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

MAY—JUNE, 1976

Tillandsia Usneoides
  Sue Gardner91
Julien Marnier Lapostolle
  Victoria Padilla93
Microscopy — Macroscopy
  Lawrence Mason, Jr.95
Regional Reflections99
Alto! Alto!
  Victoria Padilla104
Connoisseur's Corner132


Tillandsia fasciculata from Guatemala
Photo by Jules Padilla

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.

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.

Tillandsia usneoides — roots on a rootless bromeliad



It is generally accepted that Tillandsia usneoides, "Spanish Moss", is a rootless bromeliad as stated in "Some Remarks on the Water Supply of Bromeliads" Werner Rauh, Rainer Schill, Nesta Ehler and Wilhelm Barthlott - Journal of the Bromeliad Society - Vol. XXIII - No. 3.

Growing in long tangled masses, the thin twisting leaves and continuously elongating stems intertwine with each other and with tree twigs to hold the plant in place. This makes roots unnecessary for anchorage, and the long feathery trichomes adequately absorb moisture and nutrients, eliminating the need for roots to serve this purpose. Roots are reported to be present only in the juvenile stage, holding the plants in place until the tangling effect of the leaves and stems takes over.

We have recently observed that roots may also be formed under another set of circumstances. A long skein of T. usneoides which had been used in a bromeliad show display was in poor condition when the show was over. This plant was then draped over a long slab of tree-fern fiber on which miniature bromeliads and orchids grew and then hung in a shaded nook of the saran covered growing area, out of strong wind and left to recuperate. After just over a year, the plant had regained its vigor and was a beautiful silver color again. While admiring the marvelous recovery it had made, we noticed that there were some roots forming. Closer observation revealed that there were many areas over the entire mass of plant where roots had formed. These were areas where sections of the plant had died and the portion just below had produced roots on the upper end of the living part, probably in an effort to establish the plant's hold on its position should the hair-like skeleton of the dead portion, which is now holding the plant, break. Examination of other tresses of this tillandsia showed some examples of this phenomenon, but to a lesser degree. In each case where roots were found, the stem above the roots had died and was present only in the thread-like skeleton giving the plant below a precarious hold on its position.

Corpus Christi, Texas

BROMELIADS IN DRY ARRANGEMENTS — The dry blooms or seed stalks of many bromeliads may be used in dry arrangements. Hechtias and porteas are especially good; they last almost forever. I have used Aechmea distichantha, A. cylindrata, Billbergia pyramidalis, and various tillandsia stalks.

Roberto Burle-Marx, of Brazil, made a large handsome hanging arrangement, using Spanish Moss, Ball Moss, and Kalanchoes to cover a chandelier in the center of a roof-covered picnic terrace at his home.

I saw a striking Christmas tree in the white marble, bright green carpeted lobby of the Maya Hotel in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. A wire framework of Spanish Moss had clumps of brilliant red blooming tillandsias tucked into it; then it was sprinkled with confetti. I believe the plants were T. ponderosa and T. punctulata. Afterwards I saw them for sale in the market, but they were too dried up to buy. The ones used on the tree were fresh.

Glenna Simmons, Florida

Julien Marnier Lapostolle

Ave, Atque, Vale

It was with a feeling of deep sorrow and great loss that we learned of the death on February 18 of Julien Marnier-Lapostolle — honorary trustee of this society, gentleman, friend, horticulturist, and plant collector extraordinary. The foremost private grower of bromeliads and cacti and other succulents, his death will leave a void in horticultural circles around the world, for his contacts were many. His beautiful estate, "Les Cedres," once the summer palace of the late King Leopold of Belgium and situated on Cap-Ferat on the Cote d'Azur, has been for years one of the great horticultural establishments of the world and for decades the mecca of plant lovers.

Heir to a large fortune as well as being a highly successful businessman, M. Marnier-Lapostolle, unlike most persons of his class, took advantage of his wealth to create a garden that for rarity of the materials had no equal. His overwhelming interest lay in his plants, and he spared no effort in his quest for unusual and beautiful kinds. He himself personally supervised his gardening staff of thirty well-trained men, and he knew and could talk about each plant in his large estate which covered many acres. He seemed to take a special pleasure in showing off his garden, and at all times was the enthusiastic gardener.

Great plantsmen, especially those who are able to maintain huge gardens, are rare in any age, and today, with its emphasis on the material and practical, are a unique breed indeed. M. Marnier-Lapostolle was one of these, and one wonders whether there will be anyone to take his place. Probably not. As the poet said, "The old order changeth....."

"Bromeliads 1776 to 1976" was the theme of the exhibit of the Bromeliad Society of South Florida at the Bicentennial International Flower Show held in Miami Beach this May. The exhibit was an island 30 to 60 feet and featured were plants of Guzmania lingulata. This plant was chosen, as according to botanist William Alton, Guzmania lingulata was introduced in 1776 in the Royal Botanic Gardens, at Kew, England — making it a true bicentennial bromeliad.

Microscopy — Macroscopy


Part 2: View From a Distant Sphere

Now that we have had several months to absorb the view of bromeliads through the microscope, let's turn our attention to the macroscope. A macroscope (the opposite of a microscope and still not invented) is extremely useful to our study of bromeliads, for looking through it we can condense entire species down into terms we can easily discuss.

When Aristotle, in the fourth century B.C., described the Universe as being made up of transparent, glass-like spheres which revolved within each other, he laid down the theory of the Universe which lasted for a considerable period of time. Modern-day science, of course, has buried this theory in the ancient Greek ruins. If it were true, our Apollo spacecrafts would be impinged on a giant transparent dartboard near the moon. Perhaps Aristotle's spheres do exist in our minds, rather than physically. For example, the Milky Way Galaxy is part of the sphere of the Universe. Our solar system is part of the sphere of the Milky Way Galaxy. The Earth exists in the sphere of the solar system. Parts of the Earth sphere are the American continents, and part of these is the bromeliad family. The bromeliad family provides a sphere for a large and diverse population of organisms that live out their life dramas within the water cups.

My point is that bromeliads are an integral part of our Universe...change the Universe, and you change bromeliads. In truth, the Universe is changing, and so are the broms. We must not get the opinion that the plants we collect have always been and will always be the same. Rather, we are viewing them in a very minute slice in time.

Bromeliads have adapted themselves so well to the ecosystems in which they live that when I show a typical aechmea to my college biology classes, the students are able to work backwards to discover what type of ecosystem the plant came from. It seems fair to say that bromeliad enthusiasts grow these plants for at least two reasons. First, the bromeliads are extremely attractive plants, and second, we all admire the adaptive advantages that they possess.

We can consider every newly-created variety or species of bromeliad as an unconscious attempt by the plants to produce offspring which are better adapted to their surroundings. Give hundreds of years, uninterrupted by the intervention of the bromeliad collector, most of these attempts would end in failure. The chances of a favorable change occurring are very small, but extremely important. For bromeliads to survive, they must continually produce new models; essentially re-design themselves, so that one of the experiments will be better able to survive the environmental changes which constantly occur in the world.

W. W. G. Moir (Vol. XXIII #2) refers to those bromels which possess white stripes resulting from a loss of chlorophyll as "weaklings". He goes on to mention that they are more difficult to maintain than un-variegated plants. In this, he is undoubtedly correct. These plants have a more reduced photosynthetic capability than their parents. This is an example of those plant experiments which would probably fail without the intervention of the bromeliad collectors. But what about the new varieties that do succeed? How did they originate?

The method that most growers are associated with is hybridization. In hybridization, the ovum cells of one plant are fertilized with the pollen cells of a plant of a different species. The seeds that form are then grown to maturity. The plants grown from these seeds will have varied characteristics due to the random association of chromosome pairs (and the coded characteristics they contain) from the two parents. A good description of this type of work may be found in Bernard Stoner's article, "A Note On Hybrids", which appeared in Vol. XXIV #3 of the Journal. This hybridization process goes on not only in the hands of a bromeliad collector, but also in nature. Here, the resultant seedlings grow, and many die, because they are not well adapted for the surrounding conditions. However, every now and then a seedling is better adapted to the environment than either of its parents. This plant, by that familiar law of survival of the fittest, thrives and the forces of nature have performed a successful cross. It should be mentioned that the characteristics that the hybridist and nature look for are undoubtedly different. Nature is only concerned with producing a hardy species, one that will complete its main life-function, to reproduce. While the hybridist, exemplified by Mr. Stoner, is looking for more color in the flowers or a longer lasting inflorescence. Through this procedure, the bromeliad breeders are creating many more variations, in a shorter period of time, than nature does.

Hybridization is a relatively rapid means of creating new bromeliads. Therefore, it benefits the bromeliad enthusiast who can't wait out the millennia for some of the naturally occurring new variations characteristic of evolution. Ironically, the most crucial variations are the gradual ones which allow individual species of bromeliads to evolve and change. We will never see the surprises nature has in store for the bromeliads in the future, but they will insure the continued existence of bromeliads or some descendant of them.

Allopatric speciation occurs when individual members of a species become geographically isolated from each other so that cross-breeding between them can no longer occur. This type of speciation is slow. In fact it is so slow that it moves at about the same pace as changes in the Earth, i.e.: the Universe. Our life patterns are simply too fast for us to notice the changes that are taking place. Over the course of many years, three main factors: different environments, mutations, and gene frequencies, combine to cause the separated members to evolve in different directions. Later, the two groups of plants may have qualities widely different enough from each other to call them separate species.

The practical result of these three factors is that if I kept interbreeding the Neoregelia chlorostictas I am growing as house plants in Syracuse, N.Y. (these plants are absolutely geographically isolated from other Neoregelia chlorostictas) the following sequence of events would happen. First, my plants would evolve sufficiently to warrant a variety name. In a few hundred years, my colony could no longer be classified as Neoregelia chlorosticta, and would deserve a totally different species name. Possibly several hundred years later, they would no longer even be Neoregelias.

With bromeliad growers now in every corner of the world, there is a great deal more geographic isolation between plants. There must also be an incredibly increased amount of allopatric speciation going on now than before the intervention of bromeliad growers into the workings of nature.

By now, you probably have the impression that the bromeliads happily go through their lives gradually changing to fit nature's slow changes. Actually, this is only partially correct. Occasionally environments change in rapid bursts. Having offered the challenge, nature says 'The die is cast, let the chromosomes fall where they may, and may the best plant win'. In such a situation, the mechanisms of allopatric speciation work much too slowly to help the plants. Natural hybridization may produce some well adapted new species, but can't preserve the parental species. Only sympatric speciation is left as the plants' salvation.

The special mutation involved in sympatric speciation is called polyploidy. The polyploid plants are characterized as having a higher chromosome number per cell than the parent plant. This characteristic alone is technically enough to make the parent (normal) and offspring (polyploid) plants different species. In addition though, the polyploid plant is usually a more vigorous grower with larger flowers and greater reproductive and survival potentials. Generally, they are much better adapted to rapidly changing environmental conditions than the normal, diploid plants. The polyploids often take over their own habitat and also invade new habitats.

Polyploidy is caused by a non-separation of some or all of the chromosomes in a cell division event. The resultant cell has more chromosomes than the cells of the parent plant. This cell may then go on dividing normally, and a polyploid individual will arise.

The non-disjunction of chromosomes may occur during the production of pollen or ovum cells, or during the germination of seeds. It can arise in the cells giving birth to an offshoot, or even in the cells giving rise to the inflorescence which would then automatically produce polyploid sex cells.

A chemical called colchicine has been found which has the interesting property of inducing polyploidy in plants treated with it. The mode of action of colchicine is to allow DNA replication, and therefore chromosome duplication, but not actual cell division. Thus, multiple copies of chromosomes develop in treated cells until either the colchicine is removed or the plant dies.

With my interest in bromeliads, and a laboratory fully equipped to handle this type of work, I recently set out to try to artificially induce some polyploid bromeliads using colchicine. Seeds of Aechmea fasciata and Vriesea hieroglyphica were sown on top of a mixture of chopped tree-fern, perlite, peat moss, and potting soil. One set of each type of seed was watered, enclosed in plastic bags, and set in a warm place to start normal germination. The other set of each type of seed was treated in exactly the same way as the control set except that these experimentals had 0.1 ml of a 0.5% colchicine solution dropped on each seed at three-day intervals for three treatments.

Colchicine is very light sensitive, and because the treated and untreated seeds were left in good light, it is assumed that the colchicine remained active for a short time after application.

Vriesea seed germination was about 25% in both the treated and untreated sets; however, the final application of colchicine killed the developing treated seedlings. The controls are still growing normally.

However, Aechmea fasciata germinated at about 100% rate in both samples. The final colchicine treatment killed only about half of the set of treated aechmea seeds.

As we are all aware, bromeliad seedlings develop very slowly. At the time of this writing I do have an interesting initial observation which I can report. The untreated Aechmea fasciata seeds have gone through a period of normal development. They started producing tiny leaves as they grew, began to form small cups. The experimental seedlings first produced a rather odd-looking tiny bowl-shaped cup. Later, the first leaves sprang up from within the small tanks and are now growing.

I don't want to leave you with the impression that mutations are produced in response to environmental changes. Actually, they are constantly being produced and put to the test of survival. Harmful mutants are discarded, while favorable mutations are incorporated into the gene pool of the population. I have carefully saved one class for last. That is the group of mutations which have no apparent harmful or favorable characteristics. These are perhaps the most important for they spell out the future genetic survival potential of the plants. As environments change, it is these mutant genes, which already exist in the population, that may code for newly favorable characteristics.

After two installments of "Microscopy-Macroscopy", I hope you now understand how mutations (some of which result in variegation) arise, and how they are proliferated. But the whole story has not yet been told. In the next issue, we will zoom in on the sub-microscopic places within cells, to the border of life and non-life, to the world of the much maligned virus. Do viruses cause variegation in bromeliads? In the next two months, review some of the previous speculations on the subject in the following issues of the Journal of the Bromeliad Society: Vol. XXII #4, Vol. XXIII #2 & #6, Vol. XXIV #3, and Vol. XXV #4.

I may have some answers for you.

Syracuse, N. Y.

Just off the press is BROMELIENSTUDIEN No. 5 by Werner Rauh. This is a 52-page issue containing descriptions and many fine illustrations of new bromeliads discovered in Peru and other countries. Copies of these fine publications may be obtained in America from the Abbey Garden Press, P. O. Box 3010, Santa Barbara, California 93105.

Regional Reflections

(Readers are invited to contribute their growing experiences to this section of the Journal so that other members can share in what they have learned.)


Winter time has gone and warmer days are here. With the coming of hot weather we begin thinking of a vacation. Bromeliads and other tender plants also enjoy a vacation. After being cooped up in a dry apartment or home for seven months they show their appreciation with vigorous and rapid growth when taken out on a vacation into the warm, fresh air of the outdoors.

Bromeliad growers who have an area where they can place their plants out in the fresh air (there's very little of it in Manhattan) are lucky. Your plants will enjoy the good light, rain water and air movement.

I grow my bromeliad collection in a greenhouse, but I always look forward to putting my plants outside. Though many bromels can take low temperature, it is safer to resist the temptation and not put them out until the lower night temperature stays above 50° F. These plants have become soft after seven months under glass and in apartments.

Outside, I grow my bromeliads in several different ways. Most tillandsias are hung where they will benefit from direct sun. I sink many potted plants in a sandpit under a mimosa tree. The sandpit gives good drainage and it also keeps the roots moist and cool. Plants which need sun to bring out color, such as N. carolinae var. tricolor, are placed where they will get the most sun. Plants such as vrieseas and guzmanias, which have softer leaves are placed where they get very little sun but good light. I find that many plants enjoy being buried in the ground and show it by giving a more robust and vigorous growth than the same bromels hanging in the tree. Yet, there are a few others which grow no better buried than hanging. Some colorful bromeliads are placed in a more decorative manner. I combine these with other exotic plants such as anthuriums, philodendrons and begonias. All plants are arranged and sunk into the earth to give a natural look.

Near the end of September and into the first two weeks of October, when the nights turn quite cool, it is time to take the plants back under cover. Now comes the problem of where to put them. They have outgrown their prior homes. I start by taking in the tenderer vrieseas and guzmanias. Tougher plants, billbergias and aechmeas are last. By this time frost is in the air and I have run out of room for all the plants. The surplus bromels are donated to the Bromeliad Society for sale or are given to friends.

I don't know your growing conditions but if you live where you can hang your plants in a tree, or bury the pots in the ground (be sure it drains well) the plants will show their appreciation. If you live where you only have a patio or balcony on which to place your plants, they will do quite well there. Be sure the plants are well anchored, however, as the wind can at times whip up quite strong around apartment buildings. If you have the space available, your plants deserve that outdoor vacation and will reward your kindness with their added color, beauty and compact growth.

Henry Turner, Jamaica, N. Y.


In the past year I have had a number of plants of different species develop rot in the center and ugly brown-edged spots on the leaves. By the time I notice it, it is usually too late to save the center, but I cut out the rot, disinfect and repot, then pups appear, though they don't seem to grow as fast as is normal. I notice that this rot appears on plants in any kind of pot but always planted in chunks of Osmunda fiber. It was so quick and easy to use but now I won't dare to use it again. I had only used it for two years or so. Perhaps the fact we have had almost daily showers for many months has kept the fiber too wet without a chance to dry out. Now I use blocks of tree fern or a potting mix.

It seems to me that the brown spots on the leaves that occur with the rot look just like the spots that come from sunburn, frostburn, fertilizer burn, and slug damage.

I cut off a large Neoregelia carolinae on a 4" stolon from a rot damaged center plant, and when I returned from a vacation I found 8 pups on the stolon. I had not planted it, just threw it on a piece of black plastic in the shade. Two of the pups are growing well; if only I could have, by some method, kept all eight going wouldn't that have been a short cut over seed growing?

For the first time I have had damage from Benlate spray that blew in from our citrus grove. Some of the billbergia hybrid masses closest to the grove were badly hurt; they had light brown and yellow speckles and splotches all over them and many tips were dead. An Aechmea caudata was also badly damaged. I will have to hose the plants off after citrus spraying; this could be a problem since we are surrounded by hundreds of acres of groves and sometimes they use airplanes.

I notice the Benlate is frequently recommended for bromeliads. Perhaps careful washing after use is indicated. It has not been used until recently on citrus because of the expense.

As I have acquired more plants from many sources, I have also acquired scale which I never had before. Now I try to keep an eye out for it and spray twice a year with Cygon or dip in Malathion solution. It is a good idea to keep a pail of this on hand and whenever a new plant appears, dip it immediately. Bill Frase, an expert grower, keeps a big washtub full beside a greenhouse door so he is always ready to dip a plant, pot and all, whenever he spots some scale. As a precaution, I hose a plant off after treatment but I am not sure it is necessary.

My biggest problem is armadillos. I wish I knew a way to trap or discourage them without staying up all night with a shotgun. A fence won't do, they can dig under anything. Another pest is rabbits, at least I think it is rabbits that chew up a lot of nice leaves to make a wreck of a plant, but it might be squirrels, opossums or raccoons. We have plenty of all of them and since we are near the Ocala National Forest, bigger wild animals have been seen.

Glenna Simmons, Mt. Dora, Florida


After reading an article stating that Cryptanthus would do well on a patio or sheltered area in southern California all year round, as well as a book stating cryptanthus are definite epiphytes, I decided to try it again!

I have tried both experiments in the past with disastrous results. This time I carefully planned optimum conditions for outside growing. Five Cryptanthus 'It' and one Cryptanthus racinae were put in protected areas last summer in order that winter would not create a sudden change for them.

Other than some of the edges turning brown and crisp, they did very well until November. Then, they began to deteriorate. By January 1st, two of the 'Its' were deceased; the Racinae has long gone and been buried. The three remaining Cryptanthus 'It' are ready for the intensive care ward; however, they will be left outside to see if they can survive or join their companions.

The only cryptanthus I have had survive (and I use the word guardedly) outside, is Cryptanthus bivittatus.

As for cryptanthus being an epiphyte — perhaps for some, but for me — forget it! Some were attached to cork, cholla wood and fern bark along with others of the same size and species that had been potted. They were all grown in the same area of the greenhouse. The plaqued cryptanthus take an enormous amount of attention. They must be watered more frequently and watched closely. The plaqued plants were rather dwarfed and brown edges were not uncommon. The potted cryptanthus have a better survival rate.

Since cryptanthus are terrestrials in their native habitat, it is to be assumed they prefer this mode of life. Experience has shown they need a moist mix, along with plenty of humidity. They respond well to a fertilizing program that includes root, as well as foliar feeding.

The only possible exception to these growing conditions is Cryptanthus bahianus, which comes from a dry, hot area. However, experience has shown even this plant prefers the greenhouse humidity for maximum beauty and size.

Kathy Dorr. Lakewood, California


The Seattle Begonia Society's annual begonia and house plant show will provide area bromeliad growers an opportunity to display their favorite indoor plant. For the second year, the Society's show will be held at the Northgate Shopping Mall, Seattle, Washington. Show dates are August 13 - 15. Entries in the show are open to all regardless of society affiliation and will be received August 12, 6 - 9 p.m.

A special award for "Best Bromeliad" scoring at least 90 points will be sponsored by Jim Watson, Bromeliad Society member from Mercer Island, Washington. To be eligible, the bromeliad must be displayed in the Horticulture section of the show and be entered in one of the non-commercial divisions. It is also expected that bromeliads will be featured in many of the garden style display plots for which the Seattle Begonia Show has become famous.

For further information, Bromeliad Society members may write to: Mary Davidson Dunnell, Co-Chairperson 1976 Seattle Begonia Show, 2208 N.E. 177th Street, Seattle, Washington 98155.



Travelers or importers wishing to bring foreign plants, soil or plant products into the United States now must send their applications for federal permits to a new address.

After 30 years in Hoboken, New Jersey, the five-person permit-issuing office of the U. S. Department of Agriculture has moved to Hyattsville, Maryland. The move consolidates manpower and recordkeeping at Hyattsville.

James O. Lee, deputy administrator of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, explained that permits are required under federal regulations designed to protect America's plant life from destructive foreign plant insects and diseases.

"To prevent loss of their property at U. S. ports of entry, persons intending to import soil and plant products should find out in advance whether a permit is required, and the other conditions of entry," Mr. Lee cautioned.

For information and permits, write to: Permit Unit; USDA, APHIS, PPQ: Federal Building, Room 638, Hyattsville, Maryland 20782.

Dr. Syamala S. Ashtakala of the Department of Biological Sciences of the Sir George Williams Campus, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, recently announced that chromatographic comparisons of leaf extracts of a species of Billbergia and a species of Aechmea indicated a close taxonomic relationship between the two genera as has sometimes been suggested. However, different glucosides[glycosides?] were found in the two species. These findings were reported in an article entitled "Flavonoid[Flavinoid?] Composition of Aechmea and Billbergia: Two Closely Allied Ornamental Bromeliads" which appeared in the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science 100 (5): 546-551. 1975.

In order to do their share in the Bicentennial Celebration being held through the country in 1976, The Bromeliad Council of Southern California will stage a special Bromeliad Show on the weekend of June 5 and 6, 1976 at the Veterans' Memorial Hall in Culver City, California. All indications point to a very beautiful and lavish exhibition. The Council is made up of representatives from the South Bay Bromeliad Associates, the Orange County Bromeliad Society, the Bromeliad Society of La Ballona Valley, and the San Fernando Valley Bromeliad Society. It is hoped that exhibits will be displayed from entrants throughout the state.

Alto! Alto! Tillandsia Hunting in Guatemala


J. Padilla
Tillandsia guatemalensis

Whereas Mexico has been the happy hunting ground for bromeliad collectors during the past several decades, few have made their way into Guatemala, which until the construction of the Pan American Highway was accessible for the average person only by sea or air. Today, with the exception of such tourist spots as Lake Atitlan, Antigua, Tikal, and Chichicastenango, it is still largely an unexplored area. Perhaps this is due, in some measure, to the fact that little has been written about this beautiful and intensely fascinating land. Also, the natives have done little to interest outsiders in their country, preferring to live in the manner of their ancestors and to have little to do with the world beyond. Roads, except for several major arteries, are poor, and communication, in many instances, is almost completely lacking. In the remote villages Spanish as a language is replaced by the Indian dialect of that region.

The Guatemalans, it would seem, do not care to take advantage of the great potential which their land has to offer. What agriculture there is still operates under a feudal system. That the soil is remarkably fertile is evidenced by the flora, which is both varied and lovely. Epiphytes, too, abound, and bromeliads, especially tillandsias, are to be seen everywhere. Those that have been collected and brought into the United States for the most part are stunning plants, as well as being adaptable to cultivation.

In early January of this year, nine of us — all bromeliad enthusiasts — decided to visit Guatemala to see what we could see in the way of ruins and beauty spots and to do some plant collecting along the way. Little did we know how fortunate we were to choose this time to start our trip, for a month later, as everyone knows, disaster was to hit this unfortunate country. We missed the earthquake by only a few days, and it will be some time before an excursion such as ours can be repeated.

Before we left Los Angeles, we had hired a minibus with a good driver, a guide with an eagle eye for bromeliads, and two lads to do the climbing. Even the tallest tree did not seem to faze these young men, whose monkey-like agility never ceased to amaze us. As we were eager to get away from the haunts of tourists, we did not linger in the noisy, crowded capital; but set out the day after we arrived on the main highway that leads to the east coast.

This road was to take us through the driest part of Guatemala, where cactus and other succulents make up the dominant vegetation. No sooner were we on the outskirts of the city when we espied our first bromeliads: Tillandsia recurvata covering the telephone wires, T. fasciculata crowding the foliage in the trees, and bromelias with flaming hearts used as hedging. About an hour out of the capital and just before arriving at a village known as Rancho, the cry Alto! Alto! (Stop! Stop!) resounded throughout the bus. This was to be the rallying call during the entire trip, for all of us were horticulturists eager to examine every interesting plant that we passed.

There on rocky cliffs, brilliant red in the bright sun light and thriving along side agaves, was Hechtia guatemalensis. Although Dr. Lyman Smith describes this plant as having leaves to 8 dm. long, those that we saw were much smaller. Needless to say, we all took a small specimen as a souvenir, despite the fact that none of us professed to have an especial affection for this prickly member of the bromeliad family.

Our first stop — looking for Hechtia guatemalensis

Collecting Tillandsia xerographica in dry country

Searching for bromeliads along the shores of the Rio Dulce

The tropical jungle near Rio Dulce

Typical scene in high country showing row of bromelias

Tillandsia standleyii

It did not seem possible that we would see any epiphytes in this arid terrain, but the trees between Rancho and Rio Hondo, the next village of any consequence, were covered with tillandsias, the most dominant species being T. xerographica. This tillandsia is a fair-sized plant with silvery leaves that intertwine in a most unusual way, and I wonder how Dr. Smith missed it in his "Bromeliaceae" in the Flora of Guatemala, published by the Chicago Natural History Museum in 1958, Other tillandsias noted in this barren area were T. baileyi, circinnata, ionantha, argentea, butzii, valenzuelana.

As we drove farther east and gradually into a lower elevation, the countryside became more tropical, palms appeared, taking the place of the cacti and semi-deciduous trees growing in the dry section. Then we left the paved highway and heading north followed the route that led to Peten, Tikal, and our destination, Rio Dulce. It was a rough and pitted road, but our attention was focused on the lush verdure through which we passed. The tillandsias had disappeared, but atop every palm grew huge specimens of Aechmea mexicana, all a glowing red, and below, forming large brilliant crimson masses on rocks, trunks, or in crotches of trees was Androlepis skinneri. This is indeed a noble plant, and it is a pity that its large size deters it from becoming a popular greenhouse subject.

Finally we reached Rio Dulce, a very wide river at this point and reminiscent of the Amazon, which empties into the Caribbean. We took native dugouts for a five-minute ride to our hotel, the Catamaran, situated on a tiny island. This proved to be an enchanting spot, well managed and attractive, the lawns dotted with palms and huge red androlepis used as accent notes. After a quick lunch, we boarded small boats and glided along the shore line, into little tributaries, exclaiming over the luxuriant tropical growth — palms, aroids, orchids, ferns, and bromeliads in infinite variety. The trees were laden with lianas, which reached to the waters — the lianas covered with tiny brilliantly red Tillandsia bulbosas. We saw Guzmania lingulata, the major and the minor forms, G. nicaraguensis, Aechmea mexicana, A. bracteata, and any number of catopsis and tillandsias. The next morning saw us again in boats, and this time we skirted the south shore, noting a different flora. Here we saw a number of vrieseas, particularly V. heliconioides and V. gladioliflora. Aechmea tillandsioides, a small and a large form, was much in evidence. Among the tillandsias were a purple form of bulbosa, filifolia, lucida, monadelpha, punctulata, streptophylla, leiboldiana, flabellata, festucoides, fasciculata, multicaulis, and others we could not identify.

It was difficult to leave this truly tropical paradise, but we had far to go and much to see and do. Retracing our steps, we made a detour stopping at Quiragua, noted for its giant Mayan stelae, did more collecting, and after a night at Rio Rondo in an astonishingly modern motel, made our way, again heading north, up a new highway to the high country — the town of Coban being our ultimate goal. The flora in this region is particularly rich in epiphytes of all kinds, as the weather is at all times moist and cool. This is the home of many orchids: Odontoglossum grande, O. bictoniense, a number of outstanding oncidiums and epidendrums, as well as Lycaste skinneri, the national flower of Guatemala. Chamaedoreas are seen everywhere, many mouth-watering specimens appearing in the humblest of gardens. We longed to collect seed of many of the rare species that we saw, but were not at the right season to do so.

Tillandsia makoyana

Tillandsias were in abundance and among that that we noted growing along the road were the following: tricolor, baileyi, magnusiana, punctulata, lampropoda, seleriana, juncea, dasyliriifolia, makoyana, lucida, filifolia, fasciculata var. convesispica[?] and var. rotundata, schiedeana, and butzii. We saw a number of catopsis, more aechmeas, and the charming Pitcairnia heterophylla in full bloom. This is one of the most charming of the pitcairnias with its lovely rose-colored head, but is so prickly that it is difficult to collect. It grew on dampish rocky outcroppings and close to the ground on old trees.

Tillandsia fasciculata

We spent one night in the little village of Salama, where we had been warned accommodations would be primitive. It was surely a village far removed from the twentieth century, and when we stopped at the only hotel — a rather dilapidated one-storied affair, several members balked at getting out of the bus. As the writer had taken responsibility for the trip, she offered to "case the joint." What a pleasant surprise it was after passing through an extremely shabby entrance around which were ensconced a number of Indian mothers and their infants to enter a patio of great charm and to find that the rooms were not only clean, but artistically decorated with a good sampling of old Spanish and Indian handicrafts. Also, we each had our own private shower. We were to learn that in Latin America one cannot judge a home or hotel by its exterior — it's inside what counts, and it is generally comfortable, clean, and colorful. The food, too, was good. It was the typical food of the country, which included black beans, made into soup or into a paste to eat with miniature tortillas and goat's cheese. The beans and tortillas were standard on every menu in the back country.

Although the distance between Salama and Coban is comparatively short, it was to prove to be the source of our most intensive collecting, and it took us many hours to reach our destination because of all the stops we made. The day, fortunately, was clear and sparkling, and when we were not driving through magnificent rain forests we had panoramic views of the valleys below and mountain ridge after mountain ridge extending beyond. With such a wealth of material close at hand, we did not have to go very far off the road, although we could not help wondering what undiscovered bromeliads inhabited the thickets that seemed to extend into eternity. It was certainly obvious that not many collectors had come this way, and it will certainly be a good long time before the last bromeliad in Guatemala is found!

Our old friend Hechtia guatemalensis made its appearance again on rocky outcroppings, and a brilliant bromelia was used as a hedge to encircle what cultivated land there was. According to Dr. Smith four bromelias are native to Guatemala: karatas, sylvestris, pinguin, and wercklei. The only ones we saw were those planted for hedges, and although they looked like our familiar balansae, we could not be sure. The natives use bromelias in a number of ways aside than for hedging. The handsome heads of fruits and flowers are often sold in the markets for decorating the churches. The young shoots, called "hijos de pina," are used as a vegetable, and the acid fruits are sometimes used in making soft drinks.

As far as bromeliads are concerned, the area around Coban abounds chiefly in tillandsias, which is true of all of Guatemala. However, we did see many catopsis, Guzmania nicaraguensis, Aechmea mexicana, Ae. bracteata, and Vriesea lineata. Also growing here are Billbergia viridiflora and Hohenbergia guatemalensis, the only species from continental North America.

Not far from the village of Tactic, at an elevation of approximately 4,500 feet, we were thrilled to see the pine trees not far off the road alive with the brilliant crimson hanging inflorescences of Tillandsia standleyi. This was the first time that any of us had seen this rare tillandsia in bloom, as it does not appear to be too tolerant of cultivation. It was not difficult, nonetheless, to recognize it, for it is easily distinguishable from the other members of the genus by its long (up to three feet) gracefully pendent flower spike bearing long primary scarlet bracts. We found the plant in a cloud forest, where we were told it is always cool and damp.

Left— Androlepis skinneri on the grounds of the Catamaran Hotel on Rio Dulce.






Below— Tillandsia punctulata and Pitcairnia heterophylla

The town of Coban (Department of Alta Verapaz) is a nondescript one with little to recommend it for the casual tourist. True, there are probably some fine old Spanish homes here, but because of the plain exteriors of such houses, we had no way of knowing. This town is the center of much fine weaving and silverware, but these items are sold directly in the capital and so were not obtainable here. Our hotel was La Posada, an old Spanish home, and a charming place indeed, with artistically furnished rooms arranged around a charming patio. The cuisine was excellent. The only drawback was that the hotel, like all others in Guatemala, was unheated, and as the country was experiencing the coldest January in half a century, we all came down with fierce colds, which were to plague us for over a month.

It rains here every day — this being rain forest country, so we were not surprised to find that our scheduled trip to El Estor on Lake Izabel had to be canceled because of washed-out roads. Instead, on that day, a beautiful one, we took a picnic lunch to see the famous Lanquin caves. We passed through much lovely country and many somnolent little villages, seemingly untouched by the centuries which have elapsed since their founding. Each was built around a small plaza on which faced the church. In every instance that we checked, the church dated back to the sixteenth century. Each village had its own Indian dialect and own flamboyant style of dressing, which certainly did much to enliven the sometimes pitiful surroundings in which the people lived.

The cave was an interesting one, for from its mouth gushed a wild stream of water. An early explorer had endeavored to find the source and followed the river for some 35 miles, estimating that he must have passed under Coban. Naturally we were impressed by the lushness of the plant life that surrounded this spot. There were many pitcairnias, but none was in bloom, and we did not collect any. A few miles from Lanquin we came across two beautiful forms of Tillandsia fasciculata; one with a bright yellow inflorescence, the other with a vividly red branched spike. These now decorate our gardens. Other tillandsias which helped fill our sacks were T. lucida, makoyana, orogenes, lampropoda, seleriana, tricolor var. melanocrater, and Vriesea werckleana.

We were to return to the capital via Huehuetenango — the road was a rough one, but it went through beautiful and, from the bromeliad collector's viewpoint, richly rewarding country. We started out in pouring rain, and all went well for a while, but after an hour we were forced to turn back when told that the road had been washed out. Thus, we were forced to return to Coban and set out on the main road that we had already traveled. Our destination was Chichicastenango. We quickly went through the capital and again found ourselves in pleasant country. Tillandsias seemed to be everywhere — mostly kinds we had seen before — but we did note T. vicentina and T. ponderosa.

Sunday in Chichicastenango is a never-to-be-forgotten experience for it is not only market day, but a time of especially religious fervor, the Indians not only praying to all the saints in Christendom but to all the gods in the Mayan pantheon. Fireworks started at dawn and continued throughout the day. Religious processions made their way through the booths set up with brightly colored wares — blankets, huipils, carvings, earthenware, shirts, skirts — the variety was as endless as it was brilliant. Incense made from copal filled the air, as did eerie incantations to the pagan gods and the cries of the vendors. All was very fascinating, but a half day was all that we could endure of this seeming bedlam, so we fled to the surrounding hills.

Entering the highlands. Rock covered with hechtias

Fence of bromelias

This is high country, the Altoplano, close to 7,000 feet, so plants here are hardy and adaptable to growing outdoors in California. We were not disappointed at what we saw, for there were tillandsias weighing down the branches of almost all the trees that edged the highway. But it is amazing how fast one can get blasι about seeing bromeliads in habitat. When we started our trip, every tillandsia was a cause for rejoicing; now, we passed by those which we considered to be too common, poor old T. polystachia for example, and we concentrated on those which we had not already collected. Here just a few miles out of town we saw T. ponderosa, oaxacana, ionantha, leiboldiana, guatemalensis (both large and small forms) seleriana, and a number we could not identify. T. guatemalensis has always been a frustrating plant in cultivation in California, for it refuses to achieve the brilliant coloration it attains in its homeland, but we collected it and hoped for the best.

After two bitterly cold nights in Chichi, we betook ourselves to what we hoped was a warmer climate — Lake Atitlan, at an elevation of only 5,000 feet. This surely must be one of the loveliest lakes in the world, its deep blue waters encircled by dark coned volcanic peaks which rise abruptly from the shoreline. The ride from Solala to Panajachel, the picturesque tourist center, is one of scenic splendor, the trees along the road laden with tillandsias (mostly fasciculatas). Again we had to approach our hotel by boat, a twenty-minute launch ride taking us to the enchanting Hotel El Camino Real, clinging to a remote mountain slope. It is an ideal place in which to relax and enjoy the many vistas of the lake.

Our trip continued to Chulimar on the Pacific, the road being noteworthy because of the many beautiful flowering trees which line the way. Chulimar is known for its black sand beach, a result of volcanic eruption ages ago. On our way back to the capital, we wondered about the smoking volcanoes which were never out of sight. Not once did we think that they might be omens of ill times ahead. Our only new bromeliad find here was Pitcairnia flagellaris, which was in full bloom, growing in limestone cliffs.

Two places that every visitor to Guatemala must see are Antigua, the old Spanish capital devastated by earthquake in the eighteenth century, and Tikal, the ruins of an imposing Mayan city dating back some 2,000 years. Both exemplify the finest achievements of their particular cultures, and each is overwhelming in its own particular interpretation of beauty. The country around Antigua (elevation 5,000 feet) is rich in tillandsias, and while some of the party gloried in the old Spanish homes and churches, others preferred to search the hills for more bromeliads.

Left— Tillandsia ponderosa






Below— Tillandsia fasciculata found near Lanquin Caves.

(All photos by Jules Padilla)

The first view of the great pyramid was through tillandsia draped trees.

However, we all went to Tikal. At first we had wanted to drive there (a two-day trip each way), but were restrained from doing so because of the poor road. It was fortunate that we did not do so, for the road had become impassable because of torrential rains (and this was supposed to be the dry season!) Tikal is situated in the jungles of Petan, the vast flat area to the northwest, which is really the southern part of the Yucatan Peninsula. An hour's flight from the capital took us almost to the ruins. There was a bus ready to take us, but we preferred the walk through the seemingly primeval jungle, still alive with howler monkeys, capybaras, and other little animals unknown to us. Although the forest was so impenetrable that little light could filter through the trees, we did note that the area contained both orchids and bromeliads, and our first view of the two great pyramids, rising some 200 feet above the jungle floor, was framed with trees festooned with T. usneoides and abundant with T. juncea, schiedeana, valenzuelana, brachycaulos, as well as the always-present Aechmea bracteata.

Gathering T. schiedeana.
(Pictured: Our fine helpers, the author, and Marion Le Blanc of New Orleans)

Rio Lanquin

The rain forest — size of trees may be determined by the figure

Happiness is a blooming T. ponderosa. Pictured: our tree climber, Leslie Walker, Vern Magnuson, Marion Le Blanc, the author, Jack Roth, Jorge our driver, tree climber.

We had planned on staying a longer time in Guatemala (and it is lucky that we didn't), but we had obtained so many plants that we decided to defer any further collecting and sightseeing for another time, and it is always good to leave something to go back to. So we spent a day cleaning, dipping and packing and then departed for home worried about the condition the plants would be in by the time they reached Los Angeles. However, our fears were needless, for two days after our return, the plants arrived none the worse for wear. The Plant Quarantine Department, who had to inspect the plants, were most helpful and did their utmost to expedite matters. Fumigation is no longer necessary for bromeliads and those that contained harmful insects were dipped in a harmless malathion solution.

The success of our Guatemalan adventure was due in large measure to the efforts of Kurt Meyer and Bill Harris of Tropi-Maya, who know the bromeliads of Guatemala probably better than anyone else. Our thanks go to them. Although plant collecting in Guatemala is not feasible at the moment, bromeliads still may be obtained from this fine company.

Victoria Padilla, California

While recently vacationing in Maine, my wife and I visited scenic Kennebunkport, on the southern coast. While browsing through the myriad of picturesque tourist shops, I glanced through a window and saw a wealth of bromeliads. I was pleasantly surprised to find these plants in the cold climate of coastal Maine and was lured inside the exotic shop. Inside, I was surrounded by what I believed to be blooming Tillandsia fasciculata. A friend who was with me, knowing of my interest in bromeliads, asked me what they were. Before I could reply, a saleslady came forward and said, "They're called Florida air plants," to which I replied, "Oh, no, they're bromeliads, specifically Tillandsia fasciculata!" She later told me that she lived in Florida and collected the plants there before opening the shop for the summer. So, the bromeliad world marches on!

Lawrence Mason, Jr., New York

From the Editor's Desk —

At this time there are no more complete volumes of the Journal available, and members are asked to disregard all previous notices. However, there are still on hand a few sets of miscellaneous issues, which sell 12 for $10.00 postpaid. These are already packaged, so please do not ask for specific copies. For miscellaneous issues send check made out to the Society to the editor, 647 South Saltair Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90049.

Duplicated copies of Volumes I through XV still may be obtained by sending a check for $15.00 to Mrs. Kathy Dorr, 6153 Hayter Ave., Lakewood, California 90712.

Many requests are received for Wilson's Bromeliads in Cultivation and the Society's Bromeliads in Color. Both books are out of print and the editor has no idea where they may be obtained.

There are still copies of the Society's Cultural Handbook. This little book contains all you need to know about growing bromeliads, so no member should be without it. Send check for $2.95 to Mr. Charles Wiley, 4036 Via Solano, Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. 90274.

We are all awaiting eagerly Lyman B. Smith's second part of his great monograph on the Bromeliaceae. This will deal with the Bromelioideae and be of great value to all serious growers, as it will be the last word on identification and nomenclature. Watch this journal for publication date. The first volume on the Pitcairnioideae is available from Hafner Press.

The Journal is usually mailed the weeks of January 20, March 20, May 20, July 20, September 20, and November 20. The post office has informed us that local delivery of such mail may take up to 4 weeks and out of town to anywhere from 6 to 10 weeks. Members are urged to be patient and not write the Society if their journal is late.

Remember, please, that if you move, we should have your new address at least 6 weeks before the date of issuance of a particular issue. Journals that are lost because of change of address cannot be replaced. Despite rising costs, we are endeavoring to keep up the standard of our journal, and we would appreciate your assistance in keeping our postage as low as possible. All inquiries should be accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope.

The editor is always sorry when she receives notices of shows and special meetings too late to go into the current issue. All material should be sent in at least four months before the date of issuance — this is the usual time allowed for most periodicals. The editor welcomes all notices of events and hopes that she will receive more in the future.

It is with profound regret that we just learned of the death of W. B. Charlie last October. Mr. Charlie represented the Society in Australia for a number of years as Honorary Trustee and he contributed many articles for the Journal. He was one of the first bromeliad enthusiasts in Australia and did much to awaken interest in these plants.

Advertising in the Journal is presented as a service to the membership, and it does not imply Journal endorsement of the advertisers. Also the Journal is not responsible for the misspelling of plant names included in the advertisements. Any inquiries concerning any of the advertisements should be addressed directly to the advertiser.

Connoisseur's Corner

Tillandsia yunckeri L. B. Smith


This very beautiful tillandsia is one of Guatemala's rare gems. It grows as an epiphyte in dense wet forests of central Guatemala at altitudes ranging from 3,000 to 7,000 feet.

It is a fair sized bromeliad with leaves that may reach over a foot in length, the plant when in flower reaching 20 inches in height. In many respects it resembles the familiar Mexican Tillandsia imperialis, with its soft green foliage and stout glabrous inflorescence of striking red, but its scape is slimmer, the leaves more succulent, and the plant as a whole more graceful.

It is hardy outdoors in southern California, the inflorescence lasting in color for many months.

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