BSI Journal - Online Archive


Victoria Padilla, Editor
Editorial Office—647 South Saltair Avenue
Los Angeles, Calif. 90049

The Journal is the official publication of the Bromeliad Society, a non-profit corporation organized in 1950. Subscription is included in the membership dues. There are six classes of membership: Annual, $7.50; Sustaining, $12.50; Fellowship, $20.00; Commercial, $25.00 and Life, $150.00. P.O. Box 3279, Santa Monica, Calif. 90403.



President—William R. Paylen, 1008 Gretna Green Way, Los Angeles, Calif. 90049
First Vice-President—Elmer J. Lorenz, 5110 Monte Bonito Dr., Los Angeles, Calif. 90041
Second Vice-President—Eric Knobloch, Box 121 Braithwaite, La. 70040
Recording Secretary—Jeanne Woodbury, 1811 Edgecliffe Dr., Los Angeles, Calif. 90026
Corresponding Secretary—Mrs. Kathie Dorr, 6153 Hayter, Lakewood, Calif. 90712
Treasurer—Virginia Berezin, 130-A Alta Ave., Santa Monica, Ca. 90402


David Barry, Jr. 11977 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles, Ca. 90049Handbook Revision
David H. Benzing, U. of So. Florida, Tampa, Fla. 33620Research
Edward McWilliams, U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich. 48105Research
Eric R. Knoblock, Box 121, Braithwaite, La. 70040Regional Asst. to Editor
John Riley, 3370 Princeton Court, Santa Clara, Ca. 95051Education
George Kalmbacher, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, N. Y. 11225Reg. Asst. to Editor
Ervin Wurthmann, 5602 Theresa Rd., Tampa, Fla 33615Reg. Asst. to Editor
Patrick Mitchell, 4324 Bettis St., #6, Houston, Texas 77027Affiliated Societies
Wilbur Wood, 1621 Irving Ave., Glendale, Ca. 91201Hybrid Registration
Kelsey Williams, 7430 Crescent Ave., Buena Park, Ca. 90620Promotion
George Milstein, 33-55 14th St., Long Island City, N. Y. 11106Education
Fritz Kubisch, P. O. Box 389, Culver City, Ca. 90230Show Coordinator
William Dunbar, 11444 Ayrshire Rd., Los Angeles, Ca. 90049Legal Adviser
Bea Hansen, 279 Mt. Wellington Hwy., Auckland, N. Z.Reg. Asst. to Editor
Charles Wiley, 4036 Via Solano, Palos Verdes Estates, Ca. 90275Slide Library
Amy Jean Gilmartin, 401 San Bernabe Dr., Monterey, Ca. 93940Research
Lottie Cave, 7453 Denny Ave., Sun Valley, Ca. 91352
Jack Roth, 6987 Los Tilos Rd., Hollywood, Ca. 90068Technical Advisor

Adda Abendroth, Brazil
Luis Ariza-Julia, Dominican Republic
Olwen Ferris, Australia
Mulford B. Foster, U.S.A.
Marcel Lecoufle, France
Harold Martin, New Zealand
Richard Oeser, Germany
Prof. D. W. Rauh, Germany
Raulino Reitz, Brasil
Walter Richter, Germany
Dr. L. B. Smith, U.S.A.
Robert G. Wilson, Costa Rica
Julian Marnier-Lapostolle, France

Orthophytum rubrum L. B. Smith 1955. First found by Mulford Foster in Bahia, Brazil. Photograph by J. Marnier-Lapostolle.


Nidularium seidelii L. B. SMITH


This outstanding new Nidularium, just recently introduced into the trade, was discovered by Alvim Seidel, plant collector and owner of the famous Orquideario Catarinense of Corupa, Brazil. Mr. Seidel found this plant growing as a terrestrial in swampy forests near sea level in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

It is a large rosette with smooth dark green leaves, 2 feet long and 1½ inches wide. The inflorescence is unlike that of other species in the genus. A spectacular spike rises over a foot above the foliage with large, shiny boat-like bracts extending the entire length. The bracts and the petals of the flowers are a vivid lemon-green, lasting in color for many months.

Dr. Lyman B. Smith named this bromeliad after its discoverer in 1963. The plant is easy to grow, requiring the same treatment as afforded other members of the genus, and is generous with its offshoots.




Mary Plantation House

Mr. Knobloch standing in his garden alongside a pool with an old French pirogne or dug-out canoe.

My beloved hobby—bromeliads, the building of my large collection, and my efforts to provide agreeable growing conditions for as many different kinds as possible in our hazardous coastal Louisiana climate—goes back to the early thirties when I returned to live in my native Louisiana after twenty-two years in New York City. Back in New Orleans, I provided myself with a home and patio garden in the "Vieux Carne," a lovely protected area of old buildings and historical sites attractive to tourists. In the process of furnishing my garden there, I acquired Billbergia pyramidalis and Billbergia euphemiae from an old gardener whose name for them was "pineapple orchids." Thus began my lifelong awareness of the family Bromeliaceae. I still have descendents of these two species in my collection here at Mary Plantation.

Soon afterwards, this initial spark of interest was fanned to a bright flame when I was happily introduced to Mulford B. Foster in Orlando, Florida, where he and Racine, his accomplished wife, lived among their amazing collection of living horticultural material. In their garden I spent many happy hours (too few, alas) among the bromeliads with Mulford. He showed me the numerous varieties and told where and under what circumstances he and Racine had collected them. He pointed out some of the wonderful results of his hybridizing, principally in the genera Cryptanthus and Neoregelia. He even called my attention to the particular, as yet unsevered, offshoot of Aechmea × 'Foster's Favorite' which later proved to be the well-known sport, 'Foster's Favorite Favorite,' saying excitedly over and over, "I think I've got something here!"

I have personally collected every species of bromeliad attributed to Florida on a number of collecting expeditions extending from the Orlando area to the Keys. I also collected a few in Costa Rica several years ago. Generally, however, I am indebted to my friends, especially Oather C. Van Hyning, whose several collecting trips to Mexico resulted in the addition to my collection of a large number of beautiful Mexican species. I am also indebted to other friends like the late Ralph Davis, Dr. Morris W. Dexter, Julian Nally, Frank Overton, and other good members of our society for generously sharing offshoots and seeds. The result is that I have amassed several hundred different kinds. I rather take pride in having a living specimen or two of as many distinct species as possible. My emphasis is not on how showy they are from a horticultural standpoint. Thus recently I imported a number of Argentine Tillandsias, some of which are so small they are hardly noticeable at all.

Such an avid accumulator was I that our small patio garden and greenhouse in New Orleans was soon bursting at its seams. With the idea of expanding, we acquired in 1946 six acres of jungle below New Orleans containing magnificent live oak trees (Quercus virginiana). Shrouded in this tangle of trees and vines, moreover, stood the ruins of the 200-year-old Mary Plantation House. Tree-men tell me that the ancient oaks ante-date the house by a hundred years or more, that they no doubt were a factor in the selection of this particular site for the house, since mature trees in the lower Mississippi River flood-plain are an indication of higher ground in an area subject to inundation by floods and hurricane tides.

Tillandsia fasciculata growing on Mary Plantation bell.

The property was selectively cleared with the objective of providing some open area of lawn around the house and an outdoor living area under the huge trees. About one third of the property was left in its natural state to afford shelter for native wild life.

Although we did not render the house habitable until 1954, from the very beginning, epiphytic bromeliads were established at random in the trees and shrubs and on and among the bark-covered roots of the giant oaks. Thus began my testing of species after species for resistance to freezing weather.

During the seven warmer months of the year, the climate of southeastern Louisiana is similar to that of the entire coastal area of the Gulf of Mexico from the Rio Grande River in Texas to the Florida Keys, except that we have greater annual rainfall—50 inches or more rather evenly spread out throughout the year. The nights and days are unremittingly warm and humid in this long warm period so that the beautiful species that flourish in the cool, often cloud-bathed, high altitudes of Cenral and South America are none too happy, no matter how we coddle them.

Some of them survive no great length of time as, for example, Tillandsia imperialis; others, such as Tillandsia multicaulis, tend to lose color and vigor.

In our five cooler months—November through March—these mountain bromeliads fare better. The winter season tends to be cloudy, misty, and chilly; in this respect, unlike the extreme southern part of Florida which is relatively dry, bright, and warm. Sharp cold fronts sweep down from the northwestern plains at rather frequent intervals. On rare occasions the temperature will remain well below freezing for more than just a few hours so that heated winter quarters must be provided.

By November 15 all tropical plants at Mary Plantation are crowded into the two greenhouses from which all summer shading is removed. Only a few are left outside, i.e., the ones being tested for resistance to freezing and those hitherto proven hardy that have successfully been naturalized in the oak trees whose evergreen canopy offers protection from the frosty open sky.

On April 1 we begin to move the plants outdoors again. The heavier ones are set out under the oaks in broad-based pots; the lighter ones are suspended in various ways. The degree of shade afforded them depends on the requirements of each species. The kinds that prefer full sun—Dyckias, Hechtias, Pineapples, Puyas, etc.—are arranged unshaded around the outside of the house and in the open patio. Xerophytic Tillandsias, grown on cypress twigs or cork bark, are suspended in exposed areas where they enjoy full light as they move about freely in the breeze.

Epiphytes (most bromeliads fall into this classification) like moving air and perfect drainage. We grow as many as possible on tree fern poles, bits of drift wood or twigs, suspended by strong nylon fishing line from the branches of trees or rafters in the greenhouse. Others, mounted on slabs of cork or tree fern, are hooked into similarly suspended Chains or wire ladders. Many of the small to moderate-sized ones are appropriately potted and provided with pot hooks by means of which they can be hitched on wire cylinders. These cylinders, fabricated out of strips of wire fencing, may be suspended in air from swivels so as to rotate freely, or affixed to pipes driven upright into the ground. The plants are spaced on these cylinders so as to display their best aspect without overcrowding. Thus, at Mary Plantation many plants are seen streaming from the branches of trees and the tall rafters of the greenhouse arranged on swiveled cylinders or ascending from the ground on upright ones.

Hurricanes not infrequently prowl the Gulf of Mexico in late summer. Low-lying coastal areas like southern Louisiana are exceedingly vulnerable to the surging tides and ranging winds of these dangerous storms, so that their movements are anxiously tracked. When it becomes evident that our part of the coast lies in their direct path, emergency precautions must be resorted to without delay. Since 1946, the year that the hurricane Mary was acquired, several hurricanes have battered this immediate locality.

Hurricane Betsy was the worst! On the morning of September 9, 1965, there could no longer be doubt that the full force of that perilous disturbance would strike by nightfall. Already objects were being tossed about and toppled by the rising winds; the bromeliads were being buffeted and scattered. On the highway an increasing stream of evacuees, fleeing the rising tides, were moving inland towards designated shelters.

Garden vista showing oaks.

Quesnelia quesneliana which bloomed only after flooded by Hurricane Betsy.

Rather than join the refugees, as we were urged to do by the authorities, my wife and I hastily set about laying in provisions such as food, water, candles, flashlights, etc. We distractedly grounded the bromeliads suspended in the trees, propping and stacking them in ways we hoped would shield them from wind, falling branches and flying debris. As darkness neared, torrents of slanting rain began pouring down and smashing gusts of wind forced us to abandon the outdoors and take refuge within Mary Plantation House itself—a veritable fortress with its old eighteen-inch walls of brick and heavy cypress timber framing. We had decided to weather the storm therein because we knew the building stood on relatively high ground and had withstood similar onslaughts for two hundred years or more. We bolted the stout batten shutters behind us, leaving no glassed doors or windows exposed to the violent elements.

Thus walled in, we spent an anxious night listening apprehensively to the muffled roaring and crashing tulmult going on outside. Around us huddled a motley group of pets including Lita—our yellow dog, five cats, two armadillos which had somehow come in at the last minute, and Brother, our devoted guinea fowl.

By daylight the worst had passed and we cautiously opened a shutter or two to view a demolished world—the world of Mary Plantation we had so painstakingly carved out of the Louisiana wilderness. Passage to the outer world was blocked by toppled telephone poles and power lines, fallen trees and flooding tidewaters in low lying sections. There was no household water, no electricity, no telephone communication; these services were not restored for several weeks. Where the greenhouses had stood were tangles of broken glass, shattered plastic frames, and twisted masses of wire cylinders heaped upon torn and scrambled bromeliads. The giant oaks, pitifully mutilated, thrust gaunt leafless branches skyward. We were grateful they were still standing, for many other trees around the property were overthrown and uprooted. Beneath them a soggy litter of broken branches and a thick mat of fallen leaves covered all of the grounded bromeliads. The most sickening part of the scene was the thin sheet of slightly brackish water that had crept in infiltrating them all.

The drudgery of salvaging my precious collections—many plants not being in commercial offerings could scarcely be replaced—looked like an utterly hopeless undertaking. Everything needed emergency attention at once! The floodwaters were already beginning to recede, but the soggy residue of debris that was left in its wake quickly began to putrefy in the hot humid days that immediately followed. Each hour that passed entailed increasing fatalities. So we feverishly fell to work disentangling the trapped plants, washing, draining, and setting them upright. There was no time for grooming, potting, or setting the labels aright; that would have to be postponed until much, much later. Even now, although several years have since elapsed, there are still a few unresolved problems of identity due to the utter chaos of that time.

Screening the shade-loving species from the blazing September-October sun was just about impossible because the stark trees, stripped of every leaf by the storm, were slow in putting forth new foliage so late in the year. Consequently, many plants were burned. Many rotted unrescued. With the advent of cold weather in late November, the survivors were hastily rushed to the grotesquely re-erected and patched greenhouses to be shielded from winter freezes in cramped disarray.

The remarkable hardihood of this family of plants is such that we managed to save at least one specimen of almost each kind eventually. Given vital aeration and appropriate humidity, some of the most unpromising looking remnants would at long last sprout an offshoot! One such apparent terminal case—a leafless rhizome found in a neglected spot after several months had gone by—slowly revived, turning out to be my cherished little Vriesea racinae, grown from a seed. It had long been counted among the lost. It has since flowered and multiplied.

Tillandsias hanging from wire cylinder.

Few bromeliads tolerate freezing temperatures even for a short time; even fewer can endure freezing for extended periods. Here at Mary Plantation, freezes of long duration have proven far more destructive than sharper freezes of shorter duration. We have been smitten with quite a number of unusually cold spells within the past decade, the worst occurring in January, 1962, when the temperature remained well below freezing for more than sixty consecutive hours, breaking all previous records for duration of cold in the history of the local weather bureau. There had been nothing like it since the 1890's. Gales out of the Northwest pushed the temperature down to nearly ten degrees Fahrenheit. Of numerous varieties of bromeliads naturalized and flourishing in Mary's trees at that time, hardly one appeared to have survived. Surprisingly, however, after a year or so, random clones of the following had managed to establish new colonies that are still flourishing:

Tillandsia usneoides
Tillandsia baileyi (A Texas native)
Aechmea disticantha var. schlumbergeri
Quesmea — a cross between an Aechmea and a Quesnelia
Billbergia nutans
Billbergia nutans × distachia
Quesnelia quesneliana — this native of the Brazilian littoral had never bloomed until the salt air blown in by hurricane Betsy drenched it.

In later winters there were several less severe freezes of long duration with temperatures falling to twenty degrees or a trifle below, survivors of which were:

Tillandsia bartramii
Tillandsia recurvata
Tillandsia setacea
Aechmea recurvata var. ortgesii
Aechmea bromeliifolia var. rubra
Aechmea disticantha var. disticantha
Aechmea disticantha × phanerophlebia
Aechmea × 'Burgundy'
Aechmea caudate
Aechmea comata
Aechmea × 'Covata'
Aechmea pimenti-velosoi × recurvata
Billbergia distachia var. rubra
Neoregelia concentrica
Vriesea jonghei
Vriesea philippocoburgii

Protected from the open sky under the canopy of the evergreen oaks, the following have survived temperatures of twenty-five degrees for an hour or so:

Vriesea × 'Perfecta'
Vriesea × 'Poelmanii'
Aechmea gamosepala
Billbergia × 'Theodore L. Meade'
Billbergia × 'Santa Barbara'
Quesnelia arvensis
Quesnelia testudo
Nidularium innocentii (several forms)
Neoregelia tristis × Neoregelia spectabilis
Neoregelia × 'Marcon'
Wittrockia superba
Dyckia frigida
Dyckia leptostachya
Dyckia brevifolia
Dyckia rariflora
Puya chilensis
Bromelia balansae
Bromelia serra
Hechtia texensis
Hechtia scariosa

Still to be tested are a number of species of Tillandsias from the Argentine, newly set out, and others. As a precaution I keep at least one specimen of outdoor plants in the greenhouse because we can expect almost any extreme in our normally mild climate.

—Braithewaite, Louisiana.



Any South Florida bromeliad lover knows Fantastic Gardens for its large collection of rare plants and tropical exotics. Regular visitors in the slat houses sooner or later will know Tom Mentelos, now the owner and an ardent bromeliad fan, although he admits he had little interest in Bromeliaceae until he worked with Bob Wilson, who developed Fantastic Gardens thirty-five years ago. Not surprising for a South Floridian, Tom's "conversion experience" came from the sight of Billbergia pyramidalis spike.

Walking through Tom's slat houses, the bromeliad enthusiast can view close to 400 species as Tom points to some of his favorites—a large Ecuadorian Guzmania lingulata, a Tillandsia stricta over there, a richly colored Neoregelia concentrica over here. Don't try to buy a plant Tom wishes to keep because the commercial adage about everything having its price is untrue with Tom. Recently, he priced a magnificent Neoregelia 'Grande' at five hundred dollars in order to keep it. While one fourth of the gross income of Fantastic Gardens comes from the sale of bromeliads, Tom has a diversified interest in all plants, and his paradisiacal three and one-half acres abound in orchids, ferns, and other tropicals.

Tom has gone out of the mail order business in order to spend more time with his customers. Bob, his knowledgeable son, now handles that. Those who can visit Fantastic Gardens will always have the opportunity of seeing some specimen in bloom.

To the South Florida Bromeliad Society Tom has been more than generous, always helpful with the loan of plants, common and rare. Who else would lend a giant specimen of Vriesea imperialis in glorious spike to a group of amateurs, knowing how rarely this plant has infloresced in the United States? Tom's philosophy, genial and low-key, is simple: amateur societies promote the plants and he benefits by helping. Despite what Tom may gain by a quasi-sponsorship of bromeliad societies, it is his generosity that dictates his kindnesses to all who know him. As I was leaving, he offered me a specimen plant of Neoregelia × 'Oh, No.' for our display table.

We all thank you, Tom.

If your bromeliads are suspended on mobiles (treefern poles or driftwood) or hooked into wire chains or tall wire cylinders, it is a good idea to provide revolving or swiveling action by hanging them with strong nylon fishing tackle or suspending them on wires joined together by a strong swivel. The revolving movement thus set in motion by the breezes or by hand assures a balanced exposure of the plants to stronger and better light than would be possible if they were in a fixed position. On all kinds of mobiles, the drier bromeliads—those most thickly covered with lepidote scales—should be at the top of the arrangement, the rain-forest types with smooth leaves, like Vriesea carinata, at the bottom and intermediate kinds, like Aechmea chantinii, in between. Thus the dry types receive the strongest light and dry off more quickly after each spraying; the softer kinds benefit from the shade afforded by the plants above them and enjoy the extra moisture that drips down.

—Eric Knobloch


Bromeliads—An Illustrated Dictionary of the Cultivated Species by Victoria Padilla will be off the press in a few months. Full details will be given in a future issue of the Journal. This is the first book of its kind to appear in English, describing in layman's language nearly all of the bromeliads today in the trade. There will be over 400 illustrations.

Dr. Lyman B. Smith's Bromeliaceae volume of the Flora de Venezuela is now available. It may be obtained by sending $7.00 to the Instituto Botanico, Apartado 2156, Caracas, Venezuela. The editor and director is Dr. Tobias Lasser. Pages are 1 to 361 including 25 line plates and covering 289 species. As in no other national flora Navia outnumbers Tillandsia.

Also obtainable now is Dr. Amy Jean Gilmartin's study The Bromeliaceae of Ecuador containing 290 pages and 104 figures on plates. Book may be purchased from Stechert-Hafner Service Agency, Inc., 866 Third Avenue, New York, N. Y. 10022. Price—$33.00.


Only the following volumes are available: Nos. XVI, XVII, XVIII, XIX, XX, XXI. Past volumes are regularly $6.50 apiece. For a limited time only the following prices will prevail.

For 1 volume — $ 6.00
2 volumes — 11.50
3 volumes — 16.50
4 volumes — 21.00
5 volumes — 25.00
6 volumes — 28.00

Send order with check to The Editor, Bromeliad Society, 647 South Saltair Avenue, Los Angeles, Calif. 90049.


In the Wall Street Journal for February 2, 1972, appeared an interesting article by Richard Martin, staff reporter, entitled "Be Kind to Plants—or You Could Cause a Violet to Shrink." Perhaps in this very interesting item we can learn the reason why some of our bromeliads will not thrive for us.

In this article Mr. Martin describes the work of Cleve Backster, a polygraph expert, who believes that our plants will often react to happenings around them. Mr. Backster tells us that from his experiments it would seem that besides some sort of telepathic communication system plants also possess feelings or emotions. They like being watered; they are upset when a dog comes too close; they droop when violence seems to threaten their own well-being.

It all started in February, 1966, in the school where Mr. Backster trains private investigators, police and government personnel to use polygraph machines or lie-detectors. One day when watering a dracaena plant, droopy from lack of moisture, he wondered how long it would take the water to travel from the roots to the leaves, so he connected a pair of polygraph electrodes to a leaf. Although he figured that the water might gradually change the plant's resistance level enough to register on his polygraph, he was surprised when he got an immediate reaction pattern—one that closely resembled that of a person under emotional stimulation. Wondering what the plant's reaction would be if its well-being were threatened, he decided to try setting fire to a leaf. But before he could reach for a match, Mr. Backster says "at the split second that I had the image of fire in my mind, the recording pen bounded right off the top of the chart." He adds, "It really shook me up."

Since 1966, Mr. Backster had made several thousand observations of this nature with other plants, fruits, vegetables, etc., to find evidence of their perception capabilities, and some of the results have been as surprising as the first one. It would seem that plants are endowed with extra-sensory perception, that they can "feel" when certain things are about to happen, that violets really do shrink when an unpleasant occasion arises, and "they sympathize when harm comes to animals and insects close to them." Not a few of us have had the experience that when we bought a new plant to take the place of one that seemed to be dying, the older plant immediately perked up as if it were jealous of the newcomer and was not to be outdone in growth and beauty.

Mr. Backster sees "fantastic implications in this for the science of crime detection. We're getting into another dimension, a scientific twilight area in which something can go from point to point without going between them and without consuming time to get there. But that won't be as weird as we might think; it could simply mean that some of the things that were once laughed at in theoretical physics are finally falling into place."



Tillandsia utriculata on Thrinax barbadensis
Although Trinidad is a little smaller than our state of Delaware, it has a great wealth of bromeliads, the number of species being impressive and the total number of living bromeliads must be very great. In the Bromeliaceae resumé by Lyman B. Smith and Colin S. Pettindrigh in the Flora of Trinidad and Tobago, thirteen genera of bromeliads are listed. Tillandsias are the most noticeable throughout the island—fifteen species are listed in the Flora. Vrieseas are also comparatively numerous as to species with also fifteen, and nine species of Aechmeas are cited.

My first experience with epiphytic bromeliads in Trinidad was on my first walk from my hotel to the Port of Spain Botanical Garden. It was a walk of a couple of miles around the Savannah, a large-sized open park, and in a few of the trees I saw Tillandsia utriculata. T. flexuosa, T. stricta, and T. fasciculata. Quite thrilling for a city walk!

At the Botanical Garden there are now no scientific staff members, but during the British rule it had especial prominence, with botanists and students sent there for a year at a time to learn tropical botany. There are three men attached there as gardeners who have a useful knowledge of many of the trees and shrubs grown there, but no one has the slightest knowledge of bromeliad identification despite the commonness of the plants. As I was showing an interest in the epiphytic bromeliads growing naturally there, the gardener accompanying me said, "Those are parasites. They hurt the trees. We destroy them." (I just have been reading in the literature that they are called "parasitos" in Panama, but then that is not strange—I suppose they are called parasites wherever they grow.)

So I asked him, "Haven't you grown some of these in pots or otherwise?" "Oh, yes," he said. "They did not need trees to grow on?" I queried, "and they grew in regular mixtures?" He saw that they were not parasites, and since I tried to clear this matter with the other gardeners, I am sure they are not now destroying them in the belief they are harmful parasites. He was also surprised that there were people who treasured bromeliads and paid good prices for them.

It was the rainy season in Trinidad and there were no bromeliads that I saw in bloom at the time of my visit, so that for the time being the bromeliad keys in the Flora, all of which depend on the flower for identification, were of no use to me. But there were a few dried inflorescences which indicated to me the commonness of T. utriculata. (This species has an extended range, being found in Florida, Mexico, the West Indies, and Venezuela.

One of the advantages of the epiphytic bromeliads is that they are adapted to grow on many kinds of trees—native, introduced, or foreign. For instance, at the Botanical Garden at Port of Spain I found T. utriculata growing on the trunk of a date palm, as well as on that lovely palm, Thrinax barbadensis. On a Brazilian wax palm, were some too far up for me to identify, and a most strange combination were a number of Tillandsias growing on an Italian cypress.

There is one charming tree found throughout the West Indies and northern South America, which when well mature forms a striking home for bromeliads (with brother epiphytes)—the Rain Tree (Samanea saman). The Trinidians call it "saman" with accent on the last syllable. It is a big, open, broad tree with stout long outward branches, and when saturated with bromeliads, etc., it is one of the most picturesque delights in nature. At the edge of the Garden was one of these giants with its load of bromeliads, ferns, orchids, pepperomias, and giant-leaved aroids. The latter were high up in the tree and sent down a number of rope-like roots to the very ground. It took my fancy at once, and naturally enough! for after my return I read about this same tree in Flowering Trees of the Caribbean — "which has a trunk over eight feet in diameter, rises to one hundred forty-seven feet." And in the Common Trees of Puerto and the Virgin Islands — "a famous giant in Trinidad more than a hundred years old." I would judge that now it is somewhat on the decline from its peak majesty.

Because it was the rainy season, there were bromeliads on the ground, dislodged by the elements, and also broken branches of trees with one to several plants on one bit of branch. One such that I picked up, about three feet long, had nine T. utriculatas of all sorts of sizes, some with additional offsets.

A fallen limb covered with Tillandsias — Port of Spain Botanical Garden

Tillandsia fasciculata

There is almost a vacuum of knowledge about bromeliads in Trinidad, but fortunately, we have one Society member on the island, Mrs. Paul Foster (Doreen), who has been interested in this family for about six years, and with her husband, who specializes in the orchids of the island, has been collecting over a large range of territory in Trinidad. They go out on joint trips, both with machetes, sometimes going separate ways for a little while.

Paul is the chief chemist of the Texaco-Trinidad oil refinery, the world's tenth largest. Their home and garden have a lovely location on the company compound. Because the operations involve the use of six million gallons of water daily (from a desalinization plant) the compound has several reservoir-ponds that are part of the scenery of the hilly compound of about four and a half miles across.

I went down to visit Paul and Doreen on a weekend, and I hardly had a look at their garden when Paul whisked me off to a location—Williamsville—where grows the only Spanish moss that he has seen in Trinidad. Paul stopped the car suddenly, having spotted a tree with Spanish moss in addition to plants he recognized as desirable for his collections. He walked over to the tree and in a few minutes had climbed nearly twenty feet, where he held a stout branch with his left arm and with his right flayed with his machete to bring down some orchids and a large bromeliad, probably an Aechmea.

When we got back and I had a little time to examine the Fosters' garden, I was shown their collection of native Tillandsias in one corner, and in another, several of the commonly cultivated kinds. There was one with a spent inflorescence among the collected natives that had me puzzled. Paul was sure it was a Tillandsia, but did not know the species, but to me it seemed more like some Vrieseas—and more about this later.

The next day Doreen packed a lunch for the three of us and we started off into the wooded mountains on the road leading from Arima to Blanchisseu, called the Lalalja Trace. Both Paul and Doreen have excellent sight, and knowing the country were able to bring to my attention things I would have missed. There were various Tillandsias and an Aechmea, a large species, up in the trees. In one place was a clump of T. fasciculata with six bold spent inflorescences. In another tree Doreen spotted a clump of Guzmania lingulata in which she counted eleven spent inflorescences, with likely more that were hidden from view. All this actually has to be seen to be appreciated because photographs do not begin to show clearly what the eye so easily spots and defines. Film fails because of the darkness and the lack of contrast in the surroundings. To look up and get the complete picture, the whole tree and the plants in it, usually cannot be duplicated satisfactorily.

Perhaps because of the rainy season basal parts of leaves of rosettes were clean. However, on one occasion as Paul pulled down a lower leaf of a collected specimen, he directed my attention to a young scorpion, all poised with tail arched overhead, the injector ready. It had a glassy translucent appearance and Paul said it was a young specimen. Its poison has the same paralyzing effect on the breathing muscles that some poisonous snakes have, Paul added.

The national flower of Trinidad is that of a tree called Chaconia with the ch pronounced like sh. It is a member of the coffee family, botanically Warscewiczia coccinea. It was past the climax of flowering at the time I was there, but along the winding damp mountain road there were plenty in bloom yet to give me a thrilling experience. The long flattish clusters that terminate branches are a bold red. This main effect of red is caused by two outside rows of Calyx-lobes, the flowers inside being rather small and not very conspicuous.

The thing that was absolutely necessary to complete my trip as far as bromeliads were concerned was a visit to the herbarium (pressed plant repository) at the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine. Here are specimens on which is based the bromeliad flora of Smith and Pettindrigh mentioned at the beginning of the article. Paul Foster had asked Sidney Williams, the Director of the Government Field Station at Valsayn Park, if he would get me acquainted at the University. (Sidney is also president of the local orchid society.)

Sidney called for me at my hotel on two occasions to take me to his experiment station, and later to the University. He introduced me to Dr. Steve Goodband, the Curator of the Herbarium, a tall, young, friendly transplanted Englishman. I spent a whole afternoon in the Herbarium looking over the bromeliad collection. It rained that afternoon, but if I had missed anything outside, I could not have spent my time more profitably. It was mostly in the nature of the inflorescences that puzzling matters were resolved as to identification. The plant that Paul said was a Tillandsia was indeed one—T. fasciculata. I saw why I was puzzled—the form in Trinidad is so different from the one that grows in Florida and many other places. Whether a single spike or a compound inflorescence with branching spikes, the Trinidad kind has its units wider, flatter, and with sharp edges. It is outstanding and fortunately the most common bromeliad species in Trinidad.

I had picked up a massive specimen of Tillandsia fasciculata with spent inflorescence and brought it to my hotel to study and photograph, and was thinking of bringing it back with me. However, it so dominated my "parlor" at the hotel, and I was so overawed by its size, I realized it was too big a bundle to bother with further . . . The maid probably shook her head and got to wondering why people do such funny things as bringing in and then leaving such useless things.

Bromeliads in the Pat Fosters' garden — Trinidad.

Tillandsia andreana — about 6 years old.

On the campus of the University is a healthy specimen of a variegated pineapple with so many offsets at its top as to have a somewhat fasciated form.

(Upon returning to Brooklyn Garden I found a herbarium sheet of one of the plants in the Flora of Trinidad and Tobago recorded in the Flora as number Broadway 4829, collected by Broadway in Tobago at Mason Hall. It was originally identified as Wittmackia lingulata Mez which now is in synonymy with Aechmea lingulata.)

Billbergia chlorosticta (saundersii)

From Trinidad I went to Caracas and visited the Caracas Botanical Garden. There I met Dr. Tobias Lasser, Director and founder. Dr. Lasser, who speaks English, came originally from France. Aechmea lasseri, with which many of us are familiar, was named after him by Dr. Lyman B. Smith. It is a Venezuelan plant discovered by Dr. Lasser.

In a large shaded house at the Garden is kept the fairly large bromeliad collection. One man, Faustino Perez, is assigned exclusively to its care with the title Auxiliar Botanic. There were some outstanding specimens, one of the best a big basket of Tillandsia andreana (funckiana), more than two feet across, compact with many shoots. It required about six years to bring it to this climax, and even without flowers it was a pleasure to behold. Among other specimens were Tillandsia tenuifolia, Hohenbergia stellata, and Vriesea splendens var. formosa (formerly longibracteata). There were a few Pitcairnias, including P. corallina. But to me the choicest thing was a clone of Billbergia chlorosticta (formerly B. saundersii) so beautifully spotted and delicately banded as to constitute one of the finest forms of foliage bromeliad I have ever seen.

Vriesea splendens is evidently variable, as a specimen may have irregular spots instead of the bars. There was such a specimen at the Garden.

Vriesea splendens with large spots, Caracas Botanic Garden.

There was no one on the staff qualified in the taxonomy of bromeliads, another case showing what a struggle it can be to develop information on our favorites.

Shortly after arriving in Caracas, I asked the phone operator at the hotel to get me information on the botanical garden. "Oh," she said, "they won't let you in." I could not grasp her explanation and got into a taxi, but the driver took me to the wrong place before finally getting to the Garden. It was then about half past four. We were met at the entrance by some soldiers, and I was informed that it had closed at four o'clock. After efforts to explain that I was a foreign botanist, arrangements were made to allow me to walk about five minutes around the entrance garden accompanied by a soldier. The next day I learned that the hotel manager was a personal friend of Dr. Lasser, and he immediately volunteered to write a note to Dr. Lasser in Spanish. This time the taxi was allowed to drive me to the Director's office. The reason for the presence of soldiers was to thwart any trouble from the neighboring university where radical students were formenting disturbance and disruption. Ironically it is one of the most attractive of all botanical gardens.


Of the bromeliad flora of Trinidad, three taxa are found only on that island (endemic). These are Vriesea glutinosa, V. broadwayi, and Aechmea dichlamydea var. trinitensis. The distribution of the others are of varied geographical patterns. In some cases the species is a northern outpost with the range extending into South America, such as Vriesea procera var. procera, V. rubra, V. jonghii, V. splendens var. formosa, Tillandsia gardneri, T. stricta, Araeococcus micranthus, Aechmea mertensii, and Bromelia chrysantha. In a number of cases Trinidad bromeliad species are remote from both their northernmost and southernmost limits. Examples are Aechmea magdalenae, Mexico to Ecuador; A. bromeliifolia, Guatemala to Argentina; A. aquilega, Costa Rica to Brazil; Catopsis sessiliflora, West Indies, Mexico to Brazil and Peru. The Catopsis floribunda distribution is a little unusual in that, since it is to be found in Florida, West Indies, Central America, and Venezuela, it is close to the southern end of the distribution range. As reported in the article T. utriculata also is close to its southern limit.

—Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York.


? ?

Q. Have you ever ascertained at what light reading bromeliads do best?

A. The question is entirely too broad for a specific answer.

Dyckias, Orthophytums, Hechtias, and other similar types of xerophytic and saxicolous bromeliads thrive in full sunlight. For the most part they have thick succulent leaves and are heavily covered with peltate scales. If they are grown in the shade they are weak and soft. Such plants would require a high light.

Much more important than to read a light meter would be to read the "leaf-meter"—what the leaves indicate. Glossy, thin leaves require diffused light and shade. Leaves with spines and thick leaves which are generally covered with peltate scales in most cases will take much light and a good percentage of direct sun. These plants, such as the giant Aechmeas, Hohenbergias, Tillandsias, and Vrieseas, are generally growing on mountain sides or in rocky desert locations with considerable sun.

In or near the tropics where bromeliads are most abundant the light hours are of nearly equal length throughout the year. Generally speaking, the greater the altitude the higher the moisture content of the air, and it will be found that the resistance of the plant to the sun is greater. A sun-loving bromel can exist in a fairly shaded condition, but the real character in form and color will suffer. The same goes for the shade plant in the opposite condition.

Q. Can all bromeliads (with the exception of the cactus types) be grown together? Certain types of orchids need varying conditions and we have wondered if this is true of bromeliads.

A. Much of this question has been answered above. I have both bromeliads and orchids growing together in the same house. Xerophytic types, especially Tillandsias, I place in the most light, near the top of the house. They like to hang. I shade some sections of the glass more than others. I have some vines, such as Vitis or Vanilla, growing in the house to afford some natural shade. The bromeliads nearest the ground and in the moist shade will receive more water and moisture and will retain it longer than the ones above in more light. If you have any doubts as to there being varying conditions in your house, unless, of course, it is a very small house, sit on the floor for awhile on a good hot day and then try out a position with your head near the glass.

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

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



This very attractive species was so named because of its cylinder-shaped inflorescence—an inflorescence which never fails to evoke comment because of its soft rose and blue coloration. It is a highly variable plant, varying in texture and size of the foliage and in size of the flower spike, but always similar is the pastel coloring.

The form most often seen is a medium-sized rosette with firmly textured green leaves reaching 18 inches in length and two inches in width and edged with small brown spines. The inflorescence is usually about 6 inches long and 1½ inches wide. The bracts are rose or soft magenta; the petals, bluish-violet. The flowers all open in a few days, but the brilliant rose fruits last for several months.

It is hardy outdoors in southern California doing equally well in both sun and shade planted in the open garden.



The genus Aechmea was named from "aechme," referring to points on the flower envelope. Of all the different genera in the bromeliad family, the Aechmeas have the most varied plant forms and inflorescences. Most of the species are longer in color performance of flower and fruit and many of them put on a "show" for nearly a year. They range in size from one having a leaf spread of but a few inches to others which measure nine feet from tip to tip as in Aechmea conifera. This latter species has a flower head that rivals a giant pineapple. Some species may weigh but a few ounces while others will tip the scales at over a hundred pounds. Their flowering stems are generally branched and the flowers take the complete range of the spectrum for color. The bracts, generally conspicuous, range in color from green to yellow and red.

I would like to present a Grand Prize to the one who could answer the question "How to Recognize an Aechmea" in a way so that the layman could understand it. I feel quite certain that if anyone started to split up this genus into other genera he would have a real problem on his hands. It has been a bit facetiously said that if you find a bromeliad of which you are not certain, just put it under Aechmea!

  1. Aechmea belongs to the subfamily Bromelioideae and they all have baccate, fleshy, berry-like fruit.

  2. The seeds are naked—that is, they have no appendage such as wings or feathery parachutes.

  3. The leaves are usually edged with spines.

  4. The petals are never naked; they have nectar scales at or near the base, the sepals are definitely asymmetric (not identical sides) and most of them have a small or prominent point or spine on the tip of each one. They are generally connate (connected) at the base.

  5. The flower heads may be upright or pendent; the heads or spikes are many flowered; these spikes may be single (simple) or compound or these flower heads may be in a loosely compact head form as in A. fasciata above the leaves or A. recurvata which is down in the center of the leaf rosette. The flower heads can be an almost solid head as in A. bromeliifolia or A. lamarchei.

  6. In habitat, many of the species are epiphytic but most of the larger species are terrestrial. Aechmeas have a great range and are found growing natively from Mexico to Argentina.

—Orlando, Florida.


An Aechmea that never ceases to delight its owner because of its handsome foliage and its brilliant inflorescence, which stays .in color for many months, is Aechmea fulgens var. discolor Brongn. It is an easy plant to grow, proving to be hardy outdoors in southern California and comparable climates. In its homeland, southern Brazil, it is found at low altitudes perched on trees or growing on the ground in shaded areas.

It is a medium-sized plant with out-spreading leathery leaves, 18 inches long and 1½ inches wide, dusty green on the upper side and glossy purple covered with whitish powder on the underside. The flowers with their dark purple petals make a stunning head on the top of a foot-long carmine stalk. The red-rose berries last in color for many months.

Aechmea fulgens var. discolor is an excellent bromeliad for the beginner, as it will withstand hard treatment and even neglect.

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