number, their large leaf rosettes, and often colorful inflorescences, make a much deeper impression on the spectator than do orchids, which generally have but a single flower and that hidden by foliage. Several species of Tillandsias often come in thick clusters on large trees together with Aechmeas, Vrieseas, Billbergias, and other epiphytes. Pitcairnias droop in great masses from ledges, their grassy leaves interspersed with red, pink, or white flower spikes. Some species discard their leaves during the dry period of the year and dress the rock on which they live in a garment of blackish or brownish spines. Tillandsia incarnata weaves a greyish-red carpet over the ledges in the dry regions of Colombia. Ule tells of perpendicular, naked, and inaccessible cliffs near Rio de Janeiro that are sprinkled with sprays of Tillandsia araujei, T. brachyphylla, and Vriesea species. The different colors give the whole a look of marble.

Werdermann, in his book Brazil and its Columnar Cacti, describes the catinga that was mentioned several times in the preceding pages. The name catinga is of Indian origin and means more or less "shadeless forest," describing the nature of the thorn-scrub landscape where leaves are practically non-existent. Werdermann writes about a collecting trip to the Interior of Pernambuco:

"Now we are well within the thornscrub (catinga). Roads have shrunk to paths fit only for mules or perhaps a small cart. Sharp-edged stones bit into the tires. Up we go, then down again. It is extraordinary what the car can stand and how the driver succeeds in edging around obstructions and climbing over rocks. Ours is the pace of a snail; again and again we get off to relieve the car, to spy out the way ahead, to look for a flowering plant or a cactus in the scrub. The catinga is an incredible mass of low trees and bushes, only a few meters high, full of dry, thorny branches through which the long bush knife must cut a passage. The ground is often densely covered with bromels whose long, spiny leaves form impenetrable barriers. The only entries into the mass are paths trodden by half-wild cattle in search of the "hearts" of the bromels. During daylight hours smoldering heat lingers over the thicket. Any attempt to advance must be paid for in droplets of sweat and also of blood.

"The silence is ominous. Very rarely a little monkey or bird may skip through the branches. There is no sign whatever of larger animals. Snakes, of which it is said that a great many poisonous ones inhabit bromeliad thickets, apparently have become extinct. This is a true desert; only a few landmarks rise about the flatness. It is as if man and beast shunned these God-forsaken regions where tremendous drought prevails for years on end.

"Yet how the picture changes when a spring or summer shower refreshes the land! Within a few days green leaves adorn the seemingly dead branches, many trees put out quantities of blossoms. The catinga presents then a colorful picture, but it is of short duration. Dusty, grey, and dead the countryside remains for years. As a compensation, though, spring may come several times in one year; it all depends on the very irregular rainfall. Periodicity in plant life is here tied up with the rain, not the temperature as in our latitudes. Temperature in the area varies little. Thunderstorms traveling in streaks over the countryside can be easily spotted. They leave behind a green wake in sharp contrast with the arid section that was left untouched." So much for the catinga.

As an example to show under what contrary conditions bromeliads can survive, let me cite a comment by L. Cutak (Missouri Botanical Garden) about the rain forest in Chiapas. The area visited was the southern most tip of Mexico, close to Guatemala. To a height of 3,000 meter rises the Sierra Madre Occidental, only a small coastal strip separating it from the Pacific Ocean. Between two ranges of this chain is the deep, broad valley of the Chiapas River. Mr. Cutak writes:

"The rain forest lies in a little-known mountain region, where new plants will doubtless be discovered in the future. Here we found a new begonia, several epiphytic cacti, aroids, and bromeliads. On the farm Rancho Recuerdo, a few miles north of the Indian settlement Ocozocoautla we saw young trees loaded down with bromels, such as Catopsis and several Tillandsias, of which the most remarkable was T. streptophylla. This latter is a beautiful plant, having a dense pseudobulb made up of the leaf sheaths. The sword-shaped leaves are broad at the base and taper to a fine tip and have a curious habit of twisting and curling. A much smaller plant with an inflated, attractively spotted pseudobulb is T. butzii, also abounding in the thicket along the brook that runs through Rancho Recuerdo. The most common was the grasslike T. tenuifolia growing mingled with at least ten different species of orchids. The bromels, especially the Catopsis, looked like birds' nests in the branches.

"From Rancho Recuerdo we took the road leading to the rain forest, and after several hours of march we were in virgin wilds. In some places the thick green canopy above our heads obscured the sun. Here we found Begonia imperialis, one of the most gorgeous of foliage plants. Fallen trees, covered with epiphytes, retarded our march to Pico Carrizal. One trunk was covered with an unidentified Pitcairnia that has long leaves above a thorny basic structure. I thought Pitcairnias were all terrestrials, but could now convince myself that certain species do very well on trunks of high trees. A variety of other bromels was abundant in the area. They were mostly Tillandsias, but Vrieseas, Aechmeas, Billbergias, and Catopsis were also there.

"Pico Carrizal is a high promontory rising from the forest. It is also covered with luscious plants. The climb over rolling stones and through deep cuts filled with decaying leaves was most difficult. We didn't get to the top. We examined plants and collected as much as we could on the lower third of the slope. We found an epiphytic cactus with a fish-bone-like stem. It had been described just the year before as a new species, [Cryptocereus???] Cryptogereus anthonyanus, and is considered to be a link between Cereus and Epiphyllum. Again Tillandsias predominated in number of species, but there were also Vrieseas with flat, elliptic spikes, and an occasional Billbergia pallidiflora.

"Nizanda in the State of Oaxaca is another plant lovers' paradise. It is situated a few miles north of Tehuantepec and can be reached on foot if you get off the train in Chivela or in Nizanda. Bromeliads, orchids, aroids, and cacti thrive here in close communion. Tillandsias stand out in number, growing on ledges and in trees, some even clinging to high torch-cacti. The dwarf-like T. ionantha covered the weaker branches where it lived together with T. caput-medusae, while T. juncea preferred fissures in the rock. A stiff leaved, grey-scaled Tillandsia struck my attention as being perhaps a new species. Its elliptic flower spikes are 20 cm long and are made up of red-tipped and red-margined apple-green bracts from which peep deep purple-red tubular flowers. This bromeliad should become a fine ornamental."

Another comment about Mexico, an area one half degree to the north of the one just described, depicts plant life on the Atlantic side. The descriptions of the author, A. Purpus, are interesting because they describe successive steps in the various zones. After having crossed the wet and swampy coastal area, Purpus came into a dry, savanna-like country. He writes:

"The countryside is in part flat, in part uneven, crossed by a number of barrancas. It is mainly grassland with a few lone trees and extensive scrub-growth. Several species of tree-like cacti grow here. From October to May it rains rarely, the lower savannas hardly at all. Brooks are then totally dry, and the deep barrancas through which enormous masses of water push in powerful gushes during the rainy season are almost dry. In winter the days are very hot, the nights cool. In February the thermometer was up to 30°C, at midday in the shade; at night it was 12 to 15°C. In summer the heat is almost unbearable; the savanna is then an uncongenial place. In summer thunderstorms practically make a swamp of the landscape. Humidity is high even at night. It is an ideal place for epiphytes, and we find them in great abundance. Bromeliads dominate, also in number of species; orchids are fewer and there were single specimens of cacti and peperomia. One of the commonest bromels is the little Tillandsia recurvata, which looks almost like a lichen. Masses of it grow in the low trees and in the scrubs. It skips the rain forest entirely to show up again in the xerophytic altitudes. Very common is also the pretty little T. ionantha, often found in large colonies. Its succulent leaves turn a vivid scarlet during the flowering period, making a wonderful contrast with the violet-blue flowers. The graceful, whitish-grey T. vestita, with red flower spikes is also very common, forming great clusters sometimes 50 cm in diameter. The grey T. balbisiana stands out on account of its curious shape, while beautiful T. brachycaulos, blushing through flowering time, calls our attention by its gay coloration. One Tillandsia (I do not know its name) has very stiff leaves and shiny red and yellow flat flower spikes; it, as well as the peculiar T. circinnata and others are plentiful in the savanna but are absent higher up. Tillandsia tricolor, T. juncea, T. filifolia are often found in the upper savanna growing in thick cushions on branches.

"A rare sight was that presented by huge clusters of T. usneoides on a stony plateau flanked by two barrancas. Long strands hanging from the trees touched the ground, shutting off the plateau like a curtain. Possibly their exuberance was due to abundant nightly fog rising along the perpendicular rocky slopes. T. usneoides is the most extraordinary member of its tribe. It looks like a beard-lichen, and like beard-lichen it hangs from trees. It has roots only in its infancy. Dissemination takes place less by seed than by fractions of strand carried off by birds or born away in the wind. Its fine curly leaves entwine it in crowns of trees. Minute, grey-white scale-hairs closely cover its stalks and leaves, sucking moisture from the air and passing it on into the plant's body. To name all the bromels that grow in these savannas would require several columns; even the steep walls of the barrancas are dotted with Tillandsias and their kin.

"At about 700 to 800 m altitude the savanna gives way almost abruptly to a region chiefly covered with sparse oak forest, semi-xerophile, up to about 900 m. Bromels and orchids simply cram the place. The oak crowns become visible in winter because they shed part of their leaves, permitting the epiphytes to profit from increased light. I have often seen 15 to 20 different species of orchids in a single tree settling among numerous bromels, ferns, and peperomia. The bromels are in part identical with those of the savanna, but there are some new ones among them, as, for example, the odd T. streptophylla. In sunny surroundings it grows like a ball, its arched leaves curved back, their tips entangled with one another. In the shade the plant has stretched-out leaves and looks entirely different. Big black ants make their home in the nooks between the sheaths. Interesting also is the little grey T. pruinosa. It has a bulging base and fleshy, back-curved leaves. Pretty T. filifolia has fine, grasslike leaves irradiating from a rosette-like base. It is quite common, as is also T. vestita. Veritable cushions of Catopsis morreniana, a small yellowgreen soft-leaved bromeliad, sit on thicker branches. Tillandsia juncea, T. festucoides, T. tricolor, T. fasciculata, and T. utriculata inhabit all the trees, as do several Aechmeas. One of the Aechmeas has an enormous funnel that can hold at least 10 to 20 liters of water.

"Extraordinarily abundant are the Tillandsias along the edges of shallow grooves in the ground where water lingers for some time. Trees on the margin are literally overloaded with them, especially with T. filifolia and T. vestita, proving that evaporation from the pools benefits them. Temperatures are about the same as in the upper savanna. In winter it rains, but in summer the rainfall is heavier. The fog from the barrancas also brings plenty of humidity. The semi-dry forest gradually changes into evergreen rain forest, which at above 1,300 m mixes with deciduous trees, and eventually becomes a summergreen forest and fir tree region, ending with pines (Pinus hartwegii) at 3,900 m.

"Light in the dense virgin forest is always dim, and the air is humid and sultry. Woody plants and herbs cover the ground. A mass of creepers fills empty spaces. Epiphytes also abound—there is no limb without its garment of aroids, ferns, bromels and orchids. The epiphytic colony in the inner forest is entirely different from that in the tree tops. Down below live plants that thrive in moisture and shade; high up settle the xerophiles and they that need much light, a fact that can be easily checked on a freshly felled tree. The bromels here are all soft-leaved cup-rosettes, mostly a beautiful red.

"It is in the higher forests, along the edges of virgin forest, and on the shade trees in coffee plantations that we find most of the epiphytes which in the virgin forest live in the tree tops. Even the coffee shrubs and the trunks of Yucca elephantipes, planted to serve as live fence posts, are profusely inhabited. The sparser the foliage in a tree crown, the more Tillandsias and orchids are to be found, whereas dense foliage, such as that of mango trees, keeps out such inhabitants. On thick moss-coated branches where humus accumulates, grow two Crassulaceae, the glorious, red-blooming Echeveria carnicolor, and Sedum botteri. Bromels are very numerous. Some trees are thickly covered with T. juncea, T. tricolor, T. vestita, whereas Catopsis stenopetala and Tillandsia filifolia prefer the coffee trees and other shrubs. The curious T. butzii and T. punctulata are more common in higher altitudes.

"Temperature in this area fluctuates in winter, and there is occasional light frost at night. It harms coffee and banana plantations, but on the whole, frost is rare. Rain is fairly common also in winter, and when the "nortes" blow, the temperature drops to 9-12°C for several days. The air is always very moist, especially so at night."

I have cited this comment in detail because it is so explicit. Of special interest is the presence of epiphytic bromeliads in dry areas, in regions where we would think only earthbound plants could possibly find survival. The species that live here have adapted to surrounding conditions. The following description shows the high resistance of certain bromeliads to drought. The site is the "Monte" formation in the eastern Bolivian Chaco plains. This is a thick forest region, rich in thorny plants and succulents. Thomas Herzog writes the following:

"The ground is covered with an almost gapless coat of bromeliads that have stiff leaf rosettes. Two species prevail: Bromelia serra and Aechmea polystachya. The former has long, narrow, toothed leaves which make a rather coarse fiber and is used for ropemaking. This species prefers shady sites where it forms dense thickets in spots not subject to floods and practically defies penetration by humans. A. polystachya grows as underbrush only in the thorny forest. Its leaves are much broader, have a smooth edge and a blunt tip. It is able to store rain water in its tightly overlapping leaf sheaths for a long time. Description of the Monte formation would not be complete without mention of its richness in epiphytic bromeliads. Probably nowhere else do they play such an important role in the landscape. Especially one type having gorgeous violet-blue flowers, Tillandsia streptocarpa, clad in silver-gray scales, curls its leaf tips around twigs in such masses as to weigh the host down."

The picture on the cover and that shown above are two handsome forms of Aechmea recurvata grown by Mr. E. Hummel, of Carlsbad, California. The front cover shows his Aechmea recurvata var. cardinalis, and the picture on this page is that of his hybrid Aechmea × 'Gema', one of the parents of which is Ae. recurvata (the other is unknown to this writer.)

Never growing out of bounds, these little bromeliads more than meet the need of those growers whose space is limited. Because of their tidy little compact forms, they appear at their best in pots, making striking single specimens because of their colorful flower heads.

They have been grown successfully both indoors and out in southern California. They are definitely sturdy little plants and need good light.

Both photographs are by Jeanne Woodbury.

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