BSI Journal - Online Archive


A non-profit corporation whose purpose is to promote and maintain public and scientific interest and research in bromeliads throughout the world.

There are 4 classes of membership: Annual $7.50; Sustaining $12.50; Fellowship $20.00; and Life $150.00. All memberships start with January of the current year.

Address all correspondence to:
The Bromeliad Society, Inc.
P. O. Box 3279
Santa Monica, Calif. 90403
PresidentW. R. Paylen, Calif.
1st Vice Pres.Elmer J. Lorenz, Calif.
2nd Vice Pres.Eric Knobloch, La.
Rec. Secy.Jeanne Woodbury, Calif.
Corres. Secy.Kathy Dorr, Calif.
Treas.Virginia Berezin, Calif.


1970-1973: Lottie Cave, Wm. Dunbar, Elmer Lorenz, Edward McWilliams, Patrick Mitchell, Eric Knobloch, Kelsey Williams.

1971-1974: David H. Benzing, Fritz Kubisch, George Kalmbacher, Wilbur Wood, W. R. Paylen, Kathy Dorr, Amy Jean Gilmartin, Bea Hansen.

1972-1975: Jeanne Woodbury, Ralph Barton, George Anderson, Virginia Berezin, Victoria Padilla, Charles Wiley, Ervin Wurthmann, Jean Merkel.


Adda Abendroth, Brazil; Luis Ariza Julia, Dominican Republic; David Barry, Jr., USA; Olwen Ferris, Australia; Mulford B. Foster, USA; Marcel Lecoufle, France; Harold Martin, New Zealand; Richard Oeser, Germany; Dr. W. Rauh, Germany; Raulino Reitz, Brazil; Walter Richter, Germany; L. B. Smith, USA; R. G. Wilson, Costa Rica; J. Marnier-Lapostolle, France.


Published six times a year: January, March, May, July, September, November. Free to members.

Editor: Victoria Padilla
Asst. Editor: Kathy Dorr


The All California Issue75
The Coastal Gardens of Southern California
  Victoria Padilla76
Terrestrial Bromeliads at the Huntington Botanical Gardens
  Myron Kimnach82
Growing Bromeliads in Sacramento, Calif.
  Lee Kavaljian and Hal Wiedman86
Tillandsia Fever
  Charles Wiley88
From Frustrations to Success
  Kelsey Williams92
Comment on Viruses in Bromeliads
  David Barry, Jr.94
  Kathy Dorr98
Variegated Bromeliads
  Leonard Kent, M. D.99
Aechmea pineliana var. minuta104


Aechmea calyculata × A. miniata var. discolor Photo by Jeanne Woodbury.

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

Individual copies of the Journal — $1.25


Billbergia amoena × B. thyrsoides

The plan for the 1972 issues of the Journal was to have each number sponsored by the affiliates residing in a certain area. Journal No. 2 was the Texas issue; No. 3, the Louisiana; No. 4, the California; and No. 5, the Australia and New Zealand. Even though this, the fourth, issue has been enlarged, so much material was received from the members in California that many of their articles will have to appear at a later time.

The cover, which was donated by the Bromeliad Guild of Los Angeles, shows the inflorescence of the old hybrid known simply as Aechmea calyculata × A. miniata. Whether this is the correct name, we do not know; neither do we know the person who made the cross. It is safe to assume that it is the first Aechmea hybrid to be grown in California, being a popular bromeliad in the forties. It is always a handsome, husky bromeliad, thriving both in the open garden and in the greenhouse.

The Billbergia pictured above is another of the very first hybrids to be grown in southern California; again the name is doubtful, as thyrsoides is no longer acceptable. It is a beautiful plant, with wide, soft pinkish-green leaves and an erect inflorescence that lasts in color longer than that of most Billbergias.



Vriesea barilletii in the garden of W. R. Paylen

In the afternoon they came into a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.


The coastal area of southern California extending from Point Conception to the Mexican border, a distance of approximately 250 miles in length and 10 miles in width, is reputed to have one of the most ingratiating climates in the United States. Here, as the poet would tell us, it is "always afternoon." The weather is balmy, seldom too hot or too cold, averaging from 47°F to 65°F in winter and from 59°F to 77°F in summer. The skies are usually blue, except for occasional early morning fog, and the westerly winds drive away any smog that might accumulate in the inland valleys. Frosts are rare, and when they do occur, are of short duration. The climate is Mediterranean, characterized by having just two seasons, the wet and the dry. Unlike Florida and the other southern states, the rain falls only in winter, averaging about 15 inches in a good year.

Garden of W. R. Paylen

Despite inadequate rainfall, the chief drawback for plantsmen, this area produces the greatest assortment of plant material to be found in the United States. In the north are the great flower fields which supply the world with 65 percent of its flower seeds. Farther south are growers of cymbidiums, proteas, roses, succulents, begonias, ferns, fuchsias, rare bulbs, camellias, poinsettias, cycads, palms, and last, but not least, bromeliads. Some of the outstanding bromeliad nurseries in the country are to be found here, as well as some of the most beautiful gardens.

Mrs. Catherine Mangold has utilized native material for the host plants in her rustic hillside garden.

Although California is the one state bordering the south that does not have native bromeliads, these particular exotics, for the most part, flourish in coastal gardens. Although the bromeliads do not get summer rains, which is their birthright, morning fogs from the Pacific maintain a humidity so necessary to their wellbeing.

Bromeliads have become a part of many garden landscapes, Tillandsias, in particular, finding their way on trees. In the Palos Verdes Peninsula is the bromeliad garden of Charles Wiley, former president of the Society and Tillandsia enthusiast. Of outstanding interest is the rain forest he has created in the grove of tall pines in the rear of his lot. In the uppermost branches of the trees he installed automatic sprinklers, which bathe the plants at definite intervals. One of the drawbacks of growing bromeliads in this area is the high alkaline content of the water. This Mr. Wiley has overcome by a system of reverse osmosis, which rids the water of its salts. Thus his bromeliads have a vigor and beauty not to be found in gardens of those who must use water other than ideal.

In the Brentwood area—in a canyon of the Santa Monica Mountains—is the lovely estate of Fred and Helen Woodley, who have transferred their two acres into a "vision of delight." Few garden lovers are so lucky as to possess such a perfect setting for their ferns, orchids, and bromeliads. Numerous native walnuts surround the sylvan glade in which their home is located, and each tree is laden with epiphytes of every description. The Woodley's only problem is the wild life which feeds on their orchid and bromeliad blooms. Nearby is the garden of Mrs. Cathryn Mangold, who also has utilized native material as hosts for bromeliads. Hers, too, is a hillside garden with a winding path shaded by trees filled with an assortment of epiphytes.

Also in the Brentwood area is the garden of W. R. Paylen, president of the Bromeliad Society, and a landscape architect by profession. In a small city lot with a backyard no larger than 40 by 100 feet, Mr. Paylen has created a real tropical garden, one that attracts visitors from every country. What took Mr. Paylen's eye when he purchased his property 8 years ago were the 4 large native sycamores with their graceful trunks and branches. These would be ideal hosts for the epiphytes—gesneriads, orchids, aroids, rhipsalis, platyceriums, and bromeliads—that he had collected. A native of Java, Mr. Paylen has a definite affinity for tropical plants, knowing just how to place them so as to produce a genuine jungle effect. Not content with covering his trees with plants, he has utilized many old logs, hapuu stumps, and pieces of driftwood as further hosts for his epiphytes. All around is a delightful jumble of bromeliads interspersed with cycads, tree ferns, small palms, and exotics of all kinds.

Mr. Paylen's tropical garden in Brentwood

Not an inch of ground is to be seen. Every month of the year there is color in this jungle garden, as there are always some bromeliads and orchids in flower—so great is his collection.

What is interesting to most visitors to the garden is that bromeliad species generally associated with greenhouse culture grow outdoors here the year around. Only in the coldest of winters has Mr. Paylen experienced any loss, and this was slight. An example of the exuberance of his bloom is the Vriesea barilletii pictured at the beginning of this article. The plant seems to be always in flower; when the old inflorescences die, new ones take their place. This plant is perched atop a hapuu log.

The largest private collection of bromeliads is probably that of Jack Roth, whose two-acre homesite is located in the Outpost Estates in the Hollywood Hills, about 12 miles from the seacoast. He lives in a thermal belt, being protected from cold north winds by the surrounding mountains. His choicest bromeliads, however, are kept in a greenhouse, 17 by 50 feet in area and 20 feet high, that is fully automatically controlled. A lath house, 100 feet long and 20 feet wide, shelters his Neoregelias and Nidulariums, as well as the leftovers from his greenhouse. The terrace fronting his home contains his great cycad collection, but bromeliads are everywhere, artistically arranged in low Mexican planters. On the dry surrounding hillside are Bromelias, Puyas, and other xerophytic species. Below the house is the swimming pool and cabana area. Here are to be found the Tillandsias, some covering the fences, others affixed to hapuu logs and driftwood trees. Beyond the pool, the ground is carpeted with Neoregelias.

Mention should be made of the outstanding commercial growers to be found in this region. There is no other section where so many bromeliad nurseries are to be found in a comparatively small area. David Barry's California Jungle Gardens features the finest of European hybrids; Mike and Jean Kashkin's Fuschia Land specializes in the rare species brought back from many trips to Central and South America; Dr. Leonard Kent has searched the world for variegated varieties; and Kelsey Williams' Plaza Nursery offers many choice seedlings as well as mature plants. Near San Diego Bill Seaborn's Del Dios Nursery is a place not to be overlooked.




Bromelia balansae

The climatic conditions at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, consist of hot, dry summers, with an average winter minimum of about 28°F. and an occasional minimum of 18°F. Xerophytic, terrestrial bromeliads do far better outside under such conditions than do epiphytic species and over the years a considerable number of these have been added to our Desert Garden. By far the most prominent are Puya chilensis, P. alpestris, P. venusta and Bromelia balansae, but a number of other interesting species are represented. The following list contains those presently in our collection, with notes as to their value as garden plants.

Unless otherwise stated, all are in our outdoor garden. A large number of our accessions are still unidentified and these (mostly hechtias and puyas) are not listed. We would be most interested in exchanging for species not yet in our collection.

Abromeitiella brevifolia (Gris.) Cast. This is an excellent rockery plant, forming a compact mound up to three feet across. The green flowers barely protrude from between the leaves. Damaged at about 27°F.

Abromeitiella chlorantha (Haum.) Mez. Lyman Smith lists this as a synonym of A. brevifolia, but our plants are very different in appearance, the rosettes being only a third as wide. So far our plant has withstood several degrees of freezing without damage.

Ananas ananassoides (Baker) Smith. Freezes to ground at about 25°F. but sprouts anew and frequently produces its 3" fruits.

Bromeliad balansae Mez ("Heart of Flame"). Our most spectacular bromeliad, much-photographed by visitors. Some leaf-burn at 26°F.

Bromelia fastuosa Lindl. Similar to B. balansae but not as attractive.

Deuterocohnia longipetala (Baker) Mez (D. schreiteri Cast.). The smallish silvery rosettes form a good rockery plant; young plants seem frost-tender but older ones are reasonably hardy.

Dyckia brevifolia Baker (D. sulphurea Koch). Not as invasive as D. remotiflora and forming more handsome, mounding clumps.

Dyckia chaguar Cast. Of little garden value.

Dyckia dawsonii Smith. One of the prettiest dyckias, with recurving, reddish brown leaves, but slow to offset. The one plant we tried outside was killed at 26°F.

Dyckia encholirioides (Gaud.) Mez (D. altissima of the trade). Though its diffuse, long-leaved rosettes are not very appealing, this species is a rugged garden plant suitable as a background plant.

Dyckia encholirioides × D. brevifolia. A hybrid apparently originating at Huntington, grown from seed collected from our plants of D. encholirioides; the presumed second parent is D. brevifolia. A robust, good-looking garden plant forming large masses and worthy of wider cultivation.

Dyckia ferox Mez. A rather large, ugly, spiny devil of no particular value.

Dyckia fosteriana Smith. This remains the finest of the cultivated dyckias and it has done well as an outdoor plant for us. It is a small, slow-growing species which becomes rather lost in a large garden.

Dyckia fosteriana × D. frigida. Forming exceedingly handsome clumps of reddish, silvery tinged leaves; a fine garden hybrid that makes a far showier display than does D. fosteriana. We have a number of clones that vary greatly in leaf-size and color.

Dyckia frigida Hook. f. An uninteresting-appearing plant but hardy and easily grown.

Dyckia 'Lad Cutak'. Its leaves are of a pleasant light green color with a silvery under-surface.

Dyckia 'Naked Lady'. A selection of D. encholirioides × D. brevifolia with spineless green leaves.

Dyckia niederleinii Mez. Although the rosettes are rather untidy, the reddish leaves are quite distinctive.

Dyckia odorata Smith. Distinct from other cultivated dyckias in its small, narrow, silvery leaves and nearly stemless inflorescence; doubtfully hardy, it is still confined to our nursery.

Dyckia remotiflora Otto & Dietr. (D. rariflora of the trade). A good groundcover, some of our plants being 20 feet across and only several inches high; it will sucker up through asphalt paving, however.

Dyckia remotiflora var. montevidensis (Koch) Smith (D. montevidensis Koch). Differs only in floral details.

Dyckia tuberosa (Veil.) Beer var. tuberosa. A handsome new introduction from Sao Paulo, Brazil, deserving wide cultivation; plants small with reddish leaves and orange flowers. Not damaged at 26°F.

Fascicularia bicolor (Ruiz & Pavon) Mez. The flowers are densely clustered within the leaf-rosette; interesting and certainly very cold-hardy.

Hechtia epigyna. Harms (nursery).

Hechtia glomerata Zucc. (nursery).

Hechtia marnier-lapostollei Smith. A beautiful, silvery-leaved plant with interesting clustered flowers.

Hechtia montana Brand. Established plants seem fairly hardy; not as attractive as the above.

Hechtia scariosa Smith (nursery).

Hechtia stenopetala Kl. Valuable for its very large rosettes of widely expanded, recurving leaves.

Ochagavia lindleyana (Lem.) Mez. Daintier than Fascicularia, which it otherwise resembles.

Pitcairnia ferruginea Ruiz & Pavon. Unlike the typical small, red-flowered pitcairnias, this species resembles a large puya with a ten-foot inflorescence and large, floppy, white flowers. Hardy and certainly different.

Puya alpestris (Poepp. & Endl.) Gay. One of the most popular plants in our Desert Garden, this spectacular species hardly needs description here. Visitors are always startled by its blue-green flowers. Unfortunately, birds eat the immature flower stalks and pull off many petals to reach the nectar.

Puya assurgens Smith. This dwarf forms mounds a foot or so wide and flower stalks a foot high; a good edging plant.

Puya berteroniana Mez. Not yet of flowering size, but supposedly far more showy than the allied P. alpestris. Puya caerulea Lindl. Similar to P. venusta but with more widely separated flowers.

Puya cardenasii Smith (nursery).

Puya chilensis Molina. A magnificent species with massive inflorescences that tower overhead; the flowers are of a strange chartreuse color. Several younger plants seem to be hybridized with P. alpestris, for they have greenish-tinged petals.

Puya coriacea Smith. A recently described species only a foot wide, with a short, club-shaped inflorescence. It grows at over 10,000' in Peru and so far has been hardy with us but has not flowered.

Puya dyckioides (Baker) Mez. As its names implies, this is a small species and, though not to be ranked among the best species, is a decorative rockery plant.

Puya floccosa (Linden) Morr. ex Bak. Not yet flowering for us, the species is well-worth growing if only for its very silvery leaves.

Puya herzogii Wittm. A Bolivian species newly added to our garden and as yet untested.

Puya laxa Smith. Native to Bolivia, this miniature resembles a tillandsia, its narrow foot-long leaves being covered with long gray scales; the inflorescence is also much-reduced and few-flowered.

Puya macrura Mez. A silvery leaved Peruvian species with purple flowers, which have not yet appeared for us.

Puya raimondii Harms. The giant among bromeliads, flowering after a hundred years or so. Our plants are from seeds collected from 10,000-14,000' above sea-level and, although hardy enough to cold, the species is obviously unhappy during our hot summers. After 8 years our largest plant is only a foot wide.

Puya spathacea (Cris.) Mez. A large and hardy puya with profuse but unspectacular inflorescences.

Puya thomasiana Andre. Cultivated by us for over 40 years but apparently without flowering.

Puya tristis Smith. A recently described puya from around 10,000' in Bolivia; still restricted to our nursery.

Puya venusta Phil. Most attractive because of its large, compact, silvery mounds of rosettes and globose clusters of purple flowers; highly recommended.

Puya violacea Phil. Our plant, dating from 1933, is a six-foot clump of grass-like leaves that produces long inflorescences with sparsely arranged long-tubed purple flowers. Interesting but not showy.

Puya wrightii Smith. Another of the little-known puyas collected in Peru by Paul Hutchison, with greenish flowers that open only at night. Unfortunately, it grows between 1000' and 3000' and many of our plants have been killed at 27°F.



How do bromeliad enthusiasts living in inhospitable climates satisfy their urges to cultivate their favorite plants? First, they might try outdoors on the chance that somehow the climate isn't so difficult after all.

Living in Sacramento, in central California, we were of the opinion that at least some species might survive outside. Experience revealed that a few do with some protection. But the obvious need for shelter prompted us to erect a 15' × 33' glass-windowed addition outside the family and living room glass doors, a distance of 16 feet. Eight years of looking into a gradually burgeoning collection of beautiful greens with timely splashes of vivid color encouraged the thought of building a new house more or less around a greenhouse. A year and a half ago, the new house was completed, and it surrounds on three sides a 36' × 33' × 15' high (at the peak) greenhouse which is in reality a stock, modular swimming pool enclosure. The one side of the greenhouse not bounded by the house walls faces south. Fifty feet of sliding glass doors from three different areas of the house provide extensive and dramatic viewing into the greenhouse. Aluminum girders, rafters and plastic paneling which transmits much radiation are the basic materials of the greenhouse. A motorized roof vent the entire length of the greenhouse, two evaporative coolers, two portable electric heaters and additional heat from the house forced-air heating system provide the major mechanical necessities. Water is provided by a dual system of sprinklers augmented by hand-watering. Both hot and cold water sources are available. We try to maintain a low of 50°F. during the winter months, which necessitates the use of the portable electric heaters for approximately two to three months. In the summer, our goal is to keep the temperature down to 95°F., so for four to five months the evaporative coolers are needed. Shading compound is applied in early spring on the roof of the greenhouse to control heat, and light level of approximately 12,000 f.c. is reduced by the plastic to about 8,000 f.c. A moderate application of shading compound in early spring reduces the summer light level to about 4,000 f.c.

We are fortunate in having a greenhouse available at Sacramento State College where we have growing a number of the same bromeliad species that are at home. The College greenhouse is maintained at very even temperatures the year round which are higher at night than what we have at home during the fall, winter, and early spring months. The predictable result, as far as general foliage color development is concerned, is that the plants at home, growing at lower night temperatures, are much more brilliant. Those at home are usually planted directly in the ground rather than in pots as they are at the College. Ground culture yields sturdier and larger plants and a greater number of offshoots even though a good potting mix and fertilizers are provided at the College. In preparing the ground at home, 6" of potting mix were added over a 4-12" thick (the thickness depended on the height of bed desired) pea gravel base. The gravel provides excellent drainage and even Vriesias seem to grow as well in these conditions as in Osmunda fiber. We have experimented with various arrangements of narrow paths, mounds, and planting groups to provide maximum growing space (is there ever enough?) and aesthetic appeal. The end of changes is probably not yet in sight! A large tree fern provides some much-needed shade and under it, Nidulariums, Guzmanias, and other less light-tolerant species are acclimating. Another focal point is provided by a branched oak tree set in a concrete anchor which provides support for some twenty species of Tillandsias. Future plans call for the transfer of these species to a more permanent support—one constructed of sections of metal pipe welded together at various angles and covered with Osmunda fiber to simulate a natural tree. We have added other kinds of plants such as cycads, dwarf bananas, crotons, begonias. etc. to contrast with the mass of bromeliads. Lighting is the next major addition planned. Three sets of bullet-type downlights are attached to the walls of the house, but a series of lights at ground level seems to be needed for dramatic illumination. The only drawback we can report on the use of the plastic enclosure is the occasional creak, groan and low-volume snap as the plastic cools in the early evening from its daytime high temperature. But that's a small disadvantage to an otherwise very handsome, clean-lined, unobstructed span shelter. In all, we have three to four hundred species of bromeliads representing all of the major genera in the family under happy cultivation.




Dry-growing Tillandsias are my very special favorite of all the bromeliads. On a number of occasions the question has been asked, "Why are you so partial to those dry-growing plants?" Every time I attempt an answer I have a feeling of frustration. Any one asking would never understand "why" no matter what the answer was. On other occasions many questions are asked about watering frequency and mounting requirements.

There are always exceptions, but as a rule failure is inevitable if procedures followed by me are followed by some one else in another locality. Schedules for watering and requirements for mounting can not be established without giving consideration to levels and fluctuations in humidity, air circulation, temperature and light intensity in each location. This is not so complex or difficult as it might appear. The important thing is to be aware of these factors that combined spell success or failure. Over and above the particular environmental factors that may not be optimum in a particular locality, there is the one very important factor of "plant adaptability." Most failures occur as a result of changing environmental conditions too rapidly. In my experience, changes toward a dry condition are more successful than toward wet conditions.

The following description of my facilities and conditions is presented as a sample of procedure. I feel an improvement in the growth of Tillandsias will be experienced by any one who takes time to give consideration to the factors involved in his own particular situation and develops a procedure of his own.

My entire area enjoys a humidity between 90% and 100% every day from evening until the next morning during the spring and fall months. Day time humidity during these months rarely drops below 40%. Normally during the summer months humidity fluctuates between 35 and 75% and in the winter from 50 to 80%. On rare occasions the movement of air is from the desert instead of from the ocean; consequently, humidity drops down to a level in the range of 10% to 20% at these times.

The temperature in the summer rarely exceeds 80°F. During the months of July through October the temperature fluctuates from the low 60's to the high 70's. Extreme high temperatures for brief periods of time will go to the low 90's. In the winter months extending into April, the temperature fluctuates from the middle 40's to the middle 60's. On rare occasions in December and January, the temperature may dip to the 30's.

My Tillandsias are arranged along a section of a path leading to the rear of the lot in accordance with their requirements for watering, light intensity, and air circulation. A brief description of the structure for hanging the plants will be helpful in the explanation of what type of plants go where. On each side of the 4-foot wide path a series of posts were set in the ground at 8-foot intervals. The tops of these posts are 10 feet from the ground and are tied together with cross members and lateral members in such a fashion as to support a length of shade cloth 6 feet wide. Two feet below the top lateral members a 2-foot wide length of plastic-covered wire fencing was attached to the posts. This fencing material extends down to about 5 feet from the ground. The structure is 24 feet in length and can be considered as three 8-foot sections, each of which has characteristic differences in light level and air circulation. I will refer to the first section approaching from the house as area #1, the second as area #2, and the last as area #3. The path is oriented in a north to south direction so that the sun at about 2:00 p.m. is in direct line with the path.

Bromeliad Walk in the garden of Mr. And Mrs. Charles Wiley

Movement of air is normally across the path from the right hand side. Area #1 has some protection and as a result air movement through this area is somewhat less vigorous than through area #2 and 3. Shading from near by trees is such that area #1 receives sun light in the morning until about 11:00 a.m. Area #2 is exposed to the sun only after about 2:00 p.m. for the rest of the day. Area #3 receives a considerable amount of filtered light from 11:00 a.m. for the rest of the day.

In general the rules for plant placement are as follows:

  1. The extreme dry growing plants, xerophytes, are placed at the top, the hard leaf in area #3 for maximum light, the soft leaf lepidote in area #2 for minimum but good light.

  2. The setaceous and filiform leaved plants are placed just below the top in area #3 for maximum air movement and greatest length of exposure to best light.

  3. Medium dry-growing plants are placed just below the top on the sides, the hard leaf in area #3, the soft leaf lepidote in area #2.

  4. The very soft ligulate leaf plants are placed with soft leaved Vrieseas at the bottom in area #1 for good light, no direct sun, and protection from gusty wind.

  5. The medium soft and leathery ligulate leaf plants are placed near and at the bottom in areas #2 and #3.

These are rules that have exceptions. In fact the only rule that has no exception is: "Optimum growth for any species in a specific locality can be determined only by experimenting." This means changing the mounting material and method or exposure. A judicious assortment of these variables makes it possible to water everything at the same time.

All of the xerophytes are mounted on cork blocks by wire or glue. This can be done in such a way as not to be objectionable, and after a year or two, new growth accompanied by some root growth insures a stable structure. Material such as sphagnum or fern fiber is not used. This class of plants must be allowed to dry out completely between waterings, and if any material is added to the cork block as an aid in the development of roots, then it is very unlikely that the plant will ever attach itself to the cork block.

All of the medium-dry growing plants normally classed as epiphytes are mounted in the same way on fern tree slabs.

The setaceous and filiform leaved plants are mounted in small pots with hapu.

The soft leaved plants are potted with a very loose mix with good drainage, but with moisture retention property.

These soft leaved plants that don't like to be dry are the ones that tell me when to water. In my locality the xerophytes on cork blocks are very happy to dry out after watering and can wait for the potting material used for the soft leaved plants to dry out. When this happens I drench everything very copiously several times. This may happen every day during the hot dry days of the summer but only every other week in the winter months.

Make a note of the environmental data in your growing area, study it, and then design your own cultural program. That is what I have done and it is helping me grow better plants, it will help you too.

—Palos Verdes Estates.



In my 20 years of growing bromeliads the most frustrating thing I have come up against is growing Tillandsias from seed. I have followed every suggestion that I could run down that other growers had tried and many different ways of my own, but they were all failures. Every time I would plant a new batch of seed they would germinate beautifully and I could keep them alive for two or three months, but they wouldn't grow, and they would eventually fade away and die out completely.

Then it occurred to me that people who tried to grow orchids from seed back in the early days had the same trouble that I was having with Tillandsias, until Dr. Lewis Knudsen developed an agar solution that produced good results when used under sterile conditions. I approached a friend of mine, who has a laboratory where he can work under sterile conditions, about the idea and he thought it was worth a try. So I gave him a package of Tillandsia 'exotica' seed to work with. This is a gray leaved Tillandsia that is hardy and grows outside in this area. As he proceeded in the usual way of planting seed under sterile conditions everything went well up to the point where the seed had to be sterilized. When the solution that was used to sterilize the seed came in contact with the little fuzzy parachute that is attached to each seed, a chemical reaction took place causing such a mass of foam that it was impossible to complete the experiment. Another failure, but we decided to approach the idea from another angle.

For many years orchid growers have used the green pod culture for growing orchids. Would this work with Tillandsias? We thought it was worth a try. Green pod culture is taking the seed out of the seed pod before they are mature and planting them. As long as the seeds are in the pod they are not contaminated and don't have to be sterilized when handled under sterile conditions. You sterilize the seed pod with a strong solution of clorox and water, brushing it thoroughly with a tooth brush, then you can open the pod and plant the seed without any contamination. Usually you can take the seed off the plant about six months after flowering time, or when it begins to lose its glossy green color and turns brown. It must be removed and planted before the seed pod cracks open, for once the pod cracks open the seeds become contaminated.

I am happy to report that everything went well. Tillandsia seeds germinate slowly, usually over a period of about two months, and they don't germinate at once. These seeds were planted in June 1971, and by February 1972 the largest plants are 1 and ¾ inches in height. The seeds were sown in a 500 cc flask, sealed with a rubber stopper with a hole in it stuffed with cotton, a piece of polyethylene film over the top of the flask and tied securely around the neck of the flask. The flask was placed in the greenhouse with a minimum temperature of 65 degrees, with light of about 300 foot candle.

The agar used in planting these seeds was Knudsen's Formula C modified with Hill's Agar that he uses to replant small orchid seedlings.

Knudsen's Formula C
Calcium NitrateCa(NO3)2.4H201.00 gram
Monobasic Potassium PhosphateKH2PO40.25 gram
Magnesium SulphateMgSO4 7H200.25 gram
Ammonium Sulphate(NH4)2SO40.50 gram
SucroseC12H22O1120.00 grams
Ferrous SulphateFeSO4.7H200.025 gram
Manganese SulphateMnSO4.4H200.0075 gram

The chemical contents of Mr. Hill's Agar that he uses to plant small seedlings are known only to Mr. Hill. We used two parts Knudson's Formula C and one part of Hill's Agar. By using a combination of the two, the seedlings grow faster. Hill's Agar has more nutrients in it than Knudson's Formula C. The Ph of the Agar is 5.0-5.2. I believe this is the most important factor in growing Tillandsias from seed, as the Ph factor must be exactly right. I don't believe that it is necessary to use a combination of the two formulas; this is something that we will learn more about as we go along.

These Agar solutions can be purchased from the Difco Company, Detroit, Michigan, under the name of Bacto Orchid Agar or from Daniel M. Hill, Chemist, 605 East Granada Court, Ontario, Calif.

I am in hopes that this information will encourage more bromeliad growers to grow Tillandsias from seed; in fact I would like to see some of the commercial growers take on the task of growing them in large quantities for the retail trade.

If we continue to go into the jungles and collect these plants, some day they will be extinct, and we don't want this to happen. So let us start now and grow our own. It may not be as much fun as going into the jungles and collecting plants, but you will get much nicer plants by growing them from seed.

—Buena Park.



Viruses in orchids are anathema to growers because they deform flowers and disfigure leaves. Virus-free plants are at a premium. Many methods are used to avoid spreading virus from plant to plant such as quarantine, sterilization of knives used in dividing plants, and meristematic reproduction.

In contrast, viruses in bromeliads are welcomed. It seems that they are to be blamed, or praised, for the irregularities in color that are departures from the normal, natural green, or other typical coloration of the leaves. Bromeliads and many other kinds of plants become variegated when cultural conditions adverse to the health of the plant weaken them enough to permit the viruses to suppress the development of chlorophyll in certain areas. In bromeliads these areas are the leaf stripings that are so sought after. On the other hand, if the unfavorable conditions are removed, the plants may regain enough strength to throw off the effect of the virus and the variegations will diminish or disappear.

Virus-infected plants bring premium prices. A rumor is going around that a Florida grower has developed a technique of introducing virus into plants by lacerating the leaf of a virus-free plant with carborundum paper and applying to the wound the juice of the leaf of an infected plant. The objective is to get plants with leaves that are striped in cream or yellow, the variegated plants. The striping brightens the green leaves with a pleasing, contrasting, lighter color, producing a gaiety and sprightliness that is further increased when, in a blushing mood, the plants become suffused in pinks and reds, presenting then a tricolor appearance. This beauty is in the leaves and is in addition to the extravagant colors that may be produced in the spikes, bracts, petals or seed pods of the floral structures.

About ten years ago I imported a beautifully variegated palm, Rhapis excelsa from Japan. Before long the yellow stripings in its leaves began to turn green and soon all of the variegation was lost. I found that others who had imported this same kind of plant had also lost the variegation. It seems that the Japanese, who regard these variegated plants very highly, have learned to feed them in such a way as to maintain the variegations. I would conjecture they do this by giving a minimum amount of nitrogen to their plants. This treatment keeps them in poor health, the virus thrives at a great rate, and the plants are beautiful. Last year after an absence from my plants of about five months I noted on my return that the variegated Rhapis was regaining some of its yellow striping. I think that it did not get enough food, if any, when I was away. Then the virus, always present, began to assert itself. Striping in the leaves of the variegated Aspidistra luridum is similarly elusive.

Variegated Aechmea chantinii

The hand of man does not have to be present to develop or to encourage variegations. Take the case of Guzmania monostachia variegata in the Okeechobee Swamp of Florida where a colony of variegated plants was discovered. With these plants we may assume that under stress conditions, perhaps a drought, they were weakened enough to permit a virus to take over and eventually travel from plant to plant and infect the colony.

Many of the beautifully variegated bromeliads originated in Europe. Over a great many years professional growers have produced thousands of bromeliads from seed. Not often, but occasionally, variegated plants were found in the seed beds. They may have been called seed mutations. Actually they were like runts in a litter, weak enough to pick up a virus.

I am reminded of what to date must be the most famous and sought-after variegated bromeliad. I saw it in 1953 in Belgium, near Ghent, at the well-known bromeliad nursery of Morobe. It was the handsome, marginally-striped Vriesea hieroglyphica, and was not for sale. Alfred Graf created a great demand for this plant when he illustrated it in "Exotica". Last year I heard that it had been sold to a "rich American". When I saw this plant it was three feet in diameter. I do not know whether it has flowered. In theory, its seedlings would not have variegated leaves. But this theory was confused when in 1970 I bought a dozen seedlings of Neoregelia carolinae var. Meyendorffii variegata from a European grower. As these plants matured it was apparent that no two were alike in the degree of variegation, but significantly, in some way a virus had gone from parent through the seeds to the offspring.

Getting back to Vriesea hieroglyphica, this grower showed me several small variegated seedlings of the plant of which he was very proud. They had appeared among a large crop of seedlings. However, do not count on the laws of chance to produce a few variegated bromeliads from a large number of seedlings. Howard Yamamoto, one of our Honolulu members, has germinated seeds of many thousands of bromeliads. In a recent discussion with him about variegated seedlings he assured me that he had never seen one. One could say that viruses were not present at his nursery. My contention is, however, that viruses were present, but, with his fine cultural methods, aided by an ideal climatic condition, there were no weak plants in which a virus could rear its ugly, or (should I say?) attractive head. Yamamoto soaks overnight in a fungicide solution large pieces, say 8" by 12" by 2", of tree fern fiber, called hapuu in Hawaii. The next night he soaks them in a fertilizer solution. The seeds are spread on the surface of the hapuu which is then suspended by wires to avoid slugs and get good air circulation. The surface of the hapuu is kept damp and is soon green with seedlings.

Perhaps you have lost, as I have, the nice striping of the leaves of Nidularium innocentii var. lineatum. For years I tried to find the cause. Eventually I discovered that I should have starved the plants to preserve the striping. Instead they were fed with a balanced fertilizer in the same way as the other bromeliads, giving the plants the vigor to suppress the virus and hence the amount of striping.

One of our Los Angeles members, William F. Dunbar, relates having detached six large offshoots, each of the same size, from a plant of Neoregelia carolinae tricolor. Two of the offshoots were all green; four were variegated like their parent. Each was potted separately and all were grown together on the same bench. Before long the green plants were twice the size of the variegated ones. This experience would show that all-green plants are much stronger than variegated plants which are comparatively lacking in the amount of area of green leaf where photosynthesis in the chlorophyll can develop. Putting it in another way, the plants freed of virus were stronger than the virus infected plants. Actually, in the instant case the plants without striping were probably not completely free of virus because their parent had been infected. The virus was only suppressed in them, perhaps temporarily.

Other cultural problems may be found in variegated bromeliads. Examples are in Aechmea fasciata variegata and albo-marginata, and in Aechmea × 'Foster's Favorite Favorite'. These plants are prone to show the weakness arising from the reduction of the chlorophyll green areas of their leaves by producing necrotic splotches. They seem unable to take as much water as the green plants and require abundant air circulation. Suspend such plants on wires if possible. This will give their leaves more light than if the plants were close to each other on the bench. They need more light than the all-green plants as they have less green leaf area where photosynthesis in the chlorophyll can manufacture food.

In general, variegated bromeliads are beautiful plants and deserve to be widely grown.


  1. Variegation in leaves from the normal or natural coloration is caused by a virus.

  2. Variegations are often fugitive, disappearing or diminishing in relation to plant vigor.

  3. Variegations tend to reduce the health of plants as the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves is less than in non-variegated plants.

  4. Variegated plants require more light than non-variegated plants as a compensation for the condition in No. 3.

In a final commentary on No. 4, plants variegated naturally by having many pretty spots on their leaves, example being Vriesea guttata, Racinae and sanguinolenta, require a very strong light in their culture.

—Los Angeles.



If there are keys to open the door for growing better bromeliads, I am convinced that these are the golden keys.

I quote from Bromeliads in Color — "A friend who has just returned from a botanic exposition to the headwaters of the Amazon commented on the fact that the most exciting floral display she saw was in a narrow- valley situated between the towns of Loja and Zamora in southern Ecuador. Here the wind blew relentlessly night and day; in fact the valley was a veritable wind tunnel, the whirlblast being so strong that it was difficult for a person to stand up against it. But the orchids and bromeliads presented an unforgettable sight — for beauty of flower and magnificence and size of plant surpassing anything that she saw on her entire trip."

After reading this and examining some of the problems I have been having with leaf burn and various other things, I wondered whether we really give our plants enough circulation. After all, they did grow outside in their native habitat; and in all the research I could find on weather, it seemed that there was a great deal more air current in the areas where they were found than I was providing. Most of us usually turn off the fans we have at night; however, nature does not. I immediately purchased and started using twenty-inch fans both night and day and have used them for nearly two years in this manner.

I find I have virtually eliminated all leaf burning even on Vrieseas and Guzmanias. Unless I happen to set a plant in a "dead spot," I find I no longer have the browning of leaves next to the plant at the base as I used to. My plants are healthier and stronger. "Center rot" has become a thing of the past. I also find that I can keep the humidity much higher, which in turn makes the plants happy and also heightens the color. The plants can stand much lower temperature, with no damage, with the increased circulation.


Although this is important, I really believe that its importance is stressed entirely too much in the field of keeping too even a temperature. I believe the exercise of going from one extreme to the other will make a healthier, stronger plant. I have had the temperature in both my plant house and greenhouse go to 115-117° during the day in the summer and then drop to the sixties at night. It only seemed to make the plants thrive better. I do strive in the winter to keep the temperature at 50°F. or more at night, although I have sometimes had it drop down in the high forties. In observing other growers' plants and making comparisons, I believe this is the reason that my Vrieseas and Guzmanias have heavier, sturdy leaves.


This is something that is important to some plants and to others is as bad as a disease. Some require a great deal, while others will burn in just a little. It does not necessarily mean that all Neoregelias can take light and all Vrieseas cannot. Some Neoregelias are just as touchy about light as some Vrieseas, and some Vrieseas can take just as much light as some Neoregelias. You can watch the texture of the leaves and gradually expose to more light until you feel you have reached the maximum. Although someone may tell you that he has grown a particular plant in full light, it doesn't necessarily mean that you can. Every area is different.

Oddly enough, you can completely change the shape of a plant by the amount of light given it. Shade is inclined to make plants with long lanky leaves that are dark green. The more light given, the more a plant will tend to have shorter, wider leaves and its color will tend to become more vivid. Most plants are at their prettiest grown in the maximum amount of light they can stand without burning


This is something that is rather new in the growing of plants. There have been a number of experiments done with sound and plants. A Denver, Colorado, college student has done a great deal of research on this. She has found that plants she exposed to loud rock music reacted favorably and even grew toward the sound.

A lie detector expert in New York City has spent nearly four years collecting evidence that plants feel apprehension, fear, pleasure, and relief. He has used a lie detector to measure the reaction pattern of a plant and found it similar to the reaction pattern of a human subject under the same stimulation. He suggest that plants may possess a kind of "cellular consciousness"—that is, a system that would permit communication between plant and animal life.




There have been relatively few articles on variegated bromeliads. I think this is due to the fact that variegated bromeliads are somewhat rare, frequently expensive, slow to grow, and sometimes difficult to propagate. Probably Dr. George Milstein has written more completely on this subject than anyone (Journal XXI, No. 4, p. 81) (Bromeliana N. Y. Chapter, Bromeliad Society, Volume 7, Nos. 5, 6, and 7 – Autumn 1970). There have been many variegated bromeliads described and illustrated at times in the Journal of the Bromeliad Society. Mulford B. Foster, (Vol. III, No. 4, pp. 29 and 30) Neoregelia carolinae var. tricolor, Guzmania monostachia var. variegata and Cryptanthus bromelioides var. tricolor, Mulford B. Foster (Vol. III, No. 5) Aechmea caudata var. variegata. Mulford B. Foster (Vol. VII, No. 6, p. 91) Aechmea coelestis var. albomarginata. A. B. Graf (Vol. III, No. 5, p. 39) Aechmea fasciata var. variegated. Morris Hobbs (Vol. X, No. 4 - cover) Billbergia pyramidalis var. striata. Morris Hobbs (Vol. XIII, No. 2 - cover) Guzmania monostachia var. variegata. Mulford B. Foster (Vol. XVI, No. 2, p. 27) Aechmea magdalenae var. quadricolor. Alejandro Santiago (Vol. XX, No. 1, p. 3) Variegated Pineapples, Jack Holmes (Vol. XX, 3 - cover) Aechmea fasciata var. albo-marginata. Ervin J. Wurthmann (Vol. XX, No. 4, p. 96) Aechmea orlandiana var. Ensign. Patrick Mitchell (Vol. XXI, No. 3, p. 51) Tillandsia viridiflora var. variegata. Jean Merkel (Vol. XXI, No. 6, p. 123) Aechmea luddemanniana marginata 'Mend'.

Variegations of course appear in many other types of plants. The variegations appear usually in the form of white to cream-colored stripes which appear longitudinally on the leaves. The variegations sometimes appear as a series of parallel stripes of various widths, occasionally just on the leaf margins, and rarely as a stripe down the middle of the leaf. Occasionally the stripe may be a pale green and in some instances a deep red. Some of the variegated forms will often take on a flush of pink when the plants are grown in optimum light conditions. Some unusual effects occur when variegations overlay already marked leaves such as Vriesea Splendens, Vriesea hieroglyphica, Guzmania musaica and Aechmea chantinii. Aechmea chantinii var. variegata actually has the appearance of a gingham plaid or scotch plaid fabric. Bromeliads, I feel, by themselves are spectacular but when they are variegated in addition, they are truly outstanding and worth possessing. Unfortunately most variegated bromeliads must be propagated asexually (that is by offshoots); therefore it is only those that have been in cultivation for a great many years that are readily available. Some variegated bromeliads are such slow growers and propagators that there are only a few in existence. Some that have existed previously are now extinct. (Example: picture Vriesea hieroglyphica var. albo-marginata ('Madame Morobe') — A. B. Graf — Exotica — p. 458).

There are many theories as to the cause or causes of variegation. There is experimental work being performed attempting to resolve this question. It is known that if you grow bromeliads from seed in large numbers, a small number of variegated plants appear. I have visited many large nurseries in Europe and have seen this phenomenon myself. The two most frequent theories advanced are: 1) Viral etiology, and 2) Variegations due to mutation of cells. It has been suggested that one or more cells at the point of cell division suffer a change in their chromosomal constitution which leads to variegation. It has also been suggested that some sort of injury or irritation to the parent plant can induce variegations. This injury or irritation could be chemical, mechanical or viral. It has been observed that BOH or Omaflora used by some to induce blooming at times produces variegated offsets. Some plants and seeds have been exposed to x-ray irradiation with the successful production of variegated forms. I have obtained irradiated plants of Aechmea fasciata from Europe which have produced variegated offsets. This is obviously a demonstration of mutation due to irradiation producing.

It is possible to select the type of variegation one desires. This is feasible because frequently the variegation differs from leaf to leaf on the same plant. If one is fortunate to develop an offshoot from a bud at the base of the variegated leaf desired, one may be able to select the variegation. Therefore, at times it is necessary to strip some leaves in an effort to get an offset started with the variegation desired. This is obviously a slow and sometimes painful experiment.

Dr. George Milstein has suggested that the variegations as produced in Bromeliaceae are due to the fact that the bromeliad leaves are like blades of grass and are composed of parallel fibers and that therefore variegated stripes naturally follow along these longitudinally situated fibers. (Journal - Vol. XI, No. 4, p. 81). This is an interesting suggestion; however, it would not explain the variegation which at times in addition to involving leaves also involves the inflorescence. Longitudinal striations are also seen in plants such as succulents which are not composed of parallel fibers and are not grass-like.

It seems to me in all honesty that we really do not know at present the etiology or cause of variegation and have only made educated guesses and hypotheses. It is difficult to understand why some variegated bromeliads such as Aechmea caudata var. variegata on maturing become green leafed. There are some plants of Aechmea fasciata var. variegata that are known not to hold their variegations while other clones of Aechmea fasciata var. variegata perpetuate their variegations. Why is this? Are hormonal factors involved?

The following is a list of variegated bromeliads that to my knowledge are now known to exist or have existed. Many more will probably appear with time.

Aechmea orlandiana var. Ensign

bracteata var. variegata
caudata var. variegata (narrow and broad leaf varieties)
caudata var. variegata × A. pimenti-velosoi
coelestis var. albo-marginata
comata var. Makoyana
fasciata var. variegata
fasciata var. albo-marginata
fulgens discolor var. variegata
luddemanniana var. marginata 'Mend'
luddemanniana var. variegata
magdalenae var. quadricolor
Maginalli var. variegata
mariae-reginae var. variegata
nudicaulis var. variegata (lineata and striata)
Nalli variegata
orlandiana var. variegata (Ensign)
ornata var. nationalis 'Red Ribbon'
weilbachii var. variegata
bracteatus var. striatus
cayenne var. variegata
comosus var. variegata
comosus var. porteana
amoena var. variegata
pyramidalis var. striata × 'Santa Barbara'
serra var. variegata
lindenii var. exigium
bromelioides var. tricolor
donnel-smithii var. variegata
lingulata var. minor striata
monostachia var. variegata
× 'Meyer's Farorite' var. variegata
musaica var. variegata
tricolor var. variegata
zahnii var. variegata
carolinae var. tricolor
meyendorffii var. variegata
spectabilis var. variegata
billbergioides var. variegata
innocentii var. lineatum
innocentii var. striatum
× 'Francois spae' variegatum
fulgens var. variegata
ramosa var. folis variegata
werckleana variegata
viridiflora var. variegata
ensiformis var. striata
erythrodactylon var. striata
guttata var. striata
hieroglyphica var. variegata
mariae var. variegata
platynema var. striata
'Poelmanni' var. variegata
psittacina var. striata
Sp. Nova
splendens var. variegata
You can see from the above listing that the variegations are described in many ways: 1) variegata 2) albomarginata 3) striata 4) tricolor 5) lineatum 6) quadricolor, etc. The terminology is quite descriptive and almost self-explanatory.

—Los Angeles.

Aechmea pineliana var. minuta

This miniature form of Aechmea pineliana was collected over thirty years ago by Mulford B. Foster who found it growing in open forests in the state of Espirito Santo, Brazil. Since that time it has become a popular bromeliad, growing equally well as a house plant and in the garden. It has naturalized outside in Florida, withstanding temperatures as low as 25°.

In the greenhouse and in the shade the leaves are a sparkling greenish silver; outdoors they are a striking rose with a hint of silver. In full sun the leaves seldom reach more than a foot in length, whereas under lath they tend to become darker and longer.

It is a sturdy little species which at all times appears to be in prime condition. It always assumes a graceful rosette shape, and even when neglected and allowed to dry, the leaves never burn or show brown tips. The inflorescence lasts in brilliant color for many months.

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