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.George Kalmbacher, N.Y.
Rec. Secy.Jeanne Woodbury, Calif.
Corres. Secy.Kathy Dorr, Calif.
Treas.Kelsey Williams, Calif.


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

1973-1976: Robert G. Burstrom, Leonard Kent, Eric Knobloch, Elmer Lorenz, Patrick Mitchell, Edward McWilliams, Harold W. Wiedman, Kelsey Williams.

1974-1977: Eloise Beach, Kathy Dorr, George Kalmbacher, Fritz Kubisch, W. R. Paylen, Amy Jean Gilmartin, Robert Read, Edgar Smith.


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; 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


Sun and Humidity Boost Bromeliad Growth
  Robert Tucker84
Photographing Your Bromeliads
  Victoria Padilla86
Bees and Bromeliads
  Paul P. Lowe89
Bromeliads in Honduras
  Harry E. Luther91
Random Notes
  Roger K. Taylor97
  Guy Wrinkle98
A Tale of A Mouse-Tail--with Details
  George Kalmbacher103
Neoregelia 'Perfecta Tricolor'
  I. G. Vanluchene106
The Bromeliads of Brazil
  Mulford B. Foster107
Book Review114
Neoregelia Portfolio
  From the collection of Rolf Rawe120


Guzmania sanguinea - Photo by Howard Yamamoto

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 — $1.50


At long last and hopefully not too late, the conservation of our natural resources and the preservation of many rare species of our plant and animal kingdoms have become topics of general concern. In many countries, a genuine effort is being made to protect the treasures of this planet and to assist Mother Nature in restoring the balance between the flora and fauna on one side and man on the other. That many portions of this earth are fast becoming areas of devastation cannot be denied. A case in point is Madagascar, whose unique flora is being plowed under, and the only remnants of many of its remarkable species are to be found solely in public and private gardens. We must thank the collector for saving some of these extraordinary plants from extinction.

Recently a letter was received from a member of this Society, who was enraged at the way bromeliads were being collected and the gluttonous manner in which I added to my small collection. True, there are probably many bromeliads which are on the endangered list, but this unfortunate circumstance is not the fault of collectors but that of the denizens of particular areas who consider these plants as weeds. I shall never forget the heaps of Aechmea chantinii in Iquitos, Peru, that were waiting to be burned. Several years later I received a letter from a friend in that city saying the eastern slopes of the Andes were being graded to make way for progress and that engineers were playing havoc with the plant life there. In Central America I saw trees covered with epiphytes being bulldozed to make way for banana and coffee plantations.

It cannot be denied that in parts of Mexico tillandsias are wantonly being pulled from trees to satisfy the insatiable appetites of certain unthinking collectors; but, on the other hand, there are others like Dr. Werner Rauh, the outstanding bromeliad collector today, who takes only what he needs and replants those bromeliads which he cannot use (Sec Vol. XXIV, No. 6, page 208). Those who go into the tropics to collect should do so with restraint, always being sure that there are enough plants left to insure a continuation of the species.

In the mountain fastnesses of Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru, as well as the jungles of Amazonia and the rain forests of Central and South America, there are great stores of bromeliads waiting to be discovered by some future Andre. It is truly astounding the numbers of new species that are being brought back to cultivation and it is equally amazing to consider what still remains to be found. Our chief concerns, at the moment, are the machines of progress which tear up the wilderness areas so that man may have more room for his crops.

Sun and Humidity Boost Bromeliad Growth


Roy Fulloon
Aechmeas above the water

A feature in my garden here in North Queensland which has attracted the attention of visitors is the pond which I dug into the hard clay near the verandah. It is not the crude pond itself which causes comment, but the arrangement of three bromeliads on a log standing in the pond, for their colors are true eye-stoppers.

Also, this bit of water has become a veritable paradise for animals and plants alike. The most appreciative visitors are the hundred or so Chestnut-Breasted Finches who bathe and eat seeds or just sit and chatter in the cool water. Pale Crimson Finches also find haven there, and their bright red bodies glitter with color in the sun. Indeed, the colors of this place are vivid: the orange spathes of the native Colocasia antiquorrum, which smell of tingling sherbert; the red of small fungi that grow out of the rotting mulch; and the intense green of the surrounding leafy vegetation all set off the brilliant colors of the three aechmeas growing happily on the log.

The largest aechmea is an as yet unidentified hybrid, which some feel has A. orlandiana as a parent. It is at present only half full sized, but has a mature look and a sucker of its own. Its leaves are a soft orange-yellow color with dark brown markings on the reverse which shows through a reddish-brown color on the upper surface. It is lighter and larger than A. orlandiana (right) which has orange-purple leaves bordered by long black spines. The leaves are deep black underneath and inside the leaf bases and have pink and orange spots above. It has one sucker, and both plants have stiff, upright new leaves. The plant on the top is A. nudicaulis var. aurea-rosea, whose stiff green leaves have red blotches and dark spines. It has a sturdy pup and tough wire-like roots adhering to the bough of Eucalyptus tesselaris, which is durable for years in water and breaks down slowly.

For company I have attached strands of the local Asclepidiaceous "Button Plant," Dischidia numularia, which is a common epiphyte in swampy forests in north Queensland and Asia. The strong sun and high humidity have given the plants a real boost and extra charm. The aechmeas are far more distinctive on this branch than they would be in pots or on fern slabs. During rainy days the plants take on pastel colors and are alive with colorful little frogs; the rippled water below shows the plants in true tropical fashion, and no grit can splash on the leaves.

Water always makes an attractive addition to the garden and lends cool touches to hot days and startling reflections of the moonlight at night, as well as adding humidity to the garden so necessary for extra healthy growth.

—Gordon vale, North Queensland.



When the poet Keats wrote "A thing of beauty is a joy forever," he did not have in mind the transitory loveliness of the bromeliad in flower. Although the owner of the plant may long carry with him a mental image of the inflorescence, he cannot adequately describe its beauty unless the plant has been faithfully reproduced in color. And here is where his camera comes in. A grower can have no better record of his bromeliads than an album of color photos or a library of color slides.

Nearly everyone today possesses a camera of one sort or another capable of taking good black and white or color pictures. Why these are not always as good as they might be is not the fault of the camera so much as it is with the would-be photographer who shoots at random, blissfully unaware of the most rudimentary rules of photography.

To cover all types of 35 mm cameras and situations the readers of this journal may have would require a complete course in photography, and presented here are just a few hints that might be of help. This article, too, presupposes that the owner of a camera knows how to use it and how to read a light meter.


The basic equipment necessary for photographing your bromeliads is a fairly good reflex camera, a tripod, an exposure meter (if not contained in the camera itself), a reflector, and a backdrop. The sun is your primary source of light and is generally used with excellent results. If a more controlled lighting effect is desired, photo flood lights are the best. A flatter and harsher effect is obtained with flash or strobe light.

If you can afford a good camera, such as a Nikon, Pentax, or Exacta, etc., that is fine; however, any single-lens reflex will do. After all, some of the worst pictures that this editor has seen were taken with the most expensive cameras, whereas the opposite has often been true. The tripod is necessary to keep the camera in place and steady, especially when long exposures are involved. Helpful, also, would be supplementary or interchangeable lenses, a lens adapter, and extension tubes. Extension tubes, used with a lens, will provide a greater magnification for very tiny flowers. In these closeups it is almost essential that the reflex camera (which composes and focuses through its lens) be used. With this camera you can be sure that the slides will be just what you see in the camera.

A cable release will help to eliminate camera movement when the shutter is released. For daylight pictures you will also need a foil reflector, which you can make yourself by attaching aluminum foil on to a piece of board.


There are four main types of lighting which a photographer may consider: daylight, photofloods, strobe, and flash. For the beginner, natural sunlight is probably the best and the easiest, and until he is an expert is probably the only light he should consider. It imparts an excellent tonal quality—so important in bringing out the true coloration of an inflorescence—but it can be variable in intensity and quality and thus difficult to control. Pictures should never be taken in the middle of the day—from 8 to 11 in the morning and from 2 to 5 in the afternoon are the best times. Too high a sun will top light your plant and cause dense shadows, strong highlights and lack of well-balanced color. Sometimes a striking effect can be obtained by a low sun backlighting the plant, but in this situation a reflector must be used to fill in the shadows. Be sure the lens is shaded.

If one must use artificial light, two photofloods and one small spot light are necessary to give the best results, placed where they bring out the best characteristics of the plant. Basically, the lighting that looks the most natural is the kind that appears to originate from a single light source, such as the sun in outdoor photography.

The use of a flash is not generally recommended for color photography, since it usually gives a harsh and flat lighting. However, if a flash is necessary, carefully placed reflectors will help to smooth out the dark shadows.


The background can make or break the picture. For outdoor photography, foliage (out of focus) is excellent, as this looks the most like the bromeliad's natural habitat. To keep the background out of focus it is necessary to open up the F stop and use a faster shutter speed. The brilliant blue of the sky is often effective, as is the shimmering blue of a swimming pool. What must be kept in mind is that the background should not be patterned, cluttered up with other objects, or distracting in any way, and should be far enough behind the plant so as not to cause shadows. Where a studied plant portrait is desired, the photographer should provide a backdrop. Black velvet is often used with great success, as it assures the greatest contrast and gives the plant a bold "cut out" appearance.

It is a good idea to have on hand several pieces of heavy cardboard, approximately 3 by 4 feet in size, painted in blue, aqua, green, etc., to be used as color backgrounds. The best rule-of-thumb for a background is to use a color that will best complement that of the inflorescence. For example, a greenish flower looks best with a red or magenta background. A light pink inflorescence can appear almost white next to a black background, but will be pink in front of an aqua setting. Usually a green background will bring out the magenta and red in an inflorescence, a blue background will bring out the yellow, and blue-green or aqua will bring out the red and pink. Pay attention to your background—it is all important for a good picture. How many times has the editor received films and had to discard them because the background was an old sheet (and it did not fill the picture), a back door, or a group of distracting objects. Another thing is to keep the composition of the plant within the frame bold and full.

Taking the Picture

After the bromeliad has been posed against a suitable background, the lighting checked to see that there are no distracting shadows, the camera properly placed and focused, it is good to proceed slowly and check before snapping the picture. Check the image of the bromeliad in the camera for shadows, pose, sharpness, and general composition. Look away and then look again into the camera, checking for anything that might be amiss. Just before taking the picture check the light again with your exposure meter. Today most good 35 mm reflex cameras now have built-in meters and automatic shutters so that your exposure problems are at a minimum. Correct exposure should be measured by light falling upon the plant itself. Be careful when photographing very light or very dark plants. Your light meter can be fooled by these extremes. The meter can't tell the difference between a light-colored plant (Ae. orlandiana var. 'Ensign' or Billbergia 'Fantasia') with very little light on it or a dark colored bromeliad (Vriesea splendens 'Nigra') or any one of the dark red leaved aechmeas with a lot of light on it. If the plant is very light in color, close down ½ stop less than the meter shows. Light foliaged plants are better photographed against dark backgrounds and dark plants against light background—this is especially true in black-and-white photography. Incidentally, with extension tubes, be sure to allow for the extra amount of exposure necessary for the increased lens to film distance.

Take several slides of your plant. Without changing the general setup, change the exposure slightly up and down on some of the pictures. Keep a record of your exposures and study your finished films to see which exposure is the best. With a little care you can take very professional-looking pictures.

The author has found it is a good idea to have two cameras—one with colored film and the other for black-and-white photos for use in the Journal. She had found a Polaroid satisfactory for black-and-whites. Really good black and white pictures cannot be made from color films, as they usually lack sharpness and do not make satisfactory illustrations. Color prints are also not so good as color transparencies. Reproductions from color prints are too costly for use in the Journal, as the process for color separation is an involved one.



Hohenbergia stellata

The role played by bees and other insects in the pollinating of bromeliad flowers is a fascinating one. In the wilds, of course, most of the pollinating is done by bees and other insects. However, there is some self-pollination in flowers that have a very short stigma and anthers that are longer, allowing the pollen to sift onto the stigma, or in flowers that do not open fully and keep the pollen in direct contact with the stigma.

As a case in point, the flowers of Hohenbergia stellata are usually sterile and because of their construction do not set seed. I have grown this bromeliad for several years and have a large planting in a shady area of my nursery. The plants always bloom profusely and stay in color for several months, their bright red inflorescences brightening up the whole nursery.

Until last year I had never seen any ripening seed on the plants. One day in September of 1973 when passing the bed, I noticed some blue spots on the inflorescences of some of the plants. On looking closer, I found that many of the small fruits had turned blue and, on closer examination, discovered that they were full of ripe seeds. I collected enough ripe seed to plant several flats and had excellent germination. The resulting seedlings have since been potted up and are taking up all the space on several benches.

I could not account for this sudden windfall of hohenbergia seed until this past summer when one of my neighbors came over one day full of excitement and informed me that bees were swarming all over the upper end of my nursery and that she was afraid she would get stung since she was fond of sitting in her yard and the bees were flying all around her yard, too.

I investigated and found that the bees were Honey Bees and were concentrating on the bed of Hohenbergia stellata where the flowers were just starting to open. For about one week I did not spend much time in that particular part of the nursery because the bees were so thick. I am not particularly afraid of bees, but they will sometimes accidentally get tangled in one's hair or clothing and sting in self defense.

I am on the edge of an agricultural area where several beekeepers move their bees into groves during their blooming season. These beekeepers are to be thanked for their contribution to my ever-increasing stock of bromeliad seedlings, since I now collect seed from bromeliads that never set seed before.

Some bromeliads, such as Tillandsia lindenii, have a flower tube that is too long for any of the local insects to penetrate and, consequently, I never get seed from these. Also many bromeliads have a nocturnal fragrance that attracts night flying moths. Since the moth population has decreased because of agricultural spraying of insecticides, most bromeliads of this type no longer set seed.

Hand pollination is too tedious a process for me to attempt and the success of this method is too uncertain for it to be profitable, so I will just continue to harvest the seeds of "Nature's Bounty" and thank the bees.

—Goulds, Florida



Aechmea bracteata literally covers the trees.

It seems that little has been written about the bromeliads of Honduras since the late 1950's. Hopefully these notes will be of interest and value to the readers of the JOURNAL.

In late April 1974, I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Honduras. During this time I was able to visit several distinct ecological zones from sea level to 7200 feet to observe and collect bromeliads, orchids, aroids, and cacti. Following is a listing of the species I encountered.

Probably the most widespread of all bromeliads is Tillandsia recurvata. This species has adapted to city life quite well and is a common adornment on wires, shrubs, trees, and rocks from sea level to 6000 feet.

Particularly abundant around San Pedro Sula, on the coast, as well as Tegucigalpa in the interior is T. schiedeana. This plant occurs in two distinct forms. In dry areas the most common plants are of the "major" form, a large, heavily scaled variety. In moist shaded habitats a small green form is found. This variety is unusual in that the scape bracts are drawn out into long bristles.

The most conspicuous epiphytes around San Pedro Sula are the large rosettes of T. dasyliriifolia. These are particularly common on the giant Ceiba trees. Many of these tillandsias are nearly four feet in diameter and six feet high when in bloom. Some plants produce offsets and form clusters.

T. streptophylla appears to be rather rare on the east coast. The few plants I found were in evergreen Ficus.

A common species throughout Honduras is T. balbisiana. These are nearly identical with the Florida form. They are usually full of ants.

Often associated with T. balbisiana is T. circinnata. These plants are a little larger and more bulbous than the Florida type.

Along the river courses in the denser forests Aechmea bracteata literally covers the trees. Only the green form was found. April is the height of its flowering; many clusters of these plants had more than a dozen three-foot red and green sprays. Often masses of Epidendrum bractescens and papillosum were intertwined in the roots.

Catopsis nutans is a fairly common plant at low altitudes. The best specimens I found were in a stunted Calabash tree in a hot windy pasture. The Honduras plant is up to twelve inches in diameter with a pendent spike of yellow flowers.

Another pasture dweller is Bromelia pinguin which is commonly used throughout Central America as a living fence.

Just south of San Pedro begins the semi-arid plains of the interior. A common epiphyte on scrub trees and cacti is T. juncea. Near Camayagua it grows in dense masses along with T. fasciculata and T. recurvata.

Many attractive orchids also inhabit these dry areas; among them are Laelia rubescens, Schomburgkia tibicinis, Oncidium ceboletta, splendidum and stipitatum.

Farther south in the wetter and cooler woods surrounding Lake Yajoa the bromeliads become more varied. Several of the previously mentioned species continue to appear, but a number of more spectacular types begin to make a showing.

Aechmea mexicana is certainly the most spectacular foliage epiphyte in Honduras. The trees fringing the lake are filled with these three-to-six-foot bright pink vases.

Tillandsia lampropoda at about 7000 ft.

Unfortunately, these soon lose their remarkable coloring when cultivated in Florida. Aechmea nudicaulis is also common on exposed branches. The Honduran phase is a small dark green plant with distinct silver banding. No flowering specimens were seen.

Guzmania monostachia was the only representative of this genus I collected. The inflorescence is unfortunately pale and short lived.

Several catopsis species are also common. Several of these await flowering for identification, but Catopsis nitida, morreniana, and nutans were collected in bloom.


Tillandsia deppeana




Tillandsia lampropoda

In the dry mountains surrounding Tegucigalpa a number of very specialized plants occur. The beautiful T. magnusiana is sparsely distributed throughout the pine forests between 3500 and 6000 feet. These silver powder puffs attain a diameter of ten inches and depend upon the frequent fogs for much of their moisture.

Tillandsias tricolor, fasciculata and brachycaulos growing on Mayan ruins in Copan.

Two widely scattered pine forest dwellers are T. makoyana and T. deppeana. Both grow high in the trees far from reach.

Much more abundant are plants of T. seleriana. Most of these are small grey types but mixed with them are giant light green plants. Both forms have short spikes of pink bracts with violet flowers. Often sharing the same branch are clusters of T. caput-medusae.

At the tops of the higher mountains a mixed pine-oak cloud forest develops. Several very beautiful tillandsias are confined to these moist and cool peaks. T. punctulata is the most common of these. In many cases it even carpets the ground. Plants range from eight to twenty inches in diameter with simple and compound red and green spikes.

T. lampropoda is an extremely attractive species I found near Mateo on Le Paterique at about 7000 feet. The soft grey-green leaves are ten to twenty inches long forming an open rosette. The spectacular vriesea-like paddle is rose and yellow with tubular yellow flowers. This plant produces numerous offsets and frequently occurs in large clusters.

Forming compact balls on small trees as well as vines is T. butzii. Also scattered through these forests in more open spots are large plants of Catopsis berteroniana.

T. stanleyii is one of the most unusual bromeliads I have ever seen. The leaves are dark grey-green in an upright rosette. The fantastic arching inflorescence is up to three feet long with blood red bracts. The offsets are produced on short heavy stems. This plant is highly specialized and is never found below 6000 feet.

On these same pines grow clusters of T. multicaulis. This plant is variable in leaf and bract coloration. The small purple leaf phase is rather rare. The bracts on the majority of the plants are bright orange, but an occasional red or yellow form can be found. The inflorescence is unusual in the sub-family Tillandsioideae in that the spikes are produced laterally from between the leaves; only two other species share this character.

Other dwellers of these cloud forests include the orchid genera Oncidium, Maxillaria and several terrestrial bulbous Epidendrums. In some areas an unusual creeping fan palm occurs.

In the northwest part of the country a number of commonly cultivated tillandsias can be collected. T. brachycaulos is common on Ceiba trees and on the stones at the Copan ruins. T. tricolor also is abundant. A dark leafed plant, possibly Aechmea pubescens, is common in the wetter areas along with the more wide-spread A. bracteata.

In many rocky, dry areas large mats of hechtia are common often with orchids mixed with them. A large dry growing bird-nest type Anthurium is also quite common.

This is only a small portion of the bromeliad flora of Honduras. If I could have extended my stay, several more species probably would have been added to my list. In all, thirty-two bromeliads were collected or observed with several unidentified.

—St. Petersburg, Florida


Horich, Clarence Kl. "Three Red Tillandsias in Central Honduras," Bromeliad Society Bulletin, Vol. 7, pp. 61 and 62, 1957.

Horich, Clarence Kl. "Home of Tillandsia stanleyii," Bromeliad Society Bulletin, Vol. 7, pp. 67-69, 1957.

Horich, Clarence Kl. "Aechmea bracteata," Bromeliad Society Bulletin, Vol. 7, pp. 88 and 89, 1957.

Williams, Louis O. "Tillandsias at Christmas Time in Honduras," Bromeliad Society Bulletin, Vol. 4, pp. 87 and 88, 1954.



Aechmea chantinii seems to be among the bromeliads attractive to black "flyspeck" scale. I note that the insects are not uniformly distributed over the leaves, but congregate mainly on the green bands. I wonder if others have made this observation, and also if the same thing occurs with other kinds (e.g. Aechmea fasciata) having green-silver variegation. It would not be surprising if it turns out that the dense covering of peltate scales is somewhat protective; the questions could be settled if others would send in their findings.

Safe use of Cygon. As an alternative to spraying, it occurred to me that pouring a little of the dilute insecticide into the water in the leaf-cups of the plants would afford an opportunity for absorption into the plant tissues. As some thin-leaved plants were considerably damaged, I don't recommend that you try it on any you value. Light spraying with a dilute mixture is safe, and may be repeated at intervals of a day or so if necessary.

A new potting medium? In cultivating around the base of a Feijoa bush, I pulled up about a two-inch layer of its roots, which looked enough like fine osmunda to suggest it might be useful as a well-drained potting medium for some bromeliads. I have tried several kinds in it, and it is still too early to say how well it serves. There is, however, one respect in which it is definitely useful: it is flexible enough to wind readily around the bases of offsets with few or no roots, preparatory to planting them, so they are firmly supported. Anyone having a Feijoa may find he has at hand a serviceable material.

Supporting wobbly plants. A layer of fine gravel, about ¼ inch, on top of the potting medium serves excellently to stabilize a newly planted offset until it develops enough roots to hold it upright; and about the only advantage of removing the gravel even then is to be able to see or touch the potting medium to judge how moist it is. Deep planting in any of the ordinary media is an invitation to trouble from the moisture held against the leaf bases, but gravel dries off promptly; and it gives very firm support.

—Winter Garden, Florida



In order to survive, all living things need a supply of energy. The ultimate source of all the energy available to living things is the sun. Photosynthesis is the process whereby green plants capture the sun's energy and convert it into chemical energy which they use in their metabolic processes. The energy is actually stored as chemical bond energy, that is the energy needed to bond various chemical elements into more complex molecules. Animals get their energy from the sun, too, but second or third hand. First a green plant captures the energy from the sun and then an animal will eat the plant and thus fulfill its energy needs.

Not all plants undergo photosynthesis. Only plants which possess various photochemical pigments can undergo this process. The most common pigment of this type is chlorophyll, the pigment that makes the plant green. Some plants such as the fungi have no chlorophyll and have to look to other plants or to animals for their energy needs. Chlorophyll is usually found in the leaves of the plant, but not always. Some plants such as the Palo Verde tree are often in a leafless condition to help prevent water loss and thus photosynthesis is carried out in their green stems. Some plants, such as the strange orchid Polyrrhiza lindenii, have no leaves or stems and thus photosynthesis is carried out in their roots. Chlorophyll is usually found in structures called chloroplasts which are membrane-bound sacs inside the photosynthetic cell. However, some very primitive plants, such as the Blue-Green Algae do not have their chlorophyll in chloroplasts. Incidentally, the chemical structure of the chlorophyll molecule is very similar to that of the heme molecule which is part of hemoglobin found in red blood cells.

The process of photosynthesis is very complex and it took many years of research by many people to bring us to our present level of understanding of this process. Early studies in plant physiology include the work of the Flemish botanist van Helmont who showed that plants make their own organic matter rather than absorbing it from the soil. Using a potted tree he showed that after five years the tree weighed 164 pounds more but the soil weighed only two ounces less. In 1772 John Priestly, an English Nonconformist minister, showed that plants give off oxygen. Then in 1779 the Dutch physician Jan Ingen-Housz showed that plants only give off oxygen if they are placed in the light. In 1804 the Swiss botanist Nicholos Theodore de Saussure showed that green plants remove carbon dioxide from the air as well as add oxygen to it. He also weighed a plant and air before and after photosynthesis. His results showed that the increase in dry weight of the plant was more that the weight of the carbon dioxide lost from the air. He concluded that the additional weight came from the water. And so about 170 years ago the basic outline of photosynthesis appeared to be:

Carbon Dioxide + Water + Light--Organic Matter + Oxygen

The organic matter in which the sun's energy is stored is usually stated to be the sugar glucose, but this energy is also stored in other carbohydrates as well as in fats and proteins. Plants and animals break down these organic compounds to recover the energy in them by a process called cellular respiration. The products and the reactants of respiration are:

Organic Matter + Oxygen--Carbon Dioxide + Water + Energy

Note that the products of photosynthesis are the same as the reactants of respiration and visa versa. The two processes are in some ways the reverse of each other. The process of photosynthesis is much more complicated than indicated above and consists of hundreds of intermediate steps. An outline of some of the more important steps follow. When light strikes a leaf, it can be reflected, transmitted, or absorbed by the leaf. Only about 1 percent of the light that strikes the leaf is actually used in photosynthesis. Although more than this amount of light is absorbed by the leaf, some of this energy is radiated as heat or used in the evaporation of water. The energy that is used in photosynthesis is used to raise an electron in the chlorophyll molecule to a higher energy level than it normally exists in. When an electron is raised to a higher energy level it is said to be in the excited state. It then falls back to its normal position or ground state. In falling back to its ground state the electron releases some of the energy that was used to promote it to the excited state.

This energy can be in the form of heat or light (fluorescence) but then it would be lost. However, in the chlorophyll molecule the electron is captured by a series of acceptor molecules. As the electron is passed from one acceptor to another it gradually falls to the ground state and releases energy which the cell stores in the chemical bonds of the two compounds, ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) and NADPH (The reduced form of Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate). This process which is called Photosynthetic Phosphorylation or the Light Reaction, can happen in a cyclic or a noncyclic manner. In cyclic photophosphorylation, (See Figure 1) the excited electron is passed from chlorophyll to the compound ferodoxin, then to plastoquinone, through a series of cytochromes and finally back to the chlorophyll. The energy that is released in this process goes into the formation of ATP which stores the energy. In noncyclic photophosphorylation (See Figure 2) light excites a molecule of chlorophyll a. The excited electron is passed to ferodoxin and then to NADP where it is used to form HADPH, another energy storing compound. The electron to restore chlorophyll a to its ground state comes from an excited molecule of chlorophyll b which is only slightly different in structure than chlorophyll a. The electron to restore chlorophyll b to its ground state comes from a water molecule which is split apart by a process called photolysis which also releases oxygen gas.

The next series of reactions are called the dark reaction, as they do not require light to proceed. Here the energy stored in ATP and NADPH formed in the light reaction is transferred to and stored in other organic compounds. This process involved building up molecules with a carbon backbone from units of carbon dioxide. This process is sometimes called the Calvin Cycle after Dr. Melvin Calvin who did much of the work on the pathway of carbon in photosynthesis. This work was done by exposing plants to radioactive carbon dioxide. At various times after exposure the plants were killed to stop photosynthesis and then examined to see which compounds contained the radioactive carbon atom. An outline of the Calvin Cycle is given in figure 3.

Carbon dioxide first combines with the five carbon sugar ribulose diphosphate to form an unstable six carbon compound. This compound breaks down to form two molecules of the three carbon compound PGA (Phosphoglyceric acid). PGA is then converted to PGAL (Phosphoglyceraldehyde). Energy to drive these reactions comes from the ATP and NADPH which were produced in the light reactions. Two molecules of PGAL are then used to form one molecule of fructose diphosphate, a six-carbon sugar. Some of the fructose diphosphate is then converted to various carbohydrates and some of it is used to form more ribulose diphosphate for use in the cycle. Usually free six carbon sugars are not produced in photosynthesis. Most often they are formed combined with complex molecules called nucleotides.

In addition to the reactions just stated many side reactions occur in conjunction with the Calvin cycle. Some of these reactions are involved in the production of fats and proteins. In addition to the Calvin cycle there is another carbon cycle found in some plants, but that is another story. Many factors affect the rate at which photosynthesis takes place. Some of these factors are internal and thus differ with different species of plants. The intensity and quality of the light that reaches the chlorophyll is related to the nature of the cellular layers which surround the photosynthetic cells. Leaf size, behavior of the leaf stomata, and the rate at which the plant transfers the products of photosynthesis away from the site of their production also affects the rate. Many external factors, such as temperature, also affect the rate of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis increases with temperature (as long as no other factors are limiting) up to about 25°C and then falls off with increasing temperature.

Plants from cold climates, such as many of the evergreens, carry out photosynthesis at lower temperatures than plants from warmer regions and visa versa. Under conditions of low light intensity and elevated temperatures, such as found in greenhouses in winter, an elevated temperature can be harmful to the plants. This is because the low light intensity causes photosynthesis to slow down, but the high temperature speeds up respiration. Thus the products of photosynthesis are used up faster than they are produced. Very intense light retards the rate of photosynthesis, and plants that live in areas of high light intensity overcome this by various structural adaptations, such as heavy coats of trichomes which are hairlike structures.

Plants use a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide, yet the atmosphere contains only about .03% carbon dioxide. This is not quickly used by plants because it is constantly being replaced. Most of this comes from respiration but some of it comes from volcanos, weathering of rock, and burning of wood and oil. If light and temperature are favorable, then the carbon dioxide level can drop below .03% and become a limiting factor in photosynthesis. This may happen in a green house closed in the winter. This may be totally or partially compensated for by burning a gas heater which produces carbon dioxide and water as products of the reaction taking place as the gas burns. Raising the carbon dioxide level to .5% can give an increased level of photosynthesis but only for a short time. After a week or two the plants show a toxic reaction to this. The concentration of water in the photosynthetic cells can increase or decrease the rate of photosynthesis. About 15% water loss can actually increase the rate of photosynthesis; however, severe dehydration can retard it. When the plant is dehydrated, the stomata in the leaves close to prevent water loss and thus no more carbon dioxide can enter, which reduces the rate of photosynthesis. Plants need nitrogen and magnesium to incorporate into the chlorophyll molecule. Iron is also needed in this process though it is not a part of the chlorophyll molecule. If the plant is deficient in any of these elements chlorophyll production will be lowered and thus the rate of photosynthesis will be lowered.

Bromeliads are green plants and thus undergo photosynthesis. An understanding of the factors that are involved in the process of photosynthesis is of importance to bromeliad growers because the more we know about the plants' physiology and chemistry the more information we have to draw from when we are trying to decide on what conditions to grow the plant under. Although there are many people who have well kept collections of bromeliads that know little or nothing of plant physiology, a knowledge of photosynthesis and other physiological processes is none the less a valuable asset to the horticulturist. This knowledge helps to direct our thinking in how to grow the plant and often can lead to new cultural techniques not yet tried.

—North Hollywood, California


1. Vascular Plants: Form and function, F. B. Salisbury & R. V. Parke, Wadsworth Publishing Co., Inc., Belmont, Calif., 1970.

2. Plants At Work, F. C. Steward, Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., Reading Massachusetts, 1964.

3. Botany-An Introduction to Plant Biology, T. E. Weier, C. R. Stocking & M. C. Barbour, J. Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1970.




It took about two months for an inflorescence of the Tillandsia myosura here at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to grow to its full length of eight inches. The tip of the inflorescence looked so dry for such a long time that I felt the flowering had come to a dehydrated ignoble end, but then one day I happened to look at it and saw that the lowest flower had opened, and that there were more buds above it. Before describing the flower, let me say it must be a very variable species. Prof. Rauh describes the color of the flower as yellow, Dr. Smith as light yellow. The original description did not mention any color since it was made from a dried specimen, but Castellanos in describing it in his GENERA AND SPECIES PLANTARUM ARGENTINARUM mentions the corolla as yellow and the sepals as purple. The painting in the same book shows a yellow corolla and a calyx of a dull metallic but attractive red. Our flower had grey sepals but the petals were a dark chocolate color, that under a hand lens showed an involved pattern of many darker lines or spots on a lighter background, with an unornamented central stripe with some yellow in it.

The flower, not quite a half-inch across, had a rich fragrance, but one had to be close to the flower to get the scent. The fragrance was unique, suggesting, but differing from that of a carnation. From the coloring of the corolla it could have been a bat-pollinated flower or a moth flower—I could imagine both. The flower lasted for several days with the fragrance modulating. The other two flowers came later, but each one retained some kind of scent for several days after drying. This caused me to hypothesize that this tillandsia grows in clumps, and dead flowers continue to give off a scent to direct any pollinizers to flowers still coming on by heightening the effect. The persistent crumpled dried flowers turned black.

What was so unusual about that first flower was that, instead of having three petals, there were three modified stamens that were petaloid, of the same size and coloring as the petals, so as to make it look like a six-petaled flower. In addition another stamen was similarly modified but much smaller, setting down inside. The second flower had one petaloid stamen, making the flower look like a four-petaled flower. The top flower was normal. Not only was the double-flowering effect extraordinary, but in addition this gradation added dimension to the general phenomenon.

In those cases in plant life where species have flowers with a few to numerous stamens, double-flowering has been the origin of such well-known plants as tea-roses, Japanese flowering cherries, paeonias, and tuberous begonias. One or more stamens can appear petaloid in both monocots and dicots—in the just mentioned forms the change-over is highly ornamental, but in other cases, like bromeliads, the change detracts from the normal, and in the case of orchids can be downright freakish.

In La Belgique Horticole, 1881, there is shown in color a similar happening in the case of Billbergia lietzii. (See my article, BROOKLYN BOTANIC GARDEN NOTES, Vol. XXII, No. 1). The famous bromeliad botanist, Edouard Morren, mentioned that this was the first such modification that had been noticed so far. Well, my example certainly won't be the last!

The species name, myosura, comes from two ancient Greek words, transliterated as myos, meaning mouse, and ura for tail. In fact, our word, mouse, traces back to the Latin, Greek and even to Sanskrit with little change in form. And mouse-tail is an apt term to designate our plant; the four-inch, wispy-long leaves covered with a silky coat of appressed scale-hairs, the leaves very narrow and tapering, and trailing off, and even the similarly coated four and one-half inch long peduncle of the inflorescence looks like some small rodent's tail.

The application of "mouse-tail" was the product of the imagination of a famous German botanist, Grisebach. August Heinrich Rudolph Grisebach was his full name, unless he had other first-names that he did not choose to use! He was the author of the Flora of the British West Indian Islands. J. G. Baker confirmed and validated the name presenting its first description because Grisebach had simply used this original name by applying it to a herbarium sheet of the plant. Baker published the first description of T. myosura in the JOURNAL OF BOTANY, London, in 1878. Grisebach was born in 1814 and died in 1879. So this happened the year before Grisebach's death.

In the Contributions from the Gray Herbarium, No. CVI (1935) Dr. Lyman B. Smith gives a long description of T. myosura and informs us Grisebach had applied the name to a herbarium specimen, that it was later validated by Baker and that Grisebach republished it the year he died.

Tillandsia myosura is epiphytic, but also has been found growing on rocks. It is native to southern Bolivia, Uruguay and northern Argentina. Our plant came from Argentina and was collected by Dorothea Muhr. Once a collector of living plants from the Andes, she specialized in cacti and bromeliads. She has given up residence in Jujuy province, Argentina, and has returned to Germany, leaving a vacuum for us who would like to get once more the interesting plants she formerly made available.

The accompanying sketch was done by Frank Bowman of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden gardening staff.

—Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Four issues of Dr. Werner Rauh's Bromelienstudien have to date been received. These studies, written in German, discuss new and little known plants of the high Andes and particularly Peru. Mostly they treat of tillandsias and are superbly illustrated. They may be obtained from the publisher Franz Steiner, Bahnhofstr. 39, 61 Wiesbaden, West Germany. The first brochure is 12 DM, the second, 8,6 DM, the third 10,80 DM, and the last 15,20.


The remarkable increase in interest in plants in the decade of the seventies is welcome news to all of us in plant specialty societies. In the June 1, 1974 issue of Forbes an article entitled "Plants Grab Hold" begins: "Time was when little old ladies owned potted palms. Now they are called Kentias, cost upwards of $300 each and are found in the most fashionable homes. It's all part of the $6-billion plant, boom. So you think you're in style because you wear Gucci-Pucci clothes, drive a BMW Bavaria 30-C and have read at least parts of The Great Gatsby. But do you own a ficus or a bromeliad or at least a begonia? That is, do you own a plant—America's hottest new status symbol?

Whatever the reason—the ecology movement or perhaps that timeless craving for the so-called simple life—plants are suddenly "in". Everybody is talking plants."

The article explains that large corporations are now investing in plant businesses. The article further claims that people tend to buy plants which come closest to matching their personalities. After discussing the preferences of hippies and little old ladies, we are informed that professional persons, especially architects, want tall plants with strong design lines and that Kentia palms carry prestige because they are scarce and costly. However, jet-setters, not needing prestige, reach for the splashy elegance of orchids or bromeliads!

Is this a fact?

—Vernon Stoutemyer, California



This beautiful variety of Neoregelia carolinae 'Tricolor' originated in a batch of seedlings that were sown in 1968 in Belgium. It flowered for the first time in 1970, and since then has been propagated in the nurseries of P. de Coster, Melle, and A. Simoens, Merelbeke.

Besides the magnificent yellow-colored mutation of the chlorophyll in the leaf, this variety is marked by the same characteristics as the selected mother plants, such as compact growth, broad leaves, quick growth, good color of the bracts, with long tenability.

However, a comparison with a typical Neoregelia carolinae 'Tricolor' shows that this new variety has broader leaves, a broader mutation of the chlorophyll situated in the middle, uniform resistance after multiplication by cuttings, many more offsets following each other in rapid succession, and easy flower-induction, even with young plants.

Propagation can be made only by offset.

—Merelbeke, Belgium



(Editor's Note: Newcomers to the field of bromeliads should not overlook the fact that interest in these plants in America had its beginnings with the work of Mulford B. Foster of Orlando, Florida. He was the first American to venture into the tropics specifically to search out these plants. His first trip to Brazil was a landmark event, and his description of this trip, first published in the Smithsonian Report for 1942, is an historical document, besides being a fascinating travel adventure.)


The range of the widespread Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) marks the outer boundaries of this interesting family, which extends over all the tropical and subtropical areas of the Americas. From southeastern Virginia through Central and South America across the Argentine and from Chile up as far as Baja California, this cosmopolitan group of plants has spread itself.

The wide range of bromeliads gives them versatile growth habits, but they are happy in the desert, by the side of the ocean, in the wettest jungles, in full or part sun, and in complete or partial shade, and they grow on almost anything, including the smooth or rough bark of trees, on rocks, in sand, on cacti, on palms, and even clinging on telephone wires as does Tillandsia usneoides and Tillandsia recurvata.

Having collected bromeliads in Mexico and Cuba, Mrs. Foster and I found irresistible the opportunity to collect them in the jungles of Brazil, home of the greatest number of bromeliad species. Accordingly we sailed from New York in the spring of 1939, but when we landed 2 weeks later in Brazil, it was fall below the Equator.

While waiting for our permit, we took several short collecting trips near Rio with Dr. Bertha Lutz, botanist, who is making an intensive study of the flora in the Distrito Federal. However, her work is not confined to botany, for she is an eager student of zoology with particular interest in frogs and, with her father, the late Dr. Adolpho Lutz, has made outstanding contributions to the knowledge of frogs in Brazil. While collecting with her, we developed a new interest in bromeliads—that of the fauna, particularly the frogs, that live deep in the centers of the water-filled bromeliads. From that time on we found the study of frogs to be an interesting accompaniment to the collecting of bromeliads.

Our first collecting trip to Brazil was prophetic in that we found our first new species of bromeliads, for we later realized that this set the pattern for our whole Brazilian trip—we were always turning up new species. Our total of over 60 (with more yet to be described) was as much of a surprise to us as to the botanists, especially Dr. Smith, the bromeliad specialist. In the thousands of herbarium sheets from Brazil which he had examined in the past 10 years, only 9 new bromeliads had shown up from that country. While I had hopes of finding a few new species, I did not expect to find very many because this family has been well collected in Brazil, nearly one-third of the known species having been found within its confines.

Our "safari" numbered two. Our equipment was meager: two suitcases, two cameras, a herbarium press, and a gasoline stove. The most important factor, however, in our equipment was our limitless enthusiasm for the fascinating family of Bromeliaceae.

Searching for bromeliads has taught us many lessons in topography, for Brazil is a land of contrasts. It includes extremes of weather and terrain. During two winters of some 12,000 miles trekking by water, rail, auto, and on foot, the bromeliads took us into almost every kind of condition that that great country has to offer. One day we were in the rainiest jungle of Brazil, at Alto da Serra south of Rio, which is over 1,500 miles south of the Amazon; and next we traveled nearly a thousand miles by coastwise steamer, by narrow-gauge railway, by ox cart, and on foot, through Bahia, where it had not rained in 2 years.

One does not have to travel far after reaching Rio to do a bit of plant collecting. Even within the city limits there are still vast jungles covering the mountainsides high above the inhabited area. These rain forests of the Serra do Mar, mountains along the sea, stretch for miles both north and south, and there is a wealth of material for the botanist within a comparatively short distance of the coast. It is probably for this reason that the greatest number of bromeliads have been taken from this area within the past half century.

Strangely enough, one of our most pleasant experiences in Brazil was the visit to Alto da Serra, where we could not collect any plants. It is a sanctuary where the balance of life is to be sacredly maintained. Man is not to disturb the plant, animal, or insect life in any way. He may come there and see it unfold before his eyes, but no collecting or molesting is allowed. This is the great plan of the able Dr. F. C. Hoehne, of the Instituto de Botanica at Sao Paulo, whose sincere desire it is to preserve for posterity a complete rain forest in one of the most unusual situations in the world. Here is Brazil's greatest rainfall. It is at the high edge of the Serra do Mar mountains, which rise abruptly from sea level. The warm rain clouds from over the sea striking this cold mountain barrier produce almost continuous precipitation in the form of either rain or fog. This makes a perfect home for innumerable moisture-loving epiphytes.

A very comfortable guest house had recently been built here for the accommodation of observing scientists, and we were complimented by being the first guests to use it. This was one of our favorite "collecting" spots, where we collected only photographs and many an impression on the mind's eye of the luxuriant fantasies in myriad forms of plant life. Everything was doing its individual bit toward making this one of the natural beauty spots of Brazil.

We were also invited to be the first guests to use Dr. Hoehne's unique creation, a botanical truck. It was a giant Chevrolet, rebuilt so as to have sleeping quarters for six, with ample storage space for supplies, and, best of all, it had a heating "oven" where a huge press of fresh botanical material could be "cooked" until thoroughly dry. In this truck we experienced a truly delightful trip in the land of the decorative Pinheiro do Parana (Araucaria brasiliensis).

Villa Velha should be as well known in Brazil as the Painted Desert or the Bad Lands in North America, but so far few others than naturalists are aware of it. "Old City" it is called, because from a distance it resembles the skyline of an ancient abandoned city. It is a "rock continent in a sea" of vast rolling plains. Mother Nature has for centuries been slowly revealing this marvelous work in sandstone which stands now tranquil, dominant, in a turbulent sea of shifting sands. For miles we had rolled over treeless land to reach this "rock of ages." Only the time-carved monoliths had vegetation. They were covered with Arecastrum palms (Cocos plumosa) and Araucarias (the Parana "pine"), cacti, ferns, orchids, and bromeliads living in every crevice, hanging on with grim determination as though they would not give up until the rocks themselves disintegrate. Every narrow canyon, dark and damp, harbored bromeliads of the more delicate type, while above, braving wind, sun, cold, and heat, were the xerophytic ones. Villa Velha is a botanist's and geologist's paradise.


When you enjoy the sweet, juicy fruit of a pineapple, you are eating a bromeliad, Ananas comosus (sativus). When you sink into a soft, well-cushioned automobile seat, the filling responsible for your comfort may be a bromeliad, Tillandsia usneoides, or Spanish moss. In manner of growth these two represent the two extremes: the pineapple is strictly terrestrial, while the Spanish moss is wholly epiphytic, even going so far as to dispense with roots. Between these two extremes, bromeliads exhibit a great variety of plant characteristics.

It would not be difficult to surmise that these two forms might be the latest development, each in its own type of fruiting method—the appendaged-seed type (represented by the Spanish moss) and the berry-seed type (represented by the pineapple). The pineapple has had all its fruits fused into one big "berry." No other fruit-bearing type in this family has the individual berries that hold the seed more completely welded than in the pineapple fruit. On the other hand, the Spanish moss, with its appendaged seeds in a pod, grows with such a fusion of leaves in one continuous growth that there is no evidence of roots (which, I believe, have been absorbed) or of the usual maturing of individual plants, characteristics which probably make it the latest development in the appendaged-seed division. We might say that this "freak" of a plant is certainly the most modern, for it travels entirely by air.

The bromeliad flower pattern is formed in multiples of three. Its flowers generally are formed in spikes or racemes with brightly colored bracts. In the botanical descriptions of this family every flower has been said to be monoecious or perfect, even though in some of the Hechtias (of Mexico), the flowers of which have both stamens and pistils, only one of them functions.

An exception appeared during January 1942, when I observed that in several of the species of Cryptanthus the flowers were not monoecious, but dioecious, for there were separate male and female flowers in the same plant. (One of our Cryptanthus species, not yet determined, however, does have all perfect flowers.) This condition of separate sex flowers has apparently not been noted before, as there seems to be no record of it in literature.

Flowers throughout the family range in size from tiny, almost microscopic blossoms as in the giant Hohenbergia augusta, in which the minute stamens even hide the petals, to the large, lovely, blue-violet flowers 2 inches in diameter of the Tillandsia lindenii of Ecuador. Flowers that stay open for several days are the exception, but a stranger exception is the flower of a new and as yet unnamed Aechmea I found in Brazil that opens after midnight; 3 hours later the petals close and begin to dissolve into the sweet nectar already formed at the perianth. While each species has its more or less regular blooming period, I have by careful and persistent search found a great number of species blooming out of their "time" for some unknown reason.

Along with the variance in flower sizes goes a peculiar range of odors; the white flower of one of our new species (Vriesea hamata) smells like an onion, another (Vriesea vulpinoides), like a fox. Some have an exquisitely sweet perfume as in Tillandsia decomposita, or the fresh fragrance of a ripening apple as in the unopened buds of the new Vriesea racinae. When this flower opens, the fragrance disappears. The majority of bromeliad flowers, however, have little fragrance. While the flowers, it is agreed, generally produce the odor, in the case of Aechmea purpureo-rosea I have found that the entire inflorescence independent of the flowers has a "toilet soap" fragrance for weeks before and after the flowers are open, as well as during the blooming period.

The color of the flowers covers the entire range of the spectrum, but the predominant hue seems to be in the lavender to blue range, although white, yellow, green, and red are frequent. Most of the bromeliads are colorful during the blooming period but not always because of the flowers. Many species have small and inconspicuous flowers, but the colorful red bracts or leaves surrounding them will give the inflorescence the brilliant and dashing (display so much admired. In some species, for example, Cryptanthopsis navioides, the entire plant turns scarlet at blooming time, but as soon as the flowers have finished their mission the color of the leaves fades away and it becomes just another green plant.

One of the new Neoregelias that we found holds its blaze of color in the wide cup bracts for months, until after the seeds have matured. But some of the Nidulariums that so colorfully surround their lavender flowers with a rosette of bright red bracts give up that color after the last flower is gone.

The fundamental motif of plant form in this family is a whorl of leaves forming a rosette. In most of the terrestrial bromeliads the rosette form is obvious and resembles to a certain extent the familiar pineapple plant. In many of the epiphytes, of both the rosette and tubular form, the leaves are held so securely above the base that they become most efficient reservoirs and hold rain water constantly. In many of the Tillandsias the rosette form is close and the leaves are constricted and generally covered with tiny peltate scales which serve as "cups."

In the "style" of leaves there is great diversity in color and form, which makes so many of the bromeliads highly decorative plants even when not in bloom. Spots, horizontal and longitudinal stripes, zigzag mottling and plain green, spiny and perfectly smooth surfaces, are leaf characteristics which, together with a wide range of color from many shades of green and yellow to grays, reds, and maroons, combine to produce the bromeliads' bizarre beauty. Some leaves are coarse and stiff, others are delicately drooping and grasslike. Some leaves are so curled and dried up that they give little appearance of life. The half-inch leaves of Tillandsia tricholepis are indeed dwarfs in comparison to the 9-foot leaves of Streptocalyx floribunda.

Wide variation in the size of the bromeliad plants is well illustrated even within the genus Tillandsia by the tiny 1-inch Tillandsia loliacea and the huge Tillandsia grandis of Mexico which shoots a branched inflorescence 11 feet high.

Most of the bromeliads have roots, but in many species these no longer function as feeders. The ability to feed through the leaves is particularly emphasized in the epiphytic types. Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish moss) and Tillandsia decomposita thrive, although entirely lacking in so fundamental a part as roots. Tillandsia usneoides seems to merge the roots with the leaves, both in function and appearance. Tillandsia decomposita of Matto Grosso develops a few roots in infancy and then dispenses with them and matures with the leaves tenaciously curled around the twigs within its octopuslike grasp.

However, most epiphytic types retain enough roots to serve as a brace to hold the plant either in an upright position so as to catch the rainfall or in a downward position (as we found them in high, cold Mexican climates), so as not to hold the water which might freeze between the leaves. This method of clinging to trees has been the cause of the mistaken viewpoint that these epiphytes are parasitic. They actually take no substance from the trees to which they cling. They need only a position where they will get adequate aeration and where they will be able to catch the rainfall as well as the falling leaves from trees above, which decompose into a vegetable "tea" in the "cup" of water. This is the food taken in by the leaves, a process that eliminates the age-old plant habit of feeding through the roots. It may be conjectured that at the remote period when the first terrestrial bromeliads were developing, they encountered the choking, dark, overcrowded jungles. For survival they took to the trees, where they lost most of the feeder function of their roots.

Yet it is interesting to see how quickly the hold-fast roots of the epiphytes can be converted to function more as feeder roots. In a greenhouse the roots of a potted bromeliad function as feeders and become succulent, but when the plant is attached to a tree in the jungle the food comes from above, and the hard and wiry roots are used only for holding fast. Many of the bromeliads are undoubtedly versatile enough to get their food the easiest way, but the more highly epiphytic types have specialized to such an extent and gone so long without root feeders that they simply cannot stand "wet feet" or roots smothered in a heavy soil, for they promptly rot at the base.

Those epiphytic bromeliads which out in the jungle accumulate decayed vegetable matter in the center cups must have rain water to make the food soluble, and those bromeliads which have neither center cups nor feeder roots, such as many Tillandsias, also need rain to help assimilate their food from the dust particles of the air. But in the absence of rain, the dew collected daily in the peltate scales that cover their leaves enables them to live for months without rain, attached to a limb or the perpendicular side of a rock in full sun; thus they are true xerophytes.

Although Tillandsias such as T. usneoides and T. decomposita will certainly grow profusely without the aid of roots or any visible supply of food, the experiments that I have carried out and seen conducted have convinced me beyond any doubt that most of the bromeliads must have a source of food other than just air and rain. The plants will live for some time without proper nourishment if not exposed to too much sun, but they certainly will not thrive, especially if they are suspended from wires as was done in an experiment in Brazil to prove the theory that they need no food other than air and water. I have seen these plants there. They hang on wires and hooks, hundreds of them, and, yes, they were living—some of them—but they were gasping pitifully for existence and were dying one by one. The only happy ones were the exceptionally few types of Tillandsias that really can "do the impossible." Even pineapple plants were hung on wire, but I assure you that they would never bear fruit. Each plant had literally to live on itself, gradually getting smaller and finally drying up. It was a terrible test and, except for some of the orchids, I know of no other plants that could have held on so long.

In the field I have found isolated examples of "natural misplacement": pineapple plants and plants of Bromelia serra, both terrestrial, whose seeds undoubtedly were dropped by birds in the boots of a palm high off the ground. However, these plants were not happy, nor were they bearing fruit, but were gradually growing smaller.

That terrestrial bromeliads also tend to feed through the leaves has been shown by the commercial pineapple growers, who have found that fertilizer thrown into the base of the lower leaves is more readily taken up as nourishment and produces faster growth than where it is distributed only in the soil surrounding the plant. This is an illustration of the tendency of practically the entire family to be able to feed through the base of their leaves. However, I believe that the more primitive forms such as Puyas, Dyckias, and Encholiriums still feed mostly through their roots.

In trying to grow these interesting plants I have not learned of all the "food" they like, but I have learned certain things they do not like. They cannot tolerate the dripping of water from lime, copper, or galvanized iron. The drip from these will burn the leaves and any such burn often kills the plant in a short time. Even a small copper wire piercing a leaf will usually kill that leaf. While they have an amazing capability for going without apparent food and withstanding adverse conditions, in other respects they are much more fastidious. Any food given bromeliads must be acid, as alkalinity derived from water or from foreign substances is disastrous to them.

(To be continued).


It is probable that the average grower of bromeliads has not considered growing his bromeliads in terrariums, for they are adaptable plants when it conies to living in a home environment. There are two books which recently came to my attention, however, that might arouse interest in this type of culture.

First of all I heartily recommend Terrariums: The world of Nature under Glass by Glenn Lewis (Outdoor World, 1973, $5.95). A more beautiful book on this subject is difficult to imagine. In the more than 85 full-color photographs taken especially for this book, the beauty of the miniature world of the terrarium is presented as never before. Every flower, every plant can be seen in its full, natural glory. The author opens up new fields in creating gardens under glass, with chapters devoted to tiny wild gardens, to terrariums for children, and, of particular interest to the bromeliad grower, on bromeliads for the large terrarium. One has long associated only cryptanthus with terrariums, as other species were considered entirely too large. However, on page 89 of this book is pictured a glass enclosure in which driftwood, tillandsias, and a flowering billbergia are displayed in such an attractive manner that one is tempted to go out and purchase a similar glass container.

The book sets forth the basics in making a terrarium garden, tells how to select the proper plants for the various light levels, discusses various plants that are available for such culture, and lists sources where such plants may be obtained. But above all, the book is one of visual delight and will certainly inspire the plantsman to try his hand at this form of horticulture.

The other book is The Complete Book of Terrariums by Charles Marden Fitch, a member of this Society (Hawthorne Books, 1974, $8.95). This is an excellent "how-to" book and lives up to its title in being complete. It is a practical, illustrated guide to terrarium gardening, dealing with selection of plants, soil mixtures, containers, light arrangements, maintenance and watering needs, presented in an orderly, easy-to-follow manner. It has 100 black and white photographs and eight pages of color. The author recommends only two bromeliads for terrariums: cryptanthus and Tillandsia ionantha. This is a down-to-earth book that will benefit the novice.

For the person who would like to start a terrarium garden, I would suggest getting both books: one for its original ideas and inspiration, the other for its practicability.




Neoregelia olens

Neoregelia cruenta

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