BSI Journal - Online Archive


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

THE PICTURE ON THE COVER - Guzmania musaica

This handsome bromeliad was discovered by Gustave Wallis in Colombia in 1867. It was thought to be endemic to that country until it was discovered growing in Panama in 1946 by Paul H. Allen, collector for the Missouri Botanical Garden.

The Panamanian species seems a little easier to grow and flower than does the one coming from South America—this the point of view of the editor, but such may not be true under all conditions. The plant pictured was imported from Panama; it withstood the fumigation; and flowered (as shown) in two years.

Photograph — J. Padilla

Articles and photographs are earnestly solicited by the editor. Length is no factor. Please mail all copy to the editor, 647 South Saltair Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90049.



Most aptly named, this handsome bromeliad makes a magnificent decoration wherever it is displayed. However, because of its size — it is truly one of the giants of the genus — its use is limited to those growers who reside in the warmer regions or those who have a greenhouse large enough to accommodate it.

The above photograph was taken by M. Marcel Lecoufle, who lives in the environs of Paris. Captivated by the beauty of this plant, he displayed it in his living room, where it fitted in nicely with the elegant decor.

Vriesea regina is native to Brazil, where it may be found growing on rocky hillsides. It does well in soil in filtered light, and so can be used as a container plant in patios in Florida and southern California. The stiff green leaves may measure four feet in length, and the flower scape may eventually attain a height of seven feet. The green and red spike bears large deep-yellow flowers which have a jasmine-like perfume.

This Vriesea was introduced into horticulture in 1825 as Tillandsia regina and has had several names since. It was designated as Vriesea regina by Beer in 1857.



Our society was very fortunate in having received the article on collecting Tillandsias in Mexico by Rudolf Wuelfinghof (March-April, 1967). Fritz Kubisch and I covered a small portion of the areas he mentions just two months after him. This condensed report of our trip will not be as scholarly as his, as I am a complete novice regarding bromeliads in comparison to Mr. Wuelfinghof.

For nine consecutive days last April, Fritz and I collected bromeliads and orchids in southeastern Mexico. They were days which were filled with moments of great excitement for both of us. On previous trips to other areas of Mexico, I had enjoyed many wonderful experiences, but this was the first time that I was exposed to so much excitement in so short a time. Almost overwhelming were the experiences of finding many species of plants in their native habitats and in all stages of growth.

It was also a very tantalizing and fascinating trip. It was tantalizing because there never was enough time for collecting or enough room for carrying the plants, and it was fascinating because of the enormous variety of breathtaking colors and patterns.

As I believe that it is important to be methodical and well organized in such a trip, I kept a detailed log, meticulously outlining each stop, the time expended, and what was accomplished. Such a log also serves as a permanent record of collecting points for specific varieties. A proof of the effectiveness of such a record was in our being able to use the log from Fritz's previous trip as a guide to pinpoint our collecting spots. I must admit, though, that with Fritz's incredible memory, there were times when the previous log was unnecessary!

Our base of operation was the Posada Loma Motel in Fortin de las Flores. Sr. and Sra. Alvarez, the motel operators, are as well known for their horticultural knowledge as for their warm hospitality. Fritz has been a patron of the Posada Loma for so many years now, that one of the houses is considered his exclusively, and if it is occupied when he arrives, the occupants are moved to allow Fritz to move in. This is what was done for us. The choice of this particular house was made by Fritz because it is surrounded on three sides by covered patios, allowing for the temporary storage of plants and the proper watering of them for the entire collecting period. The following was our daily schedule:

5:30—Out of bed

6:30—Unload previous day's collecting and place in proper location on patio.

7:00—Water plants and breakfast.

7:30—Fill water bottles, take one can of meat and leave for day's collecting
(pick up bread en route).
Collect until hungry, stop for quick sandwich.
Continue collecting and return to Posada Loma.


9:00—To bed

Following this kind of schedule, we were able to cover a different area each day and end up with about 25 varieties of bromeliads, in addition to numerous kinds of orchids, ferns, anthuriums, gesneriads, and peperomias.

If I learned nothing else from this trip, I did learn to appreciate how much hard physical labor is involved in "just picking up plants"! For example, Tillandsia usneoides, T. plumosa, and two unclassified species are available for the picking ("like apples," Fritz says) by driving up the old Vera Cruz-Mexico City highway to over 8,000 feet, an extremely hazardous and rough ride, then through Tehuacan and up into the mountains. Then you "undergo" 25 miles of straight climbing in first gear over some of the worst ruts and chuck holes and around some of the most precarious sheer drops I have ever experienced. At the summit, at about 8,500 feet, from a ridge with a breathtaking view on both sides, you start out on foot. After working your way around a 45-degree sloping mountain, you begin to see lush T. usneoides draped over many varieties of wind blown and somewhat dwarfed oak trees. Then gradually the bromeliad and orchid population begins to increase. By the time you have collected an assortment of everything available, in addition to being winded and thoroughly exhausted from the elevation, you suddenly find yourself limping, since one leg seems shorter than the other from "walking" at the necessary angle! All of the above is intended to be facetious, since too many people have the misconception that collecting is simpler and more effortless than it actually is.

With Fritz's determination and virtually inexhaustible stamina, and my fascination, we had an extremely successful trip. I am looking forward to many more and feel that for the furtherance of the interest in plants generally, more people should do their own collecting.

—Reseda, California.



Guzmania musaica. one of the finer bromeliad species, is a challenge to grow well; therefore, it is desirable to know the conditions under which it thrives in nature. In The Gardener's Chronicle for October 17, 1871, appears an article describing the natural habitat of this plant. It was written by Gustave Wallis, who designates himself as a "Botanical Traveler." It was Wallis who discovered this beautiful bromeliad and introduced it into Europe under the name of Tillandsia musaica. The entire note is here reproduced because it not only describes the plant but gives an interesting insight into the character of Wallis.

"I am anxious to give you some remarks about this splendid plant, because Mr. Linden has probably forgotten to name me as its discoverer, as he has done in the case of so many splendid novelties, which have adorned his stoves and his Illustration Horticole and his button holes. He even by mistake attributes to others the discovery of plants which I was the first to gather, and I hope nobody expects me to bear this any longer without protest. I discovered Tillandsia musaica during December 1867 and sent it to Mr. Linden in 1868. I paid it another visit in 1873 and saw it bearing many fruits. The plant grows at 3000 feet elevation in a certain very dense wood next to Teorama, at a small distance from Ocaña, in the Magdalena territory. It is no epiphyte, since it very often grows on the soil and only sometimes ascends trees. Very often I found a profusion of young seedlings. The capsules were not ripe in December, nor in January. The inflorescences stand on stalks of 1½ to 2 feet in length. The broad bracts of the younger inflorescences are very showy. I believe the bracts were scarlet, the flowers white, waxy. There are two other species, which I observed, very near this. The one was found in fertile woods of the Murri stream, a tributary of the Atrato, at a long distance from the locality of the first. This may now be well developed in the nursery of Messrs. Veitch. The other one is a non plus ultra of the highest effect. It would be a grand thing for winning first prizes at exhibitions, and gaining the honours for the sacrificed health of the collector. It has never been introduced alive to Europe. It grows at 5000 feet, and beats the two named plants in its strong texture, beautiful color, and high growth."

Wallis' Tillandsia musaica was subsequently named Billbergia, Vriesea, Caraguata, and Massangea before Mez gave it the current classification.

Another noted plant collector, Albert Bruchmueller, wrote of this plant also in The Gardener's Chronicle. His note, appearing in the issue January 23, 1875, p. 115, is as follows:

"Tillandsia musaica — This handsome plant figured for the first time in The Gardener's Chronicle, on p. 487, Vol. II, 1874 is as yet very rare in Europe. Wallis and Roezl both sent over some boxes filled with these plants but very few of them arrived alive. In 1873 I brought a few boxes over with me. Some of the plants traveled well, but many died after unpacking. It is, no doubt, one of the prettiest of stove epiphytes, particularly as regards the variegation on the leaves, which is of all known colors. I promised to send Mr. Bull some dried flowers, for none had been seen in Europe, and he was doubtful whether it was a true Tillandsia. After my return I collected some flowers and forwarded them with a sketch, and it has now been ascertained to be a variety. This plant flowers in January and February, when it throws up a spike and flowers but once, after which the plant does not produce any more leaves, but keeps it color as before. When the flower is gone it produces below the stem a stolen 10 to 12 inches long, on which the roots and leaves form, the roots taking hold of the first tree or palm they reach. The flower spike is from 12 to 15 inches high, of a flesh color changing to a brilliant scarlet as it reaches maturity. The flowers are close together, white and thick like wax, from an inch and a half long, about 20 to 25 flowers forming a bullet shaped inflorescence, which stands upright on a spike.

"In places where this plant grows, moisture is abundant during the whole year, but I observed they grow more vigorously where well ventilated than in the thick forests. It is only found in one small district at an elevation of about 5000 feet, and as it is a scrambling plant the trees and palms are covered with it from top to bottom. Some of the plants, when not within reach of a tree to climb upon, have five or six shoots or branches, forming quite a clump, and I notice that they do quite as well this way, growing in a kind of leaf-mould to an enormous size, the leaves being 4 inches broad and from 18 to 24 inches long. When I cut some of the plants off, I found a year later that the trunks or stems had produced a lot of young ones, forming large tufts of beautiful specimens. Very large plants can be formed in this way for decorative purposes, covering walls, rock work or tree ferns, and where moisture can be conserved, would make a beautiful display. I have some plants in my garden (here at Ocaña) growing among rocks, fully exposed to the sun. They do well and keep their beautiful colors. Seed is very difficult to obtain, and the season when it is thoroughly ripe must be carefully watched, as it sometimes damps off by the excess wet. It is very likely I shall have the chance of getting some of it if I pay great attention to it after the flowering season is over. All the plants that have been sent as yet have damped off, very few having arrived in good condition; but I think a stock of it might be obtained by means of seed. There are several varieties amongst them, some being light green and darkly variegated, others of a brownish color; some have long and some short leaves. There is no doubt it is one of the most elegant decorative plants ever introduced. The charming and remarkable variegation of the leaves, like illegible writing, will soon cause it to gain attention for decorative purposes."

Shortly after the above was published, Bruckmueller was murdered.



Gustave Wallis was born on May 1st, 1830, at Luneburg, Hanover, where his father was an advocate.

Deaf and dumb until he was six years of age, it was not till 1836 that he could articulate. About this time the father died, leaving the mother a widow with six children. Her means of support gone, she was compelled to leave Luneburg and retire to Detmold, her native town. In this romantic and picturesque country, surrounded by mountains and forests, young Wallis spent his schooldays, and developed that love of Nature and of Botany which excited in maturer years such a strong desire to see foreign lands and above all the tropics.

The youth possessed an indomitable energy, and in spite of his defective speech acquired considerable proficiency in foreign languages, an accomplishment which always stood him in good stead during his career.


At the age of sixteen Wallis was apprenticed to a goldsmith, but, disliking the work, it was abandoned, and he became apprenticed to a gardener at Detmold.

After the term of apprenticeship had terminated he obtained employment at Munich, and during this period he made several excursions to the Alps, for the purpose of collecting and studying in their native habitats the plants belonging to those rugged regions.

In 1856 Wallis went to Southern Brazil, and in connection with a German house started a horticultural establishment, but owing to the failure of the parent firm the branch ceased to exist, and Wallis was left practically penniless.

In 1858 he offered his services as a plant-collector to the late M. Linden of Brussels, who accepted them, and Wallis then commenced his remarkable journey across the continent of South America, from the mouth to the source of the Amazon exploring that great river as well as some of the more important tributaries.

In 1870 he entered Messrs. Veitch's services and proceeded to the Philippines to obtain as his principal object plants of various species of Phalaenopsis known to inhabit the Islands. Seyfarth, a young German, was sent to Manila to bring the collection home. The mission proved very expensive, was practically a failure, and Wallis had to be recalled.

In December 1872 he was sent to New Grenada, Columbia, a country already known to him, and returned in 1874 with many fine tropical plants, including Anthurium Veitchii, A. Waroqueanum, and several interesting Orchids.

After his engagement terminated he still continued to collect plants in South America, and commenced his last journey at the end of the summer of 1875, when he left to explore the north and central regions of South America.

Wallis was next heard of at Panama, dangerously ill with fever, from which he, however, recovered, and again commenced work, but a second attack of the malady, combined with dysentery, soon proved fatal. His last letter was dated Cuenca, March 24th, 1878, where, according to Mr. Edward Klaboch, he died in the hospital on June 20th of that year.

The specific names of the following plants were given at various times by botanists in commemoration of his services to Botany and Horticulture:

Anthurium Wallisii, Batemannia Wallisii, Curmeria Wallisii, Dieffenbachia Wallisii, Epidendrum Wallisii, Maranta Wallisii, Masdevallia Wallisii, Stenospermation Wallisii.

The foregoing appeared in 1906 in Hortus Veitchii, published by the celebrated nursery firm of Messrs. Veitch, whose name is commemorated in Aechmea veitchii.

Wallis was responsible for the introduction of some of our most outstanding greenhouse items, including several notable bromeliads. While in the service of M. Linden, he discovered Guzmania musaica. The stunningly beautiful Tillandsia lindenii, once memorialized its discoverer as Wallisia lindenii. He found this plant in the Huncabamba Mountains of western Peru sometime before its exhibition by Linden in 1867.



If one makes inquiry of competent growers as to the cultivation of Guzmania musaica, he will receive contradictory instruction. Our estimable editor states that she grows it moist and in the shade of the glasshouse in her regular mix, while an outstanding grower admonishes growing it on the dry side in pure osmunda.

The editor adds that "the offshoots always flower the second or third year. It is one of the very few bromels that I have that is ever bothered with mealy bug. Otherwise, it is pest free and never gets scale." Alkaline water has been accused of an adverse effect more than with most other bromeliads. It may be that rain water or artificially acidified water may prove beneficial. In view of Wallis' description of the plants thriving conspicuously where there was better air flow may indicate the plant would benefit by being placed in proximity to a fan.

There is on the market a variety named Guzmania musaica var. zebrina, but a notable dealer has observed that "they must have split hairs on that one."

This bromeliad is very tender, and outdoor cultivation in the United States is limited to the extreme southern tip of Florida.

—Riverside, California.



Dr. G. Milstein

Dr. G. Milstein
BROMELIADS treated with Omaflora.

Upper—Aechmea chantinii and A. fasciata.

Left—Vriesea splendens.

In The Bromeliad Society Bulletin, Vol. XVII, No. 6, page 131, there appears an article by William S. Cate, in which he describes his not too successful experience with the use of Omaflora on his bromeliads. I feel that the article might do a great deal of harm by discouraging many would-be users of this excellent bloom-producing stimulant, and so I have hastened to reply to it.

We bromeliad enthusiasts are indeed fortunate that we are involved with one of the few plant families that can be artificially induced to produce blooms ahead of schedule or at a different season than normal by the use of chemical stimulants or irritants. The chemical stimulant may be Calcium Carbide solution, acetylene gas, jet fuel, burning leaves, ethylene vapors from ripening fruit, Omaflora, or any of the other chemical agents that have ethylene-like effects on the mature bromeliad.

In Mr. Cate's article, the statistics noted should actually produce a favorable desire to continue with Omaflora. Please note that he lists 35 plants as having been treated with Omaflora, out of which he received almost 50 percent blooms (16 plants). On the untreated side, he lists 83 plants of which only 7 bloomed. It is the latter set of figures which I believe are the key to Mr. Cate's problems with Omaflora. I have been experimenting with Omaflora for more than two years now, and while I lost many plants in the beginning, I feel now that I can use the material successfully in most bromeliads.

First, and most important, it must be remembered that Omaflora as well as any other bloom-producing stimulant will not perform miracles. All it can do is advance the season of blooming in plants that would normally bloom by themselves without stimulation. Also, as in housegrown bromeliads, I have noticed that there is a tendency for the blooming stalk to remain latent in the invisible "embryonic stage," and some sort of stimulant is needed to trigger the growth of the inflorescence. I have had well-grown bromels that remained healthy and mature on my windowsill for more than two years which would bloom in about 6 to 10 weeks after an application of stimulant. It was as if the bud was all set to go, but just needed that little bit of "tickle" to force it to emerge into the waiting world.

A second and also very important point is, in the case of Omaflora, always use a fresh solution, prepared shortly before the material is to be used. Under no circumstances, should the solution be prepared in advance. Also store the solution in a lightproof and airtight container in a cool spot; light, heat, and air help to deteriorate the compound.

Cryptanthus fosterianus — flowered by Omaflora (accidental application)

Thirdly, and this may come as a surprise, do not fill the cups of the plants to over-flowing. It has been my experience that all plants which had Omaflora solution spilled on their roots usually showed some injury and in some cases died.

Fourthly, on thin-leaved bromels like some Vrieseas and Guzmanias, use one-half strength solution or one-half teaspoon of Omaflora to a gallon of water. On sturdier plants, I would never use a stronger than one teaspoon to a gallon of water. Fill the cups only ¼ to ½ full, according to the size of the plant in reverse proportion. In the case of Tillandsias and other specimens without cups, I spray the Omaflora with a fine mist atomizer, and this method seems to work fine. However, I spray only once and no more. The cups of the plants should be well drained and dry before applying Omaflora.

About one week after treatment, I wash the remaining solution from the cups and refill with fresh water. If you grow orchids in the vicinity of your bromeliads, be extremely careful. It would be wise to remove the bromel while it is being treated, for growth stimulants are dangerous to orchids. Even 1 part of ethylene in 1,000,000 will cause sepal blast in orchid flowers.

The most important fact to remember is that one should always start with healthy mature blooming-sized plants. They should have good dense root systems and should be grown under proper light and atmospheric conditions. Omaflora and other bloom stimulants can never make plants bloom. They can only assist in or advance the blooming stage of the bromeliad.

For us here in the Metropolitan New York area, one of the important events of the year is the International Flower Show, held during the first week in March at the huge New York Coliseum. It is then that we enthusiasts give special thanks to the bloom stimulants, as without them we could never have a proper display, but with them we manage to make the Bromeliads the outstanding group in the show.

At present I have the following plants in inflorescence due to Omaflora treatment: 1 Aechmea fasciata, 1 A. chantinii, 1 A. fulgens var. discolor, 1 Vriesea splendens, 1 V. × 'Mariae,' various Neoregelia species and hybrids, 1 Nidularium innocentii var.

lineatum, 1 Guzmania lingulata var. minor, and a few clumps of Tillandsia ionantha. On January 1, 1968, I treated a number of specimens for the flower show, and as of the date of this writing (January 27, 1968), I have noted the beginning of an inflorescence in the following: 2 V. splendens, 2 Neoregelia carolinae var. tricolor, 1 Tillandsia cyanea, 2 Nidularium regelioides, 3 Aechmea fasciatas, 1 A. chantinii, 1 A. fasciata var. albo-marginata, Guzmania zahnii (this species is the easiest for me to bring into bloom with Omaflora), several Neomeas, Wittrockia superba, several Billbergia hybrids and others. I had only one failure at this time, and this was a Guzmania lingulata hybrid, and I believe this was my fault as the plant may not have been mature enough. However, I may get a few offsets from it before it dies.

This brings up another interesting point in regard to the use of bloom stimulants. If by some chance the inflorescence is damaged, and even if it is not, there are usually a great many offsets formed after chemical stimulation; however, I have noticed very little seed setting after the bromeliads have been chemically stimulated.

Omaflora will react differently with each grower, as each has different lighting and growing conditions. Also, the mineral content of the water in various areas is so different as to make each Omaflora solution a different compound with slightly different effects on the plants, especially in the timing of the onset of the inflorescences. This is the order in which the various genera react to Omaflora for me. The quickest results are seen in Billbergias and Guzmanias. After that, about one or two weeks later, come the Aechmeas, followed by the Vrieseas, then the Tillandsias, and last the Neoregelias and Nidulariums.

I believe that bloom stimulants are definitely useful to the bromeliad grower, especially in bringing plants into flower for shows. Omaflora is preferred mainly for its extreme simplicity and neatness of use. Calcium carbide leaves a white coating in the cups of the treated plants, and a great deal of elbow grease has to be expended in order to scrub it out. The ripe apple treatment works, but it is too much trouble for more than one plant. Omaflora leaves no visible residue. Any number of plants can be treated at the same time with a freshly made solution, and, best of all, the results can be fantastic.

A bit of incidental information — the director of the Agricultural and Pesticide division of Olin Matthieson Chemical Corporation, the distributors of Omaflora, and the person in charge of Omaflora is Dr. de Vriese, a descendant of the original Dr. de Vriese, after whom the Vrieseas are named.

—Brooklyn. New York.



× NIDUMEA L. B. Smith, gen. nov.

Acaulis; inflorescentia involucrata, simplici, subspicata; floribus sessilibus; sepalis valde asymmetricis, longe mucronatis, basi connatis; petalis erectis, late rotundatis cucullatisque, ligulis basalibus destitutis sed callis verticallibus auctis; staminibus inclusis, polline valde deforme; ovario omnino infero.

Plant stemless (joint character); inflorescence involucrate (Nidularium), simple (Aechmea), subspicate (Aechmea); flowers sessile (joint); sepals strongly asymmetric (Aechmea), longmucronate (Aechmea), connate at base; petals erect (joint), broadly rounded and cucullate (joint), lacking basal scales but with vertical ridges (intermediate); stamens included (joint), pollen greatly deformed; ovary wholly inferior (joint).

× NIDUMEA LOESENERI (Mez) L. B. Smith, comb. nov.

Nidularium billbergioides (Schult. f.) L. B. Smith × Aechmea calyculata (E. Morr.) Baker

Aechmea loesenera hort. ex Gentil, Pl. Cult. Jard. Bot. Brux. 9. 1907. Nomen. Nidularium loeseneri Mez, Fedde Rep. Spec. Nov. 16: 5. 1919.

Cultivated in the Berlin Botanic Garden from material obtained from Brussels, 26 April 1911, H. Strauss s. n. (Berlin, type; Chicago phot. 11272).

It is doubtless a risky move to describe the above species as a bigeneric hybrid with no confirmation from the living record, but comparison with the two supposed parents leaves no character unaccounted. Furthermore the horticultural origin is a suspicion of hybridity and the badly malformed pollen a fairly positive proof of the same.

—Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., U.S.A.



Have you a bromeliad sucker or seedling which you value very much and which has remained retarded and does not seem to get a go on? Such plants seem to linger for months and often finally die. We do not know why this should be while other plants grow prolifically, but one thing is indicated: such bromels need a good kick along, and the following treatment will work in a very rapid manner.

Place the plant in a clean pot and in a very porous potmix. Put the pot in a plastic bag containing a little water, so that the potmix is damp and the interior of the bag is humid. Loop a piece of cord over the top of the bag and hang it and its contents over a stove.

Within a week or two new growth will appear at the growing point, i.e., in the center, and new lush growth will continue, as well as new roots forming. In most cases one can see the leaves shooting up almost daily. Too much of this culture can cause the plant to become soft, so it is necessary to watch it closely. When the vigor of the plant seems assured, remove the plant from the bag and keep in a warm place until it hardens, and all will be well.

It is beneficial to add a diluted mixture of fertilizer to the potmix to be sure that the plant has sustenance and is not growing only on water.

—Bilpin, Australia.

Most bromeliads really do best in small pots, and inevitably they become grossly top heavy when their cups greedily retain all the water they can hold. So, again inevitably, the plants and pots tip over on the greenhouse bench, and if the gardener is too busy to right them, they are left to their own devices. What happens is remarkable, and is ascribed by plant physiologists to the phenomenon of negative geotropism, whereby the growing tip of a plant grows upward and away from the earth's force of gravity. Slowly a prostrate bromeliad rights itself so that its so rudely and untimely emptied cup can retain its full measure of water again. This involves a curvature of the basal stem of the plant. By the time the bromelist gets around to repotting these plants, he has to contend with a root system that is on the same horizontal plane as the newly oriented center of the plant. Bromeliads can't afford to wait for an errant gardener to make things right, but slowly and inexorably begin to right themselves, even if it results in an awkward posture and creates a problem when repotting is finally done.

—Sebring, Florida.



(Translated from the German by Mrs. Adda Abendroth)


Durability (meaning good appearance) of the bracts again varies widely. The shortest life span I know of is that of Billbergia euphemiae. The pink primary bracts on its flower scape often wither even before the flowers open, that is, their color changes to gray. Billbergias, on the whole, are known to possess gorgeously colored bracts of very short duration. Three to six days is the average, from the time the flowers open. Another few days while the spike pushes out of the funnel lengthens the show period somewhat. As a counterpart to the Billbergias, Aechmea fasciata probably has the longest exhibition value. Months after the last flower has faded, the spike preserves its eye-catching powder-pink bracts. Other species show similar durability, such as Aechmea sphaerocephala, A. megalantha, and others.

Many graduations from one extreme to the other can be found. Guzmania lingulata var. cardinalis starts blushing when its spike just begins to show in its heart. Development extends over several weeks, and the color persists for a while after the flowering period is over, about two or three months on the whole. Analogous conditions prevail in Vrieseas, but in them the flower spike rises green at the start and takes on color as it grows, keeping the color for several weeks. Outstanding color duration is found in Neoregelia species. When it is time for the buds to form, the heart leaves begin to tint. Color is at its peak while the flowers are mature and remains so for months.

The flowers of all bromeliads, with only a few exceptions, come in three's. Three sepals are stiff, leathery, mostly green or whitish-green. The three petals are generally larger or longer than the sepals, of more tender consistency and have livelier coloring. Some genera possess little scales adhering to the base of the petal face. Their presence or absence plays an important part in classification. For example, Vrieseas have scales; Tillandsias have not.

Nectar probably develops in all bromeliads. It may be watery and tasteless or thick and slimy and very sweet. In combination with the showy bracts, the nectar is destined to attract insects to effect pollination.

Position of flowers, production of nectar, and construction of the pollen — all support the supposition that bromeliads depend foremost on birds and insects for pollination. Certain species self pollinate, but these are exceptions to the rule. Such is the case of Vriesea splendens. The style is at first shorter than the stamens. If no pollen comes from another flower, the style will grow up into the anthers of its own flower. Self-pollination also occurs in Guzmania monostachia, Aechmea lueddemanniana, Aechmea candida, and others.

As far as I know, research on pollination in bromeliads has not yet been attempted. The following accounts are based in part on my own observation of general conditions and in part on comparison with what happens in other plant families. Analogies in flower structure can be found in cacti that some times occur associated with bromeliads sharing their surroundings. A detailed study of the interrelation of flower and pollinating agent in the Cactaceae based on personal and scientific observation was carried out by Professor O. Porsch, of Vienna. In his book Das Bestaeubuugsleben der Kakteen (Natural Pollination in the Cactaceae) Porsch introduces his subject as follows:

"The distribution of the family almost exclusively on the American continent, extending far beyond the tropics north and south, is responsible for adapting the flower to a great extent to fit range and requirements of the hummingbird, the most dependable native visitor of the flowers. Its dissemination falls also into the domain of a second vertebrate recognized as a valuable visitor of flowers, namely the flower-bat, which attains the highest point in adaptation to flowers precisely on the continent in question, home of the long-tongue-vampire (Glossophagidae)."

Porsch distinguishes the following pollinators of flowers: 1) insects (bees, day moths, day-swarmers), 2) hummingbirds, 3) night-swarmers(?), and 4) bats. These pollinators deserve attention also in connection with bromeliads.

Literature contains repeated mention of bromeliad flowers being visited by bees, bumble-bees, and butterflies. It is also stated that butterflies prefer flowers that have a short-tubed corolla. It may be assumed that the insects referred to are responsible for pollination, but such has not been definitely proved.

As has been said, theoretically one may safely assume that hummingbirds can be widely considered to act as pollinators, because they are attracted by the color red. Although in bromeliads red is not actually the color of the flower, it is conspicuous on the bracts and in the heart. Red, with or without a mixture of yellow, is the bird-flower color most commonly found in the phanerogams. Porsch writes in this connection:

"The actual quantitative dissemination of bright red in bird flowers in both the Old and the New World is easy to understand. Red as a color is not only the direct opposite of its complement, green, the color of the leaves, but it stands out as a color no matter what the background may be. Taking into consideration that the bird-eye is very susceptible to red, bright red is the most effective color bait for birds at a distance."

The other colors in bird flowers are yellow, green, brown, and white. The rarest is blue with no red in it. This also makes understandable why withered flowers have such contrasting tints, scaling from blue to red or brown. The color informs the approaching bird at a distance about the condition of the bloom, permitting the receptive flowers containing the nectar to govern the scene.

Comparing above color sequence with the coloring of bromeliad flowers proves that the observation is correct. Pure blue is very seldom found, and when present it is only in the petals, by nature small and inconspicuous. Most of the other tints containing blue show an admixture of red.

The bird-flower types in the Bromeliaceae have more or less discernibly premature anthers. The pollen ripens a little earlier than the pistils. In pollination the arriving hummingbird searching for nectar touches the anthers. The pollen adheres to the base of the bird's beak or to its front, throat or chest, depending on the flyer's size. If the pistil of the next flower that is visited by the bird is mature, the pollen adhering to the bird gets deposited on it, and pollination takes place. Adaptation of flower shape to the build of the pollinator — or the other way round — is perfectly clear. Porsch stresses the similarity of flower shape in Disocactus eichlamii and Tillandsia benthamiana. The flowers have a long, thin pseudo-tube from which pistil and anthers protrude considerably. Similar flower shapes that are exclusively geared for pollination by hummingbirds can be found in other Tillandsias and in Vriesea species. Apparently difficult is the pollination in flowers that remain closed, domelike, as in Nidulariums and Guzmanias. To get to the nectar in these plants, the pollinators must insert their sucking tools between the overlapping petals or the closely fitting petal points. This is possible only when the flowers are mature and in the proper condition to be pollinated. Earlier attempts are fruit-less because the corolla is tightly closed. Doubtless, the hummers with their hard, pointed beaks are in this case better equipped than insects to pierce the flowers. However, there are some insects so small that they can hardly be considered as pollination agents. Time and again I have seen how a very small species of ant cut holes in the petals and nibble the base of the style in order to get the sweet juice present in Guzmanias.

But let us return to the hummers. Thanks to their marvelous agility in flight, quick visits to many flowers are no problem for them. A hummer's working day begins very early in the morning and the demand for food for the brood puts a heavy burden on the food collector. Humming birds live longer than bees and bumble-bees and butterflies. They also rise farther from the ground than do the insects. In the end, all this benefits pollination, which is what counts in our present study.

Period and duration of the flower-phase depend largely on temperature. In Vrieseas, Neoregelias, Nidulariums, and others, the single flowers grow rapidly out from the scape. If the plants are kept in a very cold spot, the buds may not open; this may occur if the plants are put in a too cold place in a flower shop for even a short time. Often the effect of a cold strike of this type means damage because it affects also the flower bracts which are the showy part of the plant. Even in summer, the most favorable season of the year, it happens that cool and overcast days can disrupt the flowering rhythm and buds about to open remain shut or open poorly.

Permanent low temperature turns the plants sterile, so pollination has little chance to occur. Temperature also affects the duration of the bloom. Normally, single flowers bloom from a few hours to a couple of days. Excessively high temperature accelerates wilt; less warmth delays it for hours or a whole day. Generally speaking, possibility of lengthening duration of bloom is meaningless. Low light intensity in winter often causes difficulty in crossing certain Vriesea species, especially Vriesea psittacina. The flowers may develop normally, but the buds do not open. Possibly, the application of artificial light could force bloom and permit pollination; raising the temperature is of no avail.

The pollen, which is abundant, is like floury dust when the temperature is favorable. In Vrieseas, Tillandsias, and others, it remains dusty for a few days after the flowers wilt and probably remain fertile as well. This is not true with Aechmeas, Neoregelias, and Guzmanias; their pollen soon becomes viscous and loses viability on the day of anthesis. Neoregelias sometimes have flowers in which anthers are brown and slimy at the time of anthesis for no conceivable reason. On summer days, with bright sun and very dry air, certain Vriesea species and hybrids have hardened pollen which is not viable.


We can distinguish two different kinds of fruits and seeds in the Bromeliaceae. The genera that have a superior or semi-superior ovary produce a hard capsule that springs open when it is ripe; those in which the ovary is inferior, that is, located totally underneath the flower, have berries containing the seeds. Splitting the family into two groups has a practical meaning for the grower. The nature of the seeds in each of the two groups differs one from the other. It permits us to draw conclusions about certain peculiarities of each group and helps us to segregate the plants into more or less definite sections.

The sub-family Tillandsioideae contains, among others, the genera Vriesea, Tillandsia, and Guzmania — all of prime importance to the nurseryman. All three produce capsule fruits. Capsules are generally thin and rounded and have a blunt point. They are 1-6 cm long and very hard. When ripe, the capsule splits lengthwise and releases the seeds. Seeds are more or less abundant, depending on the species.

Seeds of Vrieseas, Guzmanias, and Tillandsias are slenderly fusiform, and measure from 1-7 mm, mostly about 1,5-4 mm. The 2-3 cm long seeds of certain Vrieseas are an exception to the rule. The seeds we are dealing with here possess a float-mechanism similar to the parachute of our common dandelion. Inside the capsule the fibers of the parachute lie closely along the thread that hold them together and connects them with the grain. When the capsule springs open, which occurs only in dry weather, the parachute opens and suspends the seed in mid air. Air layers above a virgin forest are saturated with humidity and travel in more or less horizontal shifts. They often carry the seeds far away.

Seeds ripen within 6 to 12 months of pollination; that is, provided the mother plant is in a condition to continue life. Loss of leaves or decay of the funnel can impair the viability of the seeds. If the seeds ripen too fast, the floss has a straw-like consistency, or individual fibers may not attain normal length. If that happens we can be almost certain the seed is sterile. Individual parachutes of small Tillandsias often get entangled with one another. Seeds germinate in close proximity, giving rise to a dense cluster of seedlings. Such aggregation no doubt favors the germination process of the tiny grains by reducing exposure to wind and bad weather or too much sun. In addition, clusters are far more resistant than single plants in later life. On the other hand, large Vrieseas and Guzmanias, as well as the huge Tillandsias, have seeds that tend to fly off on their own. Clusters do not form; they would only handicap individual growth in larger plants. The fibers of floss adhere closely to where they happen to land, on bark of tree trunks or on scrub, providing a primary holdfast for the seedling.

Well-developed floss is usually white and has a silky gloss. In Guzmanias it is a silky brown. Dull gray floss is a sign of premature ripening, or of too much exposure to sun or air — conditions that always detract from viability. Seeds are extremely light weight, a fact indicating that they contain little nourishment for the young seedling. This may explain why the seeds of the first group take much longer to germinate than those of the second group that has berries.

The second group, which contains Aechmeas, Billbergias, Cryptanthus, Neoregelias, and Nidulariums, have fleshy fruits. Some of the berries are of a conspicuous, brilliant color and contain pulp which is sweet, sticky, and jelly-like. Ripening berries are sought after by fruit-eating animals, mostly birds, but also some mammals. They eat the contents of the berries, the seeds passing out through the intestines. The process insures wide distribution. Ripe seed getting spattered on the ground near the mother plant also has a chance to germinate. Even ants help in dissemination in that they carry ripe berries to their abodes where later the seeds sprout. The climax of this sort of dissemination is found in the so-called ant-gardens in the flood areas of the Amazon. To safeguard against being drowned when the waters rise several meters, the ants settle on trees, carry up earth, mix it with their excrement, and use it as a sticker on which they place seeds of a certain bromeliad species. The fast growing bromels and their pups contribute considerable solidity to the structure, which may last several years.

Immature berries of Neoregelias and Nidulariums are securely anchored on the bottom of the cup, but as fruit ripens the hold loosens and visitors may help themselves without great exertion. Maturation proceeds much faster than in the first group with capsule fruits. Billbergias have the shortest term — only three months. Some Aechmeas keep pace, but others take longer, Aechmea fasciata taking 9 to 10 months. The sequence of ripening of individual berries follows that of anthesis. This means that in cultivation harvest of seeds on one inflorescence extends over a period of some length. The berries of Nidulariums require 4 months to ripen, those of Neoregelias, 6 months. Practically devoid of pulp are the fruit of Cryptanthus. They ripen inside the vaults of the leaf axils. If the fruits are not removed, the seeds will germinate there, the little plants growing from the leaf sheaths. Some Aechmea species, such as A. caerulescens and A. recurvata, contain a blackish-violet dye. The contrast of the black-violet berries of A. sphaerocephala and its scarlet bracts is spectacular. The bracts keep their intense color until after the fruit is ripe.

Seeds of berry bromeliads are on the whole small, cuneiform, egg-shaped, or sometimes slender. Their color is gray, brown, or blackish. Viability is brief, completely lost 5 to 6 months from maturation.

A third group comprises the genera of the sub-family Pitcairnioideae, of hardly any consequence in horticulture, but deserving brief mention. The fruit is a dry capsule, egg-shaped to lanceolate, 1-3 cm long. Seeds are generally small, in some species (Lindmania) extremely small. They are almost circular or oval, bluntly triangular to elongated or lanceolate. A group peculiarity is the presence of laminar appendages, involving the grain like a coat and prolonging its tip and base, or encircling it from end to end like a wing. The appendage may go all the way round or cover only one side. The appendage probably aids in steering the grain as the breeze carries it off or when it glides to the ground, for in this group dissemination depends on air currents. The genera and species in this group — Pitcairnia, Hechtia, Dyckia, and others — are all terrestrials. Small though they be the seeds are able to stick in crevices too narrow for larger or more rounded grains, thanks to their irregular outline.

F. Kubisch

TILLANDSIA IMPERIALIS (pictured above) is one of the bromeliads that Fritz Kubisch (see page 52) brings home from every collecting trip to Mexico. It is indeed one of the most spectacular of the Mexican Tillandsias, never failing to cause comment when it is displayed in the United States.

This epiphyte is to be found growing high in the trees at elevations ranging from 5,000 to 8,000 feet in the states of Oaxaca, Puebla, and Vera Cruz. Although it is a favorite with Mexicans for decorating at Christmas time, it may be found in the flower markets of the capital during the summer and autumn months, indicating that its blooming season is long and variable.

T. imperialis is a medium-sized plant, when in flower reaching a height of about eighteen inches. The plant forms a dense rosette of soft pale-green leaves, from the center of which emerges its unique cone-shaped watermelon-colored inflorescence. Its flowers are purple.

In southern California, this Tillandsia does best outdoors in a situation which simulates its high mountain habitat. It enjoys shade, plenty of air (even breezes), and daily misting. A successful grower of these high altitude bromeliads has enjoyed great success by spraying his plants before he retires for the evening, as such plants in their native land experience cool night fogs. The inflorescence lasts in color for several months. The plant is sometimes reluctant in having offshoots, so when one purchases a plant, he cannot always be sure that the plant will have pups.

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