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
PresidentElmer J. Lorenz, Calif.
1st V.P.Leonard Kent, M.D., Calif.
2nd V.P.W. R. Paylen, Calif.
Rec. Secy.Jeanne Woodbury, Calif.
Corres. Secy.Kathy Dorr, Calif.
Treas.Kelsey Williams, Calif.


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.

1975-1978: Jeanne Woodbury, George Anderson, Charles Wiley, Ervin Wurthmann, Victoria Padilla, Wilbur Wood, Thelma O'Reilly, David H. Benzing.


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.

Individual copies of the Journal, $1.50


Microscopy - Macroscopy
  Lawrence Mason, Jr.3
Starting a Bromeliad Collection
  Edward L. Sard8
Viva Mexico!
  Vern Magnuson11
The Bromeliad Collection at the Durban Botanic Gardens
  Ernest R. Thorp19
The Tillandsia Aspect in Austria and Germany
  George Kalmbacher22
Connoisseur's Corner26
Recent Vriesea Hybrids by Ervin Wurthmann27
Bromeliads as Florists' Items
  Bud Martin28
Regional Reflections31
Portea Petropolitana var. extensa44


A Feast of Bromeliads

Photo by Glenn Lewis, Los Angeles

Editor: Victoria Padilla

Editorial Board: Dr. R. W. Read, Identification; Dr. W. Rauh, Identification; Mrs. Kathy Dorr, Advertising; Elmer J. Lorenz, Index; Lawrence Mason, Jr., Science; Robert Burstrom, Regional; Edgar Smith, Regional.

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.

No material from this Journal may be reprinted without permission of the Editor.

Microscopy – Macroscopy 1


Part 1: Microscopic Miracles in Aechmea Division

I wonder how many members of The Bromeliad Society have ever seen the film "Cosmic Zoom". For those who haven't, permit me to describe it briefly. Within the span of eight minutes, this un-narrated, animated film takes the viewer from a scene of a boy paddling a row-boat on a river, all the way out to the most distant imaginable point in the universe. The viewer, in a few seconds, is then zapped all the way back to the boy in the boat. Next, the camera focuses in on a mosquito biting the boy's wrist. Continually focusing in, we see the cells of the boy's wrist, the blood cells being drawn into the mosquito, the hemoglobin chains in the red blood cells, the iron atom contained within hemoglobin, the electron orbitals of the iron atom, and finally the black nucleus. Again, in the space of a few seconds, the camera zaps all the way back out to the scene of the boy in a boat. The lesson to be learned is that man is the only animal capable of expanding his horizons beyond what he can see from where he stands.

Most of the articles in the Journal of the Bromeliad Society deal with one or a few plants in each. However, I would like to create a bit of cosmic zoom of my own, dealing with bromeliads, in the series of articles which begins in this issue. First we will zoom in on some of the microscopic events going on within the cells of your bromeliads. Next, our field of vision will snap outward for an analysis of the characteristics of entire populations. We will conclude by letting our camera glide back in on the world of viruses and the roles they do and don't play in bromeliad variegation.

From time to time, the action will stop to allow our narrator the chance to answer and/or comment on some of the speculations and observations previously reported by writers in the Journal.

Beware the acceleration forces!

Every characteristic a plant or animal possesses is coded for in the all-important genetic information stored within each of its cells. The genetic information is stored as extremely large, spiraling molecules called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The discovery of the physical structure of DNA was one of the most publicized and important events in the history of Biology. It led to the awarding of the Nobel Prize, in 1962, to Drs. J. Watson and F. Crick, and vaulted the field of Molecular Genetics to the fore-front of modern Biology.

The functional unit of DNA is called the gene. A gene is described as being a particular segment of DNA which is capable of being translated by the cell into a functional protein. The various proteins then produce the characteristics which an organism exhibits.

Clusters of genes are linked together in chromosomes. Human cells each contain 46 chromosomes, while common bacteria have only one. However, the number of chromosomes found in the cells of a particular organism should not be drawn as an indication of the level of development of that life form. If this were true, Billbergia vittata (72 chromosomes/cell) would be developed far beyond humans!

A knowledge of the organization of chromosomes within the cells of higher organisms is essential to the understanding of cell division events. I should add that as a molecular geneticist, I consider even the lowest plants and insects as higher organisms. Under ordinary circumstances, the cells that make up the bodies of plants and animals contain two copies of each particular chromosome which that plant needs to survive. For example, the cells of Acanthostachys strobilacea contain 25 functionally different chromosome types. Thus, the cells of the plant have two copies of each of these, or 50 chromosomes. These cells, having two copies of each chromosome, are called diploid.

On the other hand, the cells, or more accurately, the nuclei, involved in sexual reproduction each contain one copy of each functionally different chromosome. These are called haploid cells, or nuclei. Again using the example of Acanthostachys strobilacea, the haploid nuclei contain 25 chromosomes. The evolutionary significance of this is that when a pollen cell and an ovum fuse, two haploid nuclei fuse to form the normal diploid embryo. Another combination of nuclei join and produce the triploid endosperm which will provide the initial nourishment for the germinating seed.

You all know that if you provide your Neoregelia concentrica with water, humidity, light, and nutrients, it will grow, bloom and produce offshoots. But have you ever considered how the plant accomplishes these remarkable feats? The answer lies in a rather complicated, but understandable event called cell division. For the sake of simplicity in this explanation, let us create a mythical bromeliad called Aechmea division. This attractive plant has a diploid number of four, indicating that its cells each contain pairs of two different chromosome types.

It should be obvious by now that if a cell is to divide, its chromosomes must duplicate themselves beforehand so that the diploid number of four will be preserved after division. This process is called DNA replication and occurs during Interphase.

Fig. 1 Stages of mitotic cell division

The resting stage of a cell is called Interphase (Fig. 1A), but during this period the cell is hardly resting. It is hard at work making duplicate copies of its chromosomes, and carrying out all of the processes required of it. These include the assembly line type production of everything needed by the plant. During Interphase, the chromosomes are invisible to even very highly powered microscopes. All that can be seen is a darker area in the cell which is called the nucleus. This tiny membrane-bound area contains the chromosomes. Also in the nucleus is a small, dark object called the nucleolus. Its function, largely guessed at by scientists, is not critical to our discussion.

During Prophase (Fig 1B), the nuclear membrane dissolves and the individual chromosomes coil up so that they become easily visible to a low powered microscope. Also during Prophase, tiny muscle fibers, called spindle fibers, start to form. Their function later will be to pull the duplicated chromosomes apart. Figure 1B illustrates the two different chromosome types found in Aechmea division, existing in the normal diploid configuration.

In Metaphase (Fig. 1C) the duplicated chromosomes are organized in a line down the middle of the cell. The nuclear membrane is completely gone, and the spindle fibers are fully formed.

Anaphase (Fig. 1D) arrives when the spindle fibers start to pull the duplicated chromosomes apart, directing one member to each forming cell.

Finally, in Telophase (Fig. 1E), the cell plate starts forming between the two new cells. The spindle fibers dissolve now that their task has been accomplished. The chromosomes uncoil again and become invisible, and the nuclear membranes form again. At the end of Telophase, the plant is left with two identical cells where one once stood. Each of these cells then enters Interphase again (Fig. 1F).

The proliferation of this particular cell line proceeds longitudinally. Since the Bromeliaceae are monocotyledons, and the monocots have their leaf cells arranged parallel and longitudinal, it is easy to see how this lengthwise proliferation causes bromeliad leaves to grow longer.

What we have been discussing is the growth of cells directed by the genes. If the proper genes are turned on, cell division can occur. The reason why our Aechmea division produces only one offshoot is that the genes necessary for cell division and growth were only turned on in one bud. Also, the reason why a leaf doesn't push up through the potting mix growing from a root, is that a root cell knows it is a root cell. Only those genes needed by a root cell are turned on. However, the capability to do anything that the whole plant can do is coded for in every cell, no matter what it happens to be doing. Thus, in meristem propagation, an entire adult plant can be grown from a single cell.

You have now taken a peek into the microscopic world of chemical and physical reactions and events within cells. Prepare yourself, for in the next installment of series, we will examine the effects of mistakes in this miniature domain, on the evolution of bromeliads as a whole, and on individual species in various locations.

Syracuse University. New York


Darlington, C. D., and Wylie, A. P., Chromosomes Atlas of Flowering Plants, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London, 1955.

Keeton, William T., Biological Science, W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 1972.


1 Newly invented word meaning the opposite of microscopy

Starting a Bromeliad Collection


Long a most widely grown house plant in Western Europe, especially in Holland and Belgium, bromeliads are now gaining in popularity throughout the United States. This is readily understandable as few house plants are as decorative, even when not in bloom.

Many bromeliads will grow easily on a windowsill, while others are a bit fussy and require greenhouse conditions or an elaborate set-up for humidity to achieve good growing conditions.

The most commonly grown bromeliad is the pineapple. There are variegated pineapples (the genus is called ananas) that are simply breathtaking, but these are not recommended for a beginner's collection. For one thing, they occupy too much space; for another, they are very difficult to flower. There are over 2,000 species of bromeliads which constitute a distinct plant family, first discovered by Columbus when he brought back the pineapple to Europe.

Bromeliads are native to the western hemisphere in a variety of terrains and climates from Georgia to Argentina. Named in honor of Olaf Bromel, a seventeenth century Swedish botanist, the Bromeliaceae range in size from the tiny Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish Moss) to the giant 30-foot Puya raimondii that flowers once in 150 years. Most bromeliads are epiphytes (but not parasites), being able to anchor on to any type of host tree or shrub, or even telephone wires. Some bromeliads such as the pineapple or cryptanthus are terrestrials and some grow on rocks.

Light, humidity, air circulation, moisture and temperature are all important but not absolutely critical for the hardy varieties. A loose, porous non-soil potting mix with bark chips, peat, sand, vermiculite and some organic fertilizer will suffice. The main thing is to provide excellent drainage and not to over-water. Under normal conditions, if humidity is adequate, a once a week watering and monthly fertilizing with a reduced strength, low nitrogen fertilizer will produce thriving bromels.

One of the big advantages of bromeliads as houseplants is that they are relatively hardy. One can leave them unattended during a three-week vacation and not worry about a plant sitter. If conditions are too dry or a bromel is one of those finicky ones, wrapping the plant in plastic with the pot resting in a saucer filled with pebbles and water will, in effect, create greenhouse conditions for the plant while you are away.

On the assumption that everyone has a window sill with suitable exposure (all except north, unless it is high up) that will house eight average sized plants, what follows in one bromeliad enthusiast's recommended starter collection. Incidentally, bromels can be under-potted but should not in any case be over-potted. Most of them can be grown in a 3½ or 4-inch pot from offset to flower without transplanting.

Eight average sized plants will fit comfortably under a 2½-foot light fixture containing two 20-watt fluorescent tubes if your window sill is unavailable or a decorative accent in the bedroom or living room is desired. Some fluorescents such as Optimo or Vitalite by Duro Test, more closely approximate daylight spectrum than others, and get excellent results. If this type of light set-up is used, a galvanized or other water proof tray lined with pebbles or other moisture absorbing material for the production of humidity is essential. Plants can be propped up so that they are two or three inches from the lights thus assuring adequate light and stimulating good color and growth.

Tillandsias are excluded from this starter collection as most of the genus need to be grown epiphytically, a technique which the beginning indoor grower should defer until further experience is acquired.

Attractiveness as foliage plants, ease of cultivation, ability to adapt to apartment house conditions, length of flowering and variety of shape and appearance—all based on personal experience in growing some 400 bromels as house plants over some 20 years—have been the criteria used in selecting this eight plant starter collection.

Aechmea fasciata. This is deservedly the most popular bromeliad. It is native to Brazil and now has many varieties and hybrids. It is a beautiful urn-shaped, medium-sized plant, generally green alternating with bands of silver scales. The inflorescence is a striking pyramidal torch of pink bracts and blue flowers and can last 6 months or more in good color, with the flowers turning bright red after the petals fade. The plant is hardy, will take full sun indoors and is fairly prolific in offsets.

Vriesea splendens. Bold and exotic with black horizontal banding on a dark green background. The inflorescence is a "flaming sword" with orange bracts and yellow flowers. It is found in the high humidity rain forests, but I have had most success in keeping the mix on the dry side. It usually produces only one pup in the center, but can be grown from seed.

Neoregelia carolinae var. tricolor. An exceptionally attractive foliage plant of medium size. Its narrow leaves have white, rose and green longitudinal stripes in a variety of widths. Grown under good light it will be suffused with a red glow. When the plant begins to flower, the entire center half of the leaves turns a bright red which can last for 6 months. The flowers emerge from a pin-cushion down in the cup. There is a very attractive form with shorter, wider leaves whose taxonomic identification is in dispute. It has been called by some growers as N. meyendorfii variegata, but Dr. Lyman B. Smith has included this plant within N. carolinae var. tricolor.

Aechmea × 'Foster's Favorite Favorite.' This is a natural sport of A. × 'Foster's Favorite' found by Mulford Foster in his greenhouse 15 years ago. I happened to be visiting him at the time when he had only six of these plants (as they can only be raised from offsets, and witnessed Foster declining a truly fabulous offer from a European grower. 'Foster's Favorite' is itself a hybrid with shiny wine-red leaves in an upright, medium sized rosette, and a pendent inflorescence with red berries. 'Favorite favorite' has leaves spectacularly colored with stripes of bright red, green and cream. It is an expensive plant, but produces four or more offsets.

Billbergia × 'Fantasia.' This is a Foster hybrid with cream spotting and considerable color variation. As a foliage plant, it has few equals; its upright growth habit with minimal horizontal spread is a desirable trait for the indoor grower. The inflorescence is a typically brilliant billbergia type with red bracts, white frosted sepals and violet flowers. It is upright, not pendent, showing the influence of one of its parents, B. pyramidalis. The spectacle unfortunately lasts only 4 or 5 days, as with all billbergias. 'Fantasia' produces pups quite freely, even before flowering. It is easy to grow, but will color better under good light.

Aechmea miniata var. discolor. Of medium spread, the discolor leaves are green on top with dark-maroon undersides. The inflorescence shows a panicle of berries on branchlets with red fruit and blue flowers, lasting in color for many months. I find it to be the hardiest of all bromeliads—easiest to grow and flower (neglect will frequently induce flowering), and one of the most prolific puppers.

Billbergia × 'Catherine Wilson'. This is a compound hybrid that is unusually attractive for a small plant. It is green, white or cream blotched and suffused with red, and has a tendency to wave and recurve at the top of the leaves with good light. The inflorescence is blue and green with rose bracts but typically lasts only a short time.

Guzmania lingulata. There are many varieties of this soft-leaved denizen of the rain forest. The smaller ones make very attractive houseplants and, while they require more humidity than the rest of the starter collection, have the virtue of thriving under less light than most bromeliads. When the pale green leaves are dominated by the upright, broad-bracted orange to red inflorescence with white or yellow flowers, it is a real conversation piece for many months. G. lingulata varieties are easy to grow and generous in producing offsets.

All of the starter collection have the virtue of being not too big to handle as house plants and not too demanding in their cultural requirements. Most of them are relatively easy to obtain, and are even sold now by commercial florists. One word of caution. Once one is bitten with the "bromeliad bug", his collection cannot possibly stop at 8 plants, as there are so many others that are equally desirable.

New York

Viva Mexico!


Jack Roth all set to go.

(Begin the diary of two intrepid bromeliad collectors—Jack Roth and Vern Magnuson, of Hollywood, California—on a trip to western Mexico.)

Left Los Angeles on April 1, 1974, at approximately 6:45 a.m. in our brand new International Scout, which also included a 4 × 6 trailer to be used for storing the plants that we were to collect. However, on the way to the plant collecting, the trailer made an excellent place for storing our many essentials. As we planned to travel over the new Baja road to the extreme lower end—Cabo San Lucas—and not knowing exactly what to expect on the new road, we were loaded with supplies of every size and description—from a 5-gallon gas container to drinking water in 15-gallon containers, from sleeping bags to snake bite kit.

We took the free road from Tijuana, or Route #1, to Ensenada with our first scheduled evening to be spent in Bahia San Quintin. There were no roads sign per se that indicated the town of Bahia Quintin, but we were fortunate to stumble into the town. Our plan was to stop for the night at a lodge appropriately named Cielito Lindo. Upon arrival at this establishment the person in charge told us that the lodge was closed; however, after a rather lengthy and forceful urging on our part, we were allowed to stay—no lights, no hot water, but very clean. We were learning very quickly what to expect for the balance of the trip. The mileage from Los Angeles to Bahia de San Quintin is 343 miles.

Along the road in Baja.

We left San Quintin at 7:00 with the next stop to be El Rosario and Punta Baja. Arrived at Punta Baja approximately two hours later—the weather was very bad—rainy and cold. We collected several Euphorbia misera and several other interesting succulents. Our next stop was Guerrero Negro—not much of a trip as the weather was so bad; the area reminds one of the countryside between Los Angeles and Fresno. Arrived in Guerrero Negro at 5 p.m. and stayed at one of the new paradors, El Presidente; it was so new that we were one of the first customers. The atmosphere was relaxing and the lodging very good, but the food was lousy. The mileage from El Rosario to Guerrero Negro is 215 miles.

Up very early the next morning to go to Scammon's Lagoon, the "Whale Paradise" the great whale breeding site. On our way to the lagoon, it started raining very hard, and when we stopped for gas, talked with a fellow Californian who advised us not to bother to go to the lagoon, as the high winds and rain had all but closed the road, and according to this same person, it was too late in the year to see any breeding whales. Trip aborted for obvious reason.

Some 42 miles south of Guerrero Negro we spotted our first tillandsia—T. recurvata—such as it is. Collected one clump to compare it with larger specimens. Our next stop was San Ignacio, 96 miles south of Guerrero Negro, a very nice clean town with a spectacular old church and maintained very nicely. About was an abundance of palms—mostly date.

On to Santa Rosalia, but drove right through as it is an old mining town and not much to see plant wise. We are now on the Gulf side of Baja—the weather is warmer, cleaner, and more to our liking. Gassed in the town of Mulege and headed for Bahia Concepcion. The area about this bay is very green and lush, but no bromeliads. This place is apparently very popular with tourists, as there were many camping right on the beach. Also, there were several large hotel/motel complexes. Our next stop was Loreto, some 96 miles south of Mulege. It is a large town in comparison with the others we had passed. Stayed at a very nice motel—Oasis Motel, very clean and reasonable and right smack on the beach. It was only $26 for two including 2½ meals. We left Loreto at 6:00 a.m. and approximately 22 miles south of Loreto found our second clump of T. recurvata—this was at about 1,000 feet elevation as opposed to that of the first clump which was collected at sea level.

Arrived in La Paz later on in the day to find that it was siesta time, so we were not able to get any information about the ferry boat to the mainland. After waiting around we were finally informed that there was no room on the ferry that week and the first that we could take was not scheduled until the next weekend. Upsetting news to say the least. Undaunted we inquired at another location and were told that a special ferry would be crossing in 3 days—much better than waiting for a least 10 days.

Along the road in Morelia.

In the interim we decided to go fishing, so traveled on to Rancho Buena Vista, approximately 70 miles south of La Paz, considered a super place for fishing and accommodations. We managed to charter a very small fishing vessel and were successful in catching several "rooster tail" fish—a species of albacore, weighing 40 to 50 pounds each. Determined to go to the extreme tip of Baja, we traveled to Cabo San Lucas, stayed the night in a very nice motel, and departed the next morning early for La Paz and our scheduled ferry boat ride to the mainland of Mexico. We were shocked at the cost of two tickets for the fare and for the Scout and trailer which came to $144.00, but this included sleeping accommodations on board. The trip was pleasant and the food on board excellent.

Arrived in Mazatlan about 9 the next morning and took Route 15, which detours the city and headed directly south toward Puerto Vallarta. As we were eager to see and collect bromeliads, we took the first off road east of the city limits, the road to the city of Vanillio, and after a short time spotted several tillandsias. It was a great feeling to see so many close to the limits of a large city. We were able to identify T. schiedeana. T. recurvata, T. baileyi, and T. fasciculata.

Anxious to get to Manzanillo and farther south, we headed for Tepic. On the way spotted the ever present T. schiedeana and T. recurvata and Aechmea mexicana. We spent the night in Tepic and early the next morning set out for Puerto Vallarta. Approximately 20 miles outside of Puerto Vallarta, we collected T. flabellata, T. recurvata, T. schiedeana, and A. mexicana. Stayed one night in Puerto Vallarta and left early the next day for Manzanillo. This road was brand new and in excellent condition. The road is full of curves and goes from sea level to 3,000 feet. At the highest elevation, we saw thousands and thousands of tillandsias—never saw so many in one location before—a wonderful sight. We collected T. fasciculata—double and triple headed, T. schiedeana, T. flabellata—both the red and green form. Also, in evidence were many palms, notably erythea and chamaedorea. Continuing south we also saw T. leiboldiana, T. bulbosa, T. baileyi, and catopsis.

Arrived in Manzanillo later that day, the mileage from Puerto Vallarta being 163 miles. While in Manzanillo we stayed with the Worthmans, a very interesting American couple, who, incidentally wrote a book on the early days of Baja. Also visited the famous hotel, Las Hadas, owned by Patino, the Bolivian tin king. It probably is the most elegant hotel complex in the whole world. Spent the balance of the day cleaning plants and storing them in cardboard boxes that we had brought with us as good boxes are almost impossible to find in Mexico. I collected several small palm seedlings, which I placed in moist sphagnum moss.

The next morning we decided to head back toward Puerto Vallarta and explore more closely the bromeliads in that very lush area. Approximately 70 miles from Manzanillo we collected a very large variety of T. ionantha, T. circinnata, T. utriculata, and a lovely specimen that resembles both T. xerographica and T. fasciculata. It was brilliant red with a triple spike growing on low bushes in sandy moist ground. (This particular species was later to be classified as a new species and named after Jack Roth by Dr. Rauh of Heidelberg). The elevation was sea level and the only other tillandsias were T. flabellata and the small variety of T. ionantha. Continuing on we collected huge clumps of T. schiedeana, T. tricolor, and Aechmea bromeliifolia. There was a great deal of clearing and burning in the area, so I suspect that in a very short time this beautiful countryside will be all farm lands practically devoid of bromeliads.


I should add here that in all our collecting we utilize very light aluminum extension poles that have a three-pronged garden tool attached to the end. Length about 30 feet. We also utilize the old fashioned method of climbing when necessary.

Left Manzanillo on April 15 for Colima then to Zamora and on to Morelia. On that 313-mile journey we spotted T. plumosa, T. dugesii, and T. makoyana. The elevation was between 6 to 9,000 feet. A great many of the bromels were too high to collect or located on the edge of a very steep hill or cliff. Other tillandsias were also in abundance.

We stayed at the Posada Vista Bella in Morelia—not so good, and then headed for Lake Patscuaro, at an elevation of about 8,000 feet, but few, if any, bromels in evidence. We decided to take the old road or Route #120 toward Ario de Rosales. Between Ario de Rosales and the town of Nueva Italia, elevation 6,200 feet, we collected a soft-leafed tillandsia that had a beautiful ivory-white branched spike that produced a yellow flower. It was a perfectly beautiful plant, growing on tall oaks; unfortunately, not too many were in evidence. This proved to be a new species and Dr. Rauh indicated that it would be named shortly. At a lower elevation, approximately 4.500 to 5,000 feet, we collected a red, hard, drooping plant, which appeared to be T. prodigiosa. Spent the day in Uruapan, and the next morning cleaned and packed our newly acquired plants and then headed for Lake Chapala. Took Route #15, and on the way spotted T. tricolor, T. recurvata, and T. schiedeana, especially on the left bank of the lake. Our next stop was Guadalajara, where we stayed at a beautiful hotel, relaxed, and were finally able to get most of the accumulated dirt off our persons.

Our next destination was Aguascalientes, some 159 miles from Guadalajara via Route #54. The elevation on the way varied from 3,000 to 8,000 feet, with Aguascalientes being approximately 7,200 feet. Saw a number of tillandsias on the way, but nothing new. Accommodations were excellent at Motel Mediano. Then on to Zacatecas, a small mining community with much charm. Very few bromels on the way. Durango was next, over an area similar to the desert of Arizona.

At Durango we turned towards the gulf coast for Mazatlan via Route #40: the schedule mileage was 200 over some of the most beautiful countryside in all of Mexico. We crossed the Sierra Madre de Oriental/Occidental, the elevation in some areas being as high as 10,300 feet. En route we collected T. andrieuxii, T. makoyana, and T. plumosa, and at 7,000 feet found the large green-leafed T. prodigiosa. In Mazatlan, stayed at the Motel Flamingo, where we cleaned and packed newly acquired plants.

Between Mazatlan and Culiacan, on Route #15, we collected a tillandsia similar to T. schiedeana, the major difference being that the spike was drooping.

Our direction was now toward Los Angeles via Los Mochis, Guaymas, Hermosillo to Bahia Kino, where we unpacked all our plants, dipped them first in water, cleaned them, and then dipped them in Diazonon[sp?], dried them in the sun, and then packed them very carefully in the boxes we brought with us. Each box had several air holes so that the plants could "breathe."

We arrived at the agriculture inspection station in Nogales, Arizona, at 11:00 on a Sunday. As might be expected, everything was closed, so we had to unload all the 25 boxes of plants and store them in the inspection station and wait until the following morning. The inspectors checked every solitary plant, starting at 8:30 a.m. and finally finished at 4:00 p.m. In all the several thousand plants the inspectors found only two or three live insects, so they dipped approximately 12 plants.

Finally arrived back home, and as of this writing have managed to save approximately 95 percent of all plants collected. All are doing well and sending out a trillion pups.

Hollywood, California

The Bromeliad Collection at the Durban Botanic Gardens


Part of bromeliad planting showing Vriesea glutinosa

We learn from early records that the most important role played by these Botanic Gardens during the years 1850 to 1870 was the introduction of fruits and vegetables suitable for growing in our subtropical climate. Sometime during those two decades the pineapple was introduced eventually to become a major crop, although we had to wait for more than a century before any other members of the bromeliad family found their way into this country.

In 1962 a house was built in the Botanic Gardens for the purpose of displaying the fine collection of orchids which had been built up over the past 30 years. This structure is quite different from the conventional type of glasshouse seen all over the world because our subtropical climate called for a design that would give protection from high winds and rain but at the same time allow free movement of natural air. Three sides are constructed of brick, and the fourth is composed of open grille blocks and set into this wall are four 3-foot square open windows which allow for viewing when the gates are locked. The roof is of fiber glass. The displays have proved to be a great attraction to the public, who now number over two thousand a day on weekends and holidays. But all orchid growers know that for a month or so in mid-winter and again in mid-summer there are very few plants in flower. Something had to be found for the Display House which would make it interesting and colorful during these dull months.

At about this time a few bromeliads were finding their way into our collection, and it was soon realized that here was a group of plants that would associate well with the orchids and foliage material and at the same time create an impact that was there for twelve months of the year.

Plants and seeds were imported from California, Florida, Brazil, and Europe. Some experimenting was necessary regarding growing media and containers, but the most exciting occasion was the placing of large branches or even small trees into the orchid house. The weeping bottlebrush (Cullistemon viminalis) proved to be the most suitable tree, as it had a rough bark capable of holding moisture, good dramatic form, and the hard wood suggested long-lasting qualities. So we cut down suitable branches, stripped them of their leaves, and set the severed trunks in buckets of concrete. These were then strategically positioned in the naturalistic setting of the Display House, sunk down into the earth and carefully camouflaged at their bases.

Then began the most important task—that of establishing the different eco-types so that each plant would have the position best suited to it. Cryptanthus, neoregelias, and nidulariums were planted in the leafmold, in between the rocks and at the base of the trees. Billbergias, guzmanias, vrieseas, and some aechmeas were planted on the lower branches, where they would be shaded and enjoy a fairly humid climate. Tougher species were placed higher up on the trees until finally we reached the top branches where we attached the stiffer aechmeas and many of the sun loving tillandsias.

Within a couple of years we had another problem on our hands. Our enthusiasm had run away with us, and we now had many more plants than could be usefully displayed, as well as types that would not be happy in the atmosphere of the Display House. With those few years of growing experience behind us, we decided that time had come to take the plunge and create a bromeliad garden.

We selected an area where there were three small trees that would cast shade for those species requiring less light whilst the other received full sun. In fact, in this area of 60 square yards we had all the light conditions that our range of plants required. The ground was flat, which necessitated bringing in many cubic yards of soil with which to produce an undulating effect. From many miles inland we were able to obtain large quantities of attractive weathered rock, and these were used to create a naturalistic setting into which we could place our plants. When this construction work was complete, all the pockets and flat areas that were to contain bromeliads were covered with a six-inch layer of growing mixture consisting of 1 part wood shavings, 1 part dutch peat, and 1 part well rotted leaf mold. Then came the interesting part of placing the plants—a task which has continued ever since it began two years ago. In time it was learned that some of the more tender types would not tolerate the severe conditions whilst others grew bigger and better than we had thought possible. The garden is exposed to all the winds, which sometimes blow for several days, and because of this the plants on the higher branches of the trees have not survived. The reader may care to know that Durban is situated on latitude 29.5°.

There is an average rainfall of 36 inches and a mean minimum temperature of 50°F with summer highs never more than the high eighties. In the summer months between October through to April, the humidity fluctuates between 75 and 85.

In the short space of 5 years we have reached some conclusions about growing bromeliads in Durban: a greater air movement appears to make it possible for higher light intensities, followed by a more intensive feeding program, and consequently much lusher growth.

Durban, Republic of South Africa

The Tillandsia Aspect in Austria and Germany


Siegfried Seidl

Although tillandsias are subtropical in origin and New World natives, it is in cold Old World Germany and Austria that they are probably more prized as cultivated plants and acquired in greater number of species than almost anywhere else in the world. It should be noted that the preponderance of Germans as collectors and students of both bromeliads and cactus in Latin America makes access of these plants to their compatriots fairly simple. What helps support the abundance of bromeliads seen throughout Germany is their reasonable price. New large shopping centers offer them in great quantity.

For those avid collectors of tillandsias, there are several factors that greatly help in building up large collections. One is the small size of most tillandsias that enables the grower to pack them in a given space in much greater numbers than with any other group of house plants. It is practical to hang them, one above the other, so that in a given perpendicular space there may be half dozen or more. The net result can be several rows along which the collector can walk on either or both sides to attend and study his plants. These "perpendiculars" can be taken down in whole or part, since they are hooked detachably to some support above. Because they are so very light in weight shipping is cheap and easy. Packed with a minimum of proper care, they travel exceedingly well.

In warm countries where tillandsias grow, the day-length varies from a regular consistent 12-hour day throughout the year at the equator to greater variation in day length as one gets farther away from it. It is very interesting that tillandsias and other bromeliads should do so well in German latitudes, where, for instance, at Heidelberg, the shortest day of the year is about 8¼ hours long. The short days do affect the plants to some extent, but the very long days of summer more than make up for any setback of winter-restricted growth.

In October, 1974, I had the pleasure of visiting Siegfried Seidl, an Austrian glass manufacturer in Styr, Austria, who specializes in tillandsias, having the largest collection in that country. On the third floor of his factory he has remodeled a part of the building facing south into a large greenhouse. He gets to tend his area every day except Sunday.

The length of his house is about 37 feet, the width 19 feet. The outside edge is a series of windows sloping back upward at about a 45-degree angle to meet the ceiling about half way in. Although the back and sides are walled in, the whole of the solid interior is white to reflect the incoming light, thus bringing a good deal of extra light to the plants. The distance from floor to ceiling is about nine feet.

Many of the specimens are mounted on blocks of tree fern, a well-known product in the United States; others were attached to sections of the European grape-vine (Vitis viniferea). Strips of nylon stocking, cut about a quarter inch wide, were used for binding the plants to the supports. Rubber bands were also used, the plants getting established before the rubber disintegrated.

A very important fact in the welfare of the plants is Mr. Siedl's system of watering, resulting in high humidity. He gives them morning spray daily at seven o'clock, and an afternoon spraying at five o'clock. At noon, he waters his floors. At noon the relative humidity is about 60 percent: at night from 7 to 9 in the morning the humidity is about 80 percent.

Careful records are kept of his plants. Identification, where known, is on all the plants, and reference is included, tying up with cards on file. All this does not conduce to aesthetics particularly, but this is primarily a collector's greenhouse and is not for public admiration. There was not much in bloom at the time of my visit, but for those of us who have the feeling for the whites, the grays, the fuzzies, the silvers—that group of tillandsias that are heavily coated with scales and fuzz—Siegfried of Styr, Austria, has such an array of clumps and of stem kinds as to constitute a one-man show of signal merit. If you are ashamed to be caught drooling, I warn you not to see his greenhouse. His masterpieces are clustered specimens, full and glorious in exciting foliage condition—not of bold color nor rich patterns—but displaying the supreme artistry of nature in varying aspects of a gamut of grays, whites, and silvers.

From Mexico and Central America there were T. albida, a very generous clump of the richest gray foliage you ever saw bearing three rosettes with very long flower stalks: T. ionantha var. van hyningii with seven shoots and tapering gracefully arching leaves of rich, rich gray.

Tillandsia paleacea

From Peru came micans, a stout, thickly foliaged, branching stem with leaves densely felted in bright gray, and curving with a sweeping arch, becoming more sharply rounded toward the ends. There were ten dense sprouts of tectorum fastened to a length of grapevine to display a clever show of delicate fuzzy whiskeriness. There were two forms of paleacea, a species found along the western coast of South America. The large form was a long twisting stem with very arching leaves, stems and leaves coated densely in bright gray. The dwarf form was very different with a multitude of very small leaves twisting and matting into small curls and ringlets.

From Argentina came a number of very attractive species. T. diaguitensis was a specimen with slender stems reaching upward at different angles, some as branches of other branches. The very narrow long leaves spread outward, the leaves and the visible joints of the stems covered with a coat of silver. Meridionalis made a compact, well-foliaged group of rosettes, busy and low in habit. The leaves were stiff and whitish-silver. Aeranthos was a cluster of eight rosettes of densely set attractive slender, grass-like leaves, gray and free-swinging. Utica had remarkable densely-massed grayish foliage. The large clump might have had over fifteen rosettes, but the individual units had few leaves.

There was a T. capitata from Cuba, a squat rosette of medium-large leaves and a coppery-red center. Of the various ionantha forms, there was a brilliant red one called "Hazelnut."

Mr. Seidl was fortunate to have collected many of his specimens when he could get them from Dr. Oeser, now deceased, and Walter Richter in Germany, and Dorothea Muhr. Mrs. Muhr has given up her home in the province of Jujuy in Argentina and returned to Germany.

For my last day in Austria Mr. Seidl drove me to Linz for a day at the Botanical Garden, whose superintendent is Stefan Schatzl. My primary interest was the tillandsia collection, but since this commendable institution may not be well known, here are some of its interesting aspects. It is large enough to have a good collection of shrubs and trees, floral beds, ponds, etc. In separate greenhouses are various groups—next to the bromeliads, the extensive carnivorous plant collection intrigued me the most. This is another group of plants in which the Germans excel. Mr. Schatzl and his wife occupy a house on the grounds of the botanical garden, a not common arrangement for botanical gardens. It is inspiring to know that this manufacturing city of over 200,000 is willing to support such an extensive cultural institution, a financial willingness sometimes equaled in Germany but seldom in the United States.

Mr. Schatzl knows his bromeliads as well as all his other plants. He has his specimens attractively labeled so that the serious visitor gets the maximum of help with the least effort. A few of the interesting tillandsias on display were T. cacticola, a handsome clump of myosura, an attractive plagiotropica, with its leaves arching outwardly to form hemispherical units. Also of interest was T. werdermanniana, with long stout stems densely covered with long slender leaves, the whole plant presenting a lovely picture.

Connoisseur's Corner

Deuterocohnia schreiteri


Very few of the seven species that make up the genus Deuterocohnia are to be found in cultivation. The one pictured above is D. schreiteri, growing outdoors in the garden of Bill Paylen in southern California. It is hardy and drought resistant.

This species is native to northwestern Argentina, growing on rocks under adverse conditions at elevations from 3,000 to 8,000 feet. It is an attractive plant with spiny, scaly leaves reaching to 10 inches in length. When in flower it is approximately 2 feet high.

Deuterocohnias are interesting plants to be found growing in ring formations. Unlike other bromeliads the inflorescence is perennial, dropping old branches after flowering and producing new spikes from lateral buds.

Recent Vriesea Hybrids by Ervin Wurthmann


Vriesea 'Little Chief' — V. 'Morrenina'[sp.] × V. heterostachys rubra

Year of making cross—1963: first flowering—1968. This is a relatively small plant, needing no more than a 4-inch pot. It is notable for its attractive foliage which is quite glossy with purple undersides. A dependable bloomer.

Vriesea 'Lucky 13' — V. schwackeana × V. heterostachys rubra

Year of making cross—1963: first flowering—1970. So named, as it was Mr. Wurthmann's 13th attempted hybrid. This plant is considerably larger than the above. It also has attractive foliage, but does not have the gloss on the upper side of the leaves.

Vriesea 'Purple Cockatoo' — V. erythrodactylon × V. barilletii

Year of making cross—1967; first flowering—1971. Carries the coloration from V. erythrodactylon in the foliage. The inflorescence could be considered an intermediate of the two species. It is a relatively small plant, more free flowering than either parent. Flowers in March.

Vriesea 'Velva Wurthmann'—V. `Nana' × V. sintenisii

Year of making cross—1970; first flowering—1974. A stunning plant with many leaves, a good conformation and an upright branched inflorescence. A bit of the red of V. sintenisii flushes through the foliage in cooler weather. A medium sized plant. Mr. Wurthmann states that all his V. sintenisii hybrids are different and unusual.

Bromeliads as Florists' Items


Although I have worked in flower shops in the Northeastern United States since my early teens (the Northeast being an area where bromeliads are a frequently used house plant) it was not until I settled in Orlando, Florida, to open a shop of my own that I really became aware of the advantages bromeliads have to offer as both house plant and landscape subject. When my business became fairly well established I bought a home and eagerly began to landscape it using as many tropical plants as I could find. A nursery located just a few blocks from my home was the most logical place to begin looking for plants, and fortunately Miriam Crossley, the owner, is interested more in bromeliads than anything else she has for sale. One weekend at her nursery I noticed a clump of Neoregelia carolinae var. tricolor growing happily in a clay pot. I had never seen any "tricolors" and was fascinated by the intense red coloration throughout the center of each plant. I purchased it and several other bromeliads, rushed home and planted them, and then stood back, wondering why I had waited so long to incorporate bromeliads in my landscaping project.

Within the next few weeks I had purchased so many bromeliads it was indeed lucky for me that a greenhouse had been built on the back portion of my property by the previous owners, for it was now almost full of bromeliads I had found and liked but which were too tender to plant outside in Central Florida. And within what seemed like only a few months it became obvious that I needed to do something about the surplus bromeliads that were multiplying so rapidly in my yard. A sister and her husband in Ohio also own a flower shop, and it occurred to me that perhaps they might like some bromeliads, since they are both extremely interested in plants of all types. When they received my first shipment they called immediately... they were pleased to have the plants but did not want to keep them! Would I mind if they sold them in their shop instead? I was somewhat disappointed they did not want to begin a collection of their own but was happy they thought they had a market for the plants, and told them to sell whatever they wanted.

When my sister began selling bromeliads almost as quickly as I could furnish them, I felt perhaps I was overlooking one of the very best opportunities I had for "thinning out" my collection of plants and decided to try to sell some of my prettier bromeliads in my own shop. Starting with a few of the more colorful species and hybrids, such as Aechmea fasciata, Aechmea 'Foster's Favorite Favorite', Neoregelia carolinae var. tricolor and Neoregelia 'Fireball' we began to promote bromeliads as "the perfect houseplant" they are.

For the most part I was quite pleased with the favorable comments people made when viewing a bromeliad in full bloom for the first time, and even more pleased when customers began buying them as gifts for birthdays, anniversaries and hospital patients. Many people who had quantities of Billbergia pyramidalis or Neoregelia marmorata growing under oak trees in their yards felt any bromeliad was too common to give as a floral gift, no matter how colorful it was. But, over all, people responded favorably to the bromeliads.

It was about this same time that terrariums were making their big comeback. Having read many interesting articles in old issues of The Journal of the Bromeliad Society dealing with cryptanthus and their affinity for an atmosphere high in moisture, we decided to make all of our terrariums with as many cryptanthus as possible. And with the wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors this genus has to offer, it was no problem making terrariums with only one type of plant instead of several. We soon found that the cryptanthus terrariums held up much longer than those planted with ferns, succulents and other miniature plants—an extra bonus that has been greatly appreciated by our customers.

By now all of us in the shop were looking for different ways to use bromeliads either with, or in place of, the foliage plants we carry. And the uses we have found are many! We discovered small cryptanthus and ferns were perfect companions when planted together in shells, and they became a very popular item when a gift for a man was being purchased. We substituted cryptanthus for the more traditional plants used in strawberry jars with equally pleasing results. We began replacing the occasional wilted or sick plant in dish gardens with young bromeliad offsets of "small scale" bromeliads in bloom, and I believe this has been the area in which bromeliads have served us best. They blend their subtle beauty with other plants so well, transplant into the small containers quite easily, and are far more durable than most of their companions under average conditions found in the home.

We frequently receive orders for cut anthurium or bird-of-paradise, and usually the customer prefers some type of exotic foliage to be used with such flowers instead of the ferns all florists normally have for cut bouquets. We have found the foliage from bromeliads such as Neoregelia 'Marcon', Neoregelia marmorata hybrid and Billbergia amoena var. rubra is perfect for use with these flowers in arrangements. Occasionally someone will request a bouquet with nothing but exotic flowers and foliage, and when our bromeliads will cooperate, we make these arrangements combining both bromeliad foliage and inflorescences. We feel the end product is one of the most unusual things we make.

Creative new methods of utilizing bromeliads is an active goal in our shop. Dried arrangements have been popular again for several years now, and it suddenly occurred to us that the inflorescences of bromeliads might be as spectacular in dried bouquets as they are in fresh arrangements. So we have begun experimenting with various methods of preserving bromeliad blossoms with this in mind. An article and accompanying photograph by Racine Foster in a 1953 issue (Vol. 3, number 6) of the Bulletin of the Bromeliad Society showing fresh flowers in a "living vase" bromeliad has prompted us to search for new ways to feature this treatment of plants and flowers in a salable way in our shop.

On and on our search continues... we draw from both the documented past and our present imaginations for ways to make people more aware of the infinite number of ways they may enjoy bromeliads. And yet we are constantly reminded of how little we can improve on a good thing when someone walks in our shop, admires one single bromeliad specimen in a clay pot and remarks how unique and beautiful it is!

Orlando, Florida

There are now affiliates located in many of the large cities scattered throughout the United States and there are several in Australia and New Zealand. For the name of the affiliates nearest you or if you would like to form an affiliated group, write to:

Mrs. Thelma O'Reilly
10942 Sunray Place
La Mesa, California 92041

Regional Reflections

Problems relating to the growing of bromeliads are as diverse as the many geographic areas that comprise the United States. "Regional Reflections" is an attempt to break down the different climatic conditions that prevail in this country and to set forth cultural suggestions for each section. Not all areas will be included in each issue, but every effort will be made to cover the entire spectrum of bromeliad culture in this country as often as possible. Members are urged to assist us by sending pertinent information to Mrs. Kathy Dorr, 6153 Hayter Ave., Lakewood, California 90712.


My annual warning about the deleterious effects of an over-heated, arid home environment on health for people and plants will be readily acknowledged by apartment dwellers as true—but they rarely will do anything to correct the situation. (Privately owned homes are generally not as overheated, since it is the user who pays the fuel bills, but many still want for adequate humidity in the wintertime.)

It is desirable to maintain a 40 to 60 percent relative humidity in your apartment at all times. You and your family as well as your plants will thrive and luxuriate with adequate humidity; constantly moisturized mucous membranes will produce more comfortable breathing, sounder sleep, and far fewer respiratory infections. Your skin tone will be enhanced and the joints of your furniture will stay glued—and your bromeliads will glow in happiness.

When the very cold weather arrives, the outside relative humidity drops sharply because the cold air can't hold much moisture. If your radiators or hot air convectors are kept on during this time, the heat will further dry up what little humidity is left in the air. In such circumstances it is not unusual to find apartments with temperatures of 72 degrees or higher and humidities of 15 percent of less. What can you do about it?

  1. Buy an indoor thermometer and a good hygrostat to measure humidity.

  2. Keep your heat down to a minimum. The daytime temperatures of your apartment should be kept at about 68 degrees—certainly no more than 70 degrees. Under average winter temperatures, a well-insulated apartment can be comfortably maintained with the radiator valves off, or just barely on or the blowers of your convectors on "Off." The hot pipes leading into your heating apparatus will usually provide enough heat.

  3. If your window frames have air spaces, they can be insulated with rubber stripping.

  4. When the temperature gets very cold, reach for a light sweater before you turn up the heat.

  5. Invest in a good, cold-water humidifier. Prices range from $65 to $100 and the cost will be amply returned to you in the improved health of your family and plants. My 10-gallon Oasis humidifier has been running silently and efficiently for over 10 years with only a $4 foam pad replacement needed thus far. It keeps my 6½ room apartment at a 60 percent relative humidity the year round.

  6. If you are unable to buy a humidifier, increase the humidity by using a pebble tray or other such device.

Bromeliads are extremely hardy, adaptable plants and they will survive even in a dry apartment, but why grow plants just to survive? In an arid atmosphere a once-a-day spraying is almost a futile gesture, since the spray evaporates faster than it can be absorbed. Give your bromels high, constant humidity and you'll quickly see the difference.

Herbert Plever, 30 Vesey St., New York. N. Y. 10007


Growing bromeliads during the winter months in Central Florida can be a challenge. The most exasperating problem is caused by mild winters which lull the bromeliad grower into planting more and more varieties outside. Then, BANG! a cold winter comes along and damages unprotected, tender specimens—sometimes fatally. Through the years, nature's cold has taken the lives of countless bromeliads—so beware.

Caring for the outdoor bromeliad garden during the winter is really not a difficult task. Cool temperatures normally last from approximately November through February. If hardier varieties are planted outside, then little effort need be spent protecting them on cold nights. However, if extra protection from possible frost is necessary, the plants can be covered with any of the following items: cardboard boxes, newspaper, paper bags, canvas, sheets or bedspreads. These will help hold in ground heat around the plants. It is best to avoid direct contact between the covering and the plants. Covering with plastic is NOT recommended because it is inefficient and can cause leaves that are touching the plastic to be more readily damaged by the cold. Coverings should be applied late in the afternoon after the sun is off the plants and must be removed in the morning before heat builds up inside like an oven.

Changes in light can also cause problems at this time of the year. Central Florida's winter sun is weaker than its intense summer sun, the angle of the sun's rays is different and the days are shorter. Plants may need to be moved to a different location. Winter light can also be changed quite dramatically by trees losing their leaves. This can cause a lot of damage to nearby bromeliads.

Moving bromeliads around can get frustrating. Many Florida gardeners have discovered that it is much easier to "plant" a potted specimen directly in the ground without removing the pot. The bromeliads look like they are happily growing in the ground, but best of all, they can easily be removed if cold threatens or light changes.

Many bromeliad collectors in Central Florida have a hobby greenhouse. Since snow is not a worry, plastic-covered ventilated structures are popular. Heaters are prepared for nights when the temperature drops low enough to endanger certain choice specimens. The heat should never be allowed to blow directly on the plants. During the winter it is best to stop supplemental fertilizing and if possible, watering should be scheduled early so that plants have a chance to dry out before a cold night. Frequent watering will normally NOT be necessary, unless heating has caused excessive dryness.

During the winter, patios and greenhouses usually get overcrowded in a hurry. If air circulation around the plants is not adequate, insects and diseases can spread quickly from plant to plant. Regular applications of insecticide and fungicide are especially recommended. The chilly air makes working indoors a treat so it's a good time to weed, remove old bromeliad leaves, "groom" specimens and tidy up growing areas.

Actually winter bromeliad culture in Central Florida is not drastically different from the rest of the year. There are many rewards to be obtained from taking a few basic precautions. It is also wise to remember that these cultural practices are NOT unique and certainly can apply to other parts of the world.

Eloise Beach, 1215 - 43rd St., Orlando, Florida 32809


Texas is many things to many people. Some even believe it is just a state of mind. But whatever it is, Texas is a land of contrasts — contrasts both geographically and climatically. These differences naturally cause some variations in bromeliad culture within the state. But except for a small area along the very bottom of Texas (and that is not always a "sure thing"), tropical plants must have winter protection. So in Texas, to the grower of exotic plants, the coming of winter is a time to be respected and a time to be reckoned with.

The six bromeliad societies in Texas are located in all climatic areas except the most frigid and the most arid. The Dallas-Ft. Worth vicinity is the most northern of society areas, thereby normally experiencing the coldest winter temperatures. Austin and San Antonio are located two to three hundred miles farther south while Houston and the Beaumont-Orange-Port Arthur area near the Gulf of Mexico, are warmer and much more humid. Coastal Corpus Christi is the most southern and theoretically warmest in winter.

But even in the Corpus Christi area, bromeliads must be given some winter protection. Unfortunately, in Texas, we are not able to use our bromeliads in permanent landscaping as they must be moved inside, usually to heated "greenhouses" of various construction or into our homes. This of course causes a change in culture as moving from the outdoors cuts down on the amount of light, humidity and air which our bromeliads receive. We are helped, however, by an abundance of sunny days throughout the year in Texas. True, there are gray days of winter but they are not usually prolonged. But even in spite of our bright sunlight, our plants do suffer some color loss when moved indoors. On a whole, I believe, we Texans tend to grow our bromeliads drier during the cooler months than during our warm weather.

It would be difficult for me, a prairie dweller, to say how growers in the more southern and humid areas treat their plants during the cold days of winter. I would welcome any comments which they feel are vital in their winter culture. In the Dallas-Ft. Worth area our "freezing" period lasts from Nov. 15th to Mar. 15th. But any bromeliad grower would be a fool to trust this schedule. Of course during this period, there are many days—sometimes weeks— of beautiful warm weather during which bromeliads could thrive outdoors. But all of Texas is subject to the drastic frigid blasts of "blue northers" which seem to race directly from the North Pole across our state with only a barbed wire fence to stop their advance. These northers can plunge the temperature many degrees in just a matter of minutes and a warm "summer" day can quickly become an icy day of winter.

In our cities, many bromeliad growers live in apartments and must grow their plants indoors throughout the year. They employ all sorts of light from our abundant natural light to various types of artificial lighting. In this respect, we could learn much from the bromeliad growers of New York who have met and coped so successfully with the problem of indoor growing.

So you see that even though Texans live in a state that is blessed with a wide range of climatic and geographic differences, we still must face up to winterizing our bromeliads and in many cases "live with" them till that warm Texas spring sunshine lures our bromeliads bake to the comforts of all outdoor.

Edgar Lee Smith. 4415 Vandelia St., Dallas. Texas 75219


Within the span of a comparatively few miles, there is a great difference in the climate of Southern California, going from the hot, dry San Fernando Valley to the cool moist sea coast area, or, as the local newscaster says, "from the desert to the sea".

This makes it very difficult to be specific as to winter culture for Southern California. Some areas, such as the Valley, as well as San Diego, drop well into the low 30°'s and high 20°'s, causing frost damage to plants that can remain outside with no damage in the Long Beach or Santa Monica areas. The Orange County area needs more protection the year round—from heat in summer as well as the winter cold.

As winter is the rainy season, there is also the problem of too much water at times, as well as being cold. This can create further problems in some of the plants. In their native habitat the rainy season is with warm weather.

The coldest weather is usually from December through February. The hardier varieties will normally survive outside with only a minimum of protection on the very coldest nights. A "rule of thumb" that works well is to check the temperature at 10:00 P.M. and figure it will drop 10° more before morning. If it appears the temperature is going to drop too low, then it is time to get out the newspapers, cardboard, or old sheets and to cover the plants for the remainder of the night, removing the coverings in the morning. If possible, it would be wise to drain the water from the plants before covering. Do not use plastic for covering the plants. It can cause burned leaves from the frost and does not protect nearly as well as the aforementioned materials.

It is not necessary to water as frequently in winter as in summer and fertilizing can be stopped—at least cut down on the amount of nitrogen given and have longer intervals between fertilizing.

The more tender bromeliads that have spent the summer outside should be moved into the greenhouse or in the home for winter. This sometimes leads to overcrowding the plants. As you move the plants, this is a good time to remove all the old leaves and groom the plant, as well as check it for scale or disease of any kind. This will help to keep from spreading anything while they are living under crowded conditions, as well as making them more attractive.

The light is not so intense in the winter months and you will find color fading in some of the plants. If they can be moved to where they will receive more hours of direct light, this sometimes helps.

The problems of growing bromeliads in winter in Southern California are few and minor in comparison to the wealth of beauty and enjoyment the plants provide.

Kathy Dorr, 6153 Hayter Ave., Lakewood, Calif. 90712

Portea Petropolitana var. extensa

growing in the Hawaiian garden of W. W. G. Moir

Send comments, corrections and suggestions to:
© 1951-2012 Bromeliad Society International, All Rights Reserved.
All images copyrighted BSI.