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 $15.00; Sustaining $20.00; Fellowship $30.00; and Life $750.00. All memberships start with January of the current year.
Address all correspondence to:
The Bromeliad Society, Inc.
P. O. Box 189
La Mirada, CA 90637

PresidentNat DeLeon
Vice PresidentEdgar Smith
Recording SecretaryConnie Johnson
TreasurerDavid Gardner
Corresponding Sec.Owana Jo Myers

1981-83: Eloise Beach, Nat DeLeon, Charles Dills, Edgar Smith, John F. Utley, Leslie Walker, Wilbur Wood, Robert P. Wright.

1982-84: Allen Edgar, Linda Harbert, Annie Navetta, Peter Peroz, Herbert Plever.

1983-85: David Benzing, Connie Johnson, Ron Lucibell, Valerie Steckler.

Luis Ariza Julia, Dominican Republic; Olwen Ferris, Australia; Marcel Lecoufle, France; Harold Martin, New Zealand; W. Rauh, Germany; Raulino Reitz, Brazil; Walter Richter, Germany; L. B. Smith, USA; R. G. Wilson, Costa Rica; Robert W. Read, USA; W.W.G. Moir, USA; Roberto Burle Marx, Brazil; Victoria Padilla, USA.


Published six times a year: January, March, May, July, September, November. Free to members. Individual copies of the Journal $2.50


Lee Kavaljian
Hal Wiedman
Advertising Editor
Chet Blackburn
Dept. of Biological Sciences
California State University
Sacramento, CA 95819


Eloise Beach, David Benzing, Sue Gardner, Thomas Lineham, Robert Read, Edgar Smith and John Utley.

Copyright 1983 by the
Bromeliad Society, Inc.

Nominations for Directors, 1983
  Allan G. Edgar, Jr.3
Billbergia rosea and B. venezuelana
  Julian A. Steyermark & Lyman B. Smith4
An Interesting Association Between an Ant and a Bromeliad
  Juan A. Rivero & Marshall A. Barard7
Meet Our New Officers9
A Message for the Membership
  Nat DeLeon11
Artists and Botanists
  Robert W. Read13
Guzmania desautelsii
  Robert W. Read & Lyman B. Smith17
The Florida Bromeliads: Tillandsia pruinosa
  Bradley C. Bennett19
Guzmania lingulata 'Superb'
  Nat DeLeon21
Miscellaneous New Taxa of Bromeliaceae (III)
  Harry E. Luther23
Neoregelia Fosperior 'Perfection'
  Bert T. Foster26
Vriesea uxoris
  John F. Utley & Kathleen Burt-Utley27
New Tillandsias from Mexico
  Wilhelm Weber30
The Watch Spring Billbergias in Cultivation
  Lyman B. Smith34
Tillandsia bourgaei 48

Billbergia rosea. Illustration by Dr. Regina Hughes. See page 13.

Nominations Open for 1983 Election of Directors


Nominations are now being accepted for the election of directors to the Board of The Bromeliad Society, Inc. for the term 1984-1986. Ballots for this election will be mailed with the May-June 1983 issue of the Journal.

For election purposes, The Bromeliad Society membership is divided into 9 geographic regions and each region elects its own directors (as outlined in the By-Laws on pages 15-16, 1981 Directory).

Directors-at-large (any region) 2 positions
Florida 1 position
Louisiana 1 position
Texas 1 position
California 2 positions
Outer (all areas outside the U.S.) 1 position
WHO CAN NOMINATE? The president of every affiliated society and current directors within each region may nominate one candidate for their region plus one candidate for directors-at-large.

PROCEDURE FOR NOMINATING: Nominations must be made in writing and postmarked not later than March 15, 1983. Brief biographical information and qualifications must be included for each nominee. All nominees must agree to serve and are expected to attend or respond to the advance agenda for each of the meetings held during their terms. No director may serve more than 2 consecutive terms.

Six nominees will be accepted for each position. The 6 earliest postmarks will determine the slate for each position.

MAIL NOMINATIONS TO:  Nominations Committee
5460 Saratoga Drive
Jackson, Mississippi 39211

The Nominations Committee is seeking multiple candidates for each position in order to give the voting membership a choice. All affiliated societies are urged to participate in this important procedure.

The following members have been elected Directors for the term 1983-1985:
David Benzing At large
Valerie Steckler At large
Connie Johnson Florida
Ron Lucibell Outer Region

Billbergia rosea and B. venezuelana


Photo by Lyman B. Smith
Billbergia rosea cultivated in the
Botanic Garden, Caracas, Venezuela.

Since the treatment of Billbergia appeared in the Bromeliaceae of Venezuela for the Flora de Venezuela (1971) and in Flora Neotropica (1979), the senior author has been curious to become better acquainted with two of the species, namely B. rosea and B. venezuelana. Under the latter name is commonly grown in gardens of homesteads and nurseries of Caracas and other centers of population of Venezuela an ornamental, robust billbergia with stiffly erect, tubular, bronzy and gray mottled leaves with large, drooping inflorescences graced with numerous, showy, roseate bracts.

Photo by Lyman B. Smith
Inflorescence of Billbergia rosea.

What is puzzling is the fact that such a beautiful and conspicuous plant, passing under the binomial of B. venezuelana, is practically non-existent in herbaria and almost unknown in a wild state. The type specimen of this species was collected in 1920 by Pittier and described by Mez a year later (1921). The specimens of Pittier were obtained from a forested area of San Juan in the state of Carabobo, north-central Venezuela. When the Bromeliaceae for the Flora de Venezuela was published, only the type collection was known. In the later treatment in the Flora Neotropica one additional collection was cited from Rancho Grande in the state of Aragua, not far from the type locality. A similar situation is encountered in the case of B. rosea hortus ex Beer. This latter species, described in 1856 from a plant originating from the garden collection of Beer in Trinidad, was cited in the Flora de Venezuela and the Flora Neotropica from two Venezuelan localities, one, a collection from Caracas by Pittier, the other from Rancho Grande by Beebe. A search through the Herbario Nacional (VEN) at Caracas failed to reveal any collection of B. rosea; the Pittier specimen was deposited in the United States National Herbarium (US), while the Beebe specimen was deposited there also.

Since both taxa were rarely known, although both cited as from Rancho Grande, a study was undertaken to determine more details concerning their habitat requirements, geographical distribution, and taxonomic differences. A report had reached the senior author previously that wild plants of one of these species occurred in an area of tierra caliente near the coastal region of Barlovento of northeastern Venezuela. Mr. Francisco Oliva, a local bromeliad enthusiast, was able to verify this report and recently obtained living and herbarium collections from an area west of Panaquire of the Barlovento area in the state of Miranda, where the plants were growing spontaneously as epiphytes on erythrina trees in a cocoa plantation. At the same time, flowering material was gathered from plants grown in the Jardin Botanico of Caracas.

A study of this living and herbarium material, together with that of the isotype specimen of B. venezuelana Mez at VEN (Pittier 8932), was made and checked in detail against the criteria used to distinguish B. rosea and B. venezuelana. The differences emphasized to separate these two taxa in the treatment in the Flora de Venezuela (1971) state the following: "Sepalos angostamente triangulares, desiguales. Bracteas floriferas 4 mm largo" (Sepals narrowly triangular, unequal. Floral bracts 4 mm long) for B. rosea, as contrasted with "Sepalos elipticos, iguales. Bracteas floriferas inferiores superando los sepalos" (Sepals elliptical, equal. Lower floral bracts exceeding the sepals) for B. venezuelana. In the Flora Neotropica (p. 1977) the two species are keyed out thus: "Sepals narrowly acute, 11-40 mm long, mostly twice as long as wide" to include B. rosea, and "Sepals broadly acute, rounded, truncate, or retuse, distinctly less than twice as broad as long, 7-17 mm long" for B. venezuelana. In the latter work the sepals of B. rosea are stated to be "12, 10, and 10 mm long respectively" (p. 2018), while those of B. venezuelana are given as up "to 10 mm long". Nevertheless, an examination of the isotype of B. venezuelana at VEN shows sepals with measurements of 12-13 mm long and 5.5-6 mm wide, with acuminate or slender tips, and more than twice as long as to slightly less than twice as long as wide. Measurements taken from the living specimens grown at the Jardin Botanico (Steyermark & Oliva 126484) likewise reveal variations from slightly less than to more than twice as long as wide, lengths varying from 10-13 mm, and slightly unequal sepals which are broadly triangular-ovate and acuminate. Thus, the sepal measurements of living plants, as well as those of the VEN isotype of B. venezuelana, intergrade with the sepal measurements given under B. rosea. Moreover, the shape of the sepals found on the isotype of B. venezuelana at VEN and in living material grown as B. venezuelana at the Jardin Botanico at Caracas are broadly triangular or ovate-lanceolate-triangular, rather than "elliptical" as stated in the description (p. 2024, Flora Neotropica).

It should be noted here that upon drying the specimens grown at the Jardin Botanico, some of the sepals from flowers of the upper portion of the inflorescence are narrowly triangular (as indicated for B. rosea), whereas on other flowers, located lower down on the rachis, the sepals are more broadly triangular to ovate-triangular, and vary in length from 10-13 mm. It should also be noted that the illustration in Flora Neotropica (Fig. 709-B) and in the Flora de Venezuela (Fig. 24-B) for the sepal of B. venezuelana is of a broadly triangular or ovate-triangular shape, rather than "elliptic" as described. From the evidence obtained on the drying of living material, which shows differences in the narrowness of the sepal, it is likely that changes due to pressure upon drying might have some effect on the relative shape or width of this part of the flower, which is of a thinner texture than the fleshy ovary or fruit.

Also, although many bromeliad species occur in the same locality, the fact that both B. rosea and B. venezuelana, distinguished by characters of questionable stability, are cited as having been collected from the same locality of Rancho Grande of Pittier National Park, might lead one to suspect that only one, instead of two species, is involved. From the present evidence on hand, it would appear that B. rosea and B. venezuelana are conspecific. Thus, the name B. rosea hortus ex Beer, published in 1856, must be used as the older name, and B. venezuelana Mez is treated as a synonym.


Beer, J. (1856). Bromel. 128.
Mez, Carl (1921). Repert. Sp. Nov. 17: 114.
Smith, Lyman B. (1971) Bromeliaceae, in Lasser, Flora de Venezuela. Ministerio de Agricultura y Cria, Direccion de Recursos Naturales Renovables, Instituto Botanico, edicion especial. XII (1): 335-338.
__________ & Robert J. Downs (1979). Bromelioideae (Bromeliaceae). Monograph No. 14, part 3. Flora Neotropica. pp. 1977, 2018, 2024.

Herbario National, Caracas Venezuela; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.

An Interesting Association Between an Ant and a Bromeliad


A number of symbiotic and mutualistic associations between ants and various arthropod species have been described but ant-plant associations are not as common. Because ants are restricted in their power of flight (only the sexual forms fly; workers and soldiers don't) their importance in the reproduction, and to a lesser extent, dissemination, of plants has not been great. Their role in ant-plant associations has been mostly limited to the protection and defense of plants from predators; the plants, on the other hand, have provided shelter and sometimes food for the ants.

An interesting and perhaps undescribed plant-ant association has been observed, however, among the bromeliads of one of the authors (Barard). Only because there was some laxity in the application of insecticides to all plants were these observations possible. A regular regime in the application of insecticides will not permit ants to establish colonies or to keep trophobionts (in this case mealybugs) in the plants.

The ant, Irydomyrmex melleus, is known only from the mountains and hills of Puerto Rico. It is a small species, not more than 2.00 or 2.25 mm. in length and has a slender appearance and a honey-colored body. According to Smith (1936), it is found nesting in hollow twigs or in crevices under the bark, between the leaves of tillandsias, in rotten wood and in the cocoons of a moth. Sometimes it is said to construct a carton-like cover over its nest on leaves. It is also known to attend ("milk") the mealybug, Pseudococcus sp., on species of Tillandsia, the green hemispherical scales on coffee, and the plant louse Toxoptera aurantiae.

Thus finding the ant in Aechmea tillandsioides var. kienasti is not at all unexpected. Finding the seeds of the plant growing in the soil carried by the ant to the inflorescence is unexpected.

The ants nest at the base of the plant, where a small hole to inch in diameter can be observed. From the base of the plant to the inflorescence there is a sometimes discontinuous gallery made of a fiber-like material similar to that made by termites. At the inflorescence, the gallery spreads encompassing the lower seed pods and the bracts, where it forms a thin crust. It is under this crust, and sometimes in the spaces between the bracts or under them where the mealybugs are "cultivated" by the ants. As the seed pod ripens, the ants remove part of the pod shell, exposing the seed to the soil.

Ant galleries of inflorescences of Aechmea tillandsioides.

Eventually the fruits of the bromeliad ripen, turn blue and would fall to the ground if it were not for the carton crust holding them to the inflorescence. Here the seeds germinate and grow to about an inch before falling to the moss-styrofoam mixture in the pots, where they continue their growth.

It is possible that germination is accelerated by this process and that the seeds and plantules receive at this stage some kind of protection from the ants. Yet, when the seedlings fall to the ground they would probably compete with offshoots for the available space and this may not be of much selective advantage to the plant.

It is not known if the association described above occurs under natural conditions. If it does, it probably is not with Iridomyrmex melleus as this ant species occurs only in Puerto Rico while Aechmea tillandsioides is from South and Central America. There may be other ant species, however, producing a similar effect within the plant's native range.

The damage done to the plant by the mealybugs has not been assessed, but from the appearance of the plant and from the number of individuals found in each plant (never too many), it doesn't appear to be substantial. They appear in the inflorescence in its last stages, not much before the plant begins to wane, but even so, some energy may be subtracted from fruit and seed production by the sucking insects. In this type of association, however, advantages are derived at a cost, and this may be what the plant has to pay for whatever benefit, if any, is derived from the ant.

It is possible that the plant just may have been opportunistic in utilizing a resource that is there accidentally; but this is the way some coevolving mechanisms start and eventually some firmer symbiotic association, with clearer advantages to the beneficiaries, could develop.

The authors thank Drs. Flavio Padovani and Jose A. Ramos, of the Entomological Laboratories, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, for help in identifying the ant.


Goetsch, W. The Ants. Univ. of Mich. Press. 1957.
Smith, M.R. The Ants of Puerto Rico. J. Agric. Univ. P.R. 20(4): 819-875. 1936.
Wilson, E.O. The Insect Societies. The Beknap Press. 1971.

University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico and Aibonito, Puerto Rico

Meet Our New Officers

President Nat DeLeon

Mr. Nat DeLeon is the new President of the Society and brings with him many years of experience with bromeliads and with a number of different plant societies. For more than 25 years he has been horticulturist in charge of the grounds of Miami, Florida's celebrated Parrot Jungle and he has lectured extensively on bromeliads, particularly in South Florida, and he still teaches a course on bromeliad culture at the Fairchild Tropical Gardens in Miami. His work with societies includes being a charter member and first president of the Bromeliad Society of South Florida, an honorary life member of that Society as well as of the Broward County Bromeliad Society, helping found the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies and he is a past chairman of that group, and has been a Director of our Society, as well as past president of the International Palm Society.

Equally well-known for his efforts in hybridizing bromeliads, he is also particularly remembered for introducing to cultivation the very popular and much admired bromeliad known as Neoregelia 'Fireball'. Collecting in Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela has provided him with first-hand experience in the field and has also made it possible for him to introduce species previously uncultivated.

Mr. DeLeon's wide and extensive experience in bromeliad culture, collecting and hybridizing, combined with his knowledge of how societies conduct their business, make him eminently suitable for our Society's presidency.

Vice President Edgar Lee Smith

The Society's newly elected Vice President, Edgar Lee Smith, is a native Texan who was born, grew up and now lives in Dallas. He attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas and graduated with 2 Bachelor's degrees, one in biology and another in English, and received a Master's degree in English from the University of Texas, Austin. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Navy.

His activities in bromeliad groups are many and varied. He is a past president and member of the Greater Dallas-Ft. Worth Bromeliad Society, the Tejas Bromeliad Study Group, the Southwest Bromeliad Guild (a regional organization), and the First Men's Garden Club of Dallas. In addition, he is a member of the Shreveport Regional Bromeliad Society, the North Texas Cactus and Succulent Society and the Cactus and Succulent Society of America. He is an internationally accredited Bromeliad Judge, having judged 27 shows to date, and is Judging Registrar for Texas, Oklahoma and Northern Louisiana. He is serving for the 9th year as a Director of the Society and is a member of the Judges and Handbook Committee as well as of the Editorial Committee of the Journal. Numerous articles published in the Journal have been written by Mr. Smith and he served for 5 years as editor of Karatas, published by the Greater Dallas-Ft. Worth Bromeliad Society.

Bromeliads began to interest him in about 1958 and the first species with which he began his collection was Billbergia pyramidalis. In 1970, he started to actively expand his collection so that at present, he has some 400 specimens representing 27 genera. Of these, Neoregelia, Cryptanthus, Aechmea and Billbergia are his favorites.

We are exceptionally fortunate to have the Society's most important offices in the hands of Mr. DeLeon and Mr. Smith. As experienced and knowledgeable experts in the Bromeliaceae and with the support of all of the members, the Society will surely have outstanding leadership during their term of office.

A Message for the Membership


As your new president there are several goals that I am hoping to achieve during my term in office. Questionnaires filled out at the world conference in Corpus Christi revealed that many members of this Society have a feeling of not belonging. We have already begun to deal with this problem. At that conference I pledged a close working relationship between this Society and all affiliated societies. The first Affiliate Newsletter has already been sent out and by the time you read this the second will have already been read. This newsletter is not meant to compete with the Journal, but since each issue of the Journal must go to press months in advance of publication, the newsletter will contain more current news as to what is happening in the bromeliad world. Yet we do not intend to forget the hundreds of Society members who do not belong to a local society.

This Society can be anything its members want it to be. While the Journal and its other fine publications are the backbone of our society, I am sure that there is much more that we can do. There is a tremendous thirst for information about bromeliads that must be satisfied. I am sure there are new programs we can initiate to satisfy this need, but we need your help. I earnestly solicit your ideas and suggestions. These can be sent to your regional directors, or directly to me. You can be sure that all suggestions will be given careful consideration. By taking a more active role in this Society's affairs you Will Belong. This will also give us a better sense of society unity which may also be lacking.

Since the Journal is our important asset, it is important that we continue to make it as fine a publication as possible. A criticism sometimes heard is that the Journal is too scientific in content. If it is, then it is our own fault. Both the present editors and their predecessor have always strived to achieve a happy balance for we have members of various interests. The scientific community has been most supportive in sending in many articles for publication and we hope they will continue to do so. The hobbyist-grower has not. It is sometimes impossible to attain a balance when the material to choose from is lacking. As hobbyist-growers we should be able to learn from each other by sharing our experiences. How well we share is one of the main ingredients for a successful local society and if we put our words into writing there are hundreds of people all over the world looking for clues to successful growing. Perhaps you have had trouble growing a particular species or hybrid and in some way solved the problem. I am sure there are many other growers with the same problem looking for answers. The apartment grower in New York does not think he has anything to offer the outdoor grower in South Florida. Yet the outdoor grower often fails when he brings his flowering bromeliad indoors to enjoy. What are we doing wrong? Tell us! I am sure we all have bromeliads we call our favorites. Let's write about them. Ideas stimulate other ideas. Articles can be several pages long, or just a paragraph or two.

I sometimes think that growers don't write because they think perhaps their article is not scholarly enough to compete with the more scientific article. Yet both are distinct and separate entities and cannot be judged one against the other. Furthermore, the hobbyist-grower has a much wider range of subject matter to choose from. So let's all get behind our editors and let's take a more active part in our Society.

Miami, Florida

Artists and Botanists


Dr. Regina Hughes discussing the finishing touches of an orchid painting with Dr. Robert W. Read.

Botanical illustration of the very best sort is the result of teamwork between the scientist and the artist. Botanists and other scientists need good diagnostic and artistic illustrations for their research and publications. The best illustrator-artists work closely with botanists for direction, interpretation, and identification. A careful artist may even frequently find and illustrate diagnostic characteristics that have been overlooked by even the most discerning botanist.

Alice Tangerini working at her drawing table in the Department of Botany.

We at the Smithsonian's Department of Botany are very fortunate to have some very good illustrators who are exceedingly fine artists as well. One of them, Alice R. Tangerini, was discovered by Dr. Lyman B. Smith while she was still a student at Montgomery Junior College in Maryland. While working as a freelance illustrator, Alice attended Virginia Commonwealth University where she earned her B.F.A. in 1972. During this time she produced many of the diagnostic drawings for Dr. Smith's numerous papers in Phytologia (Smith 1968, 1971). Many, if not most, of these drawings were reproduced in Dr. Smith's Monographs of the Bromeliaceae (Smith and Downs 1974, 1977, 1979). The earliest drawing that Alice did for my work was in 1970 when she illustrated Pitcairnia micotrinensis, the first bromeliad species that I described as new. Since Alice joined the permanent staff in 1972 she has produced numerous bromeliad drawings as well as remarkable reconstructions of palms, begonias and many other plants for me and other members of the staff. Alice's works have been shown in the Rotunda Gallery of the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C., in the "4th International Exhibition of Botanical Art and Illustration" at the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and recently in "The Best of Contemporary Medical and Scientific Illustration" at I. Magnin, Inc., Walnut Creek, California. Her illustrations have also appeared in exhibits sponsored by the Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI) and the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators (GNSI). In addition, Alice has taught classes in scientific botanical illustration for the GNSI summer workshops and the Smithsonian Resident Associates Program. One of Alice's bromeliad illustrations, Hohenbergiopsis guatemalensis, was reproduced in the May issue of the Bromeliad Society Journal (1982).

Hohenbergia stellata drawn from life by Alice Tangerini, the original now hangs in the staff dining room along with examples of work by other Smithsonian Institution artists.

The other artist associated with the Department of Botany is Dr. Regina Olson Hughes. Dr. Hughes works in both oils and watercolors, and in pen and ink. She has both a B.A. and D.H.L. from Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C. and has been honored frequently for her botanical illustration and technical translation, e.g. U.S.D.A. Superior Services Award 1962; Phi Kappa Zeta Woman of the Year 1970; and a plant genus and species, Hughesia reginae, named in her honor. Her works are included in numerous noteworthy collections, such as The Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. As Scientific Illustrator and Translator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, Dr. Hughes' works were published widely in handbooks and numerous papers on weeds (Reed 1970) and seeds. Since she came to the Smithsonian in 1969, her extremely fine scientific illustrations in pen and ink have appeared in many botanical papers by Smithsonian staff scientists. In February of 1982, a collection of 40 of her beautiful and scientifically accurate watercolors of orchids were exhibited in the Rotunda Gallery of the National Museum of Natural History. Earlier one of Dr. Hughes' bromeliad paintings graced an exhibit in the Foyer of the Natural History Building, that featured the Bromeliad Research of Dr. Lyman B. Smith and myself. Since she retired from the U.S.D.A. in 1969 Dr. Hughes has not slowed down. She drives her classic Thunderbird to the Smithsonian nearly everyday. Although often working on contract for some scientist, she frequently may be observed positioned on the oriental rug in the Museum Foyer sketching an orchid from the Visitors' Information Desk that has caught her fancy.

Both Dr. Hughes and Ms. Tangerini are members of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators, and are highly respected among their fellow workers, not only for their artistic talents but also for their pleasant and professional cooperation with members of the Department of Botany.


Beach, E. 1982. Hohenbergiopsis L.B. Smith & R.W. Read. How This New Genus Was "Discovered". Journal of the Bromeliad Society 32 (3): 107.

Read, R.W. 1970. Preliminary Studies of Pitcairnia in the Eastern Caribbean. Phytologia 19(4): Plate I.

Reed, C.F. 1970. Selected Weeds of the United States, Agriculture Handbook No. 366. A.R.C. U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Smith, L.B. 1968. Notes on Bromeliaceae, Phytologia 16(6): Plate I; 18(3): Plate I.

_________. 1971. Notes on Bromeliaceae I XXXIII Reprinted from Phytologia in Contributions from The Reed Herbarium. No. XX.

Smith, L.B. & R.J. Downs 1974. Bromeliaceae (Pitcairnioideae), Flora Neotropica Monograph No. 14, Part 1: 1-658 (especially Fig. 118).

__________. 1977. Bromeliaceae (Tillandsioideae), Flora Neotropica Monograph 14, Part 2: 663-1492 (especially Fig. 438 I-J).

__________. 1979. Bromeliaceae (Bromelioideae), Flora Neotropica Monograph 14, Part 3: 1493-2142 (especially Figs. 558 & 583).

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.

Guzmania desautelsii A Name for a Formerly Misplaced Species


Over the years specimens of an attractive Guzmania, closely related to G. melinonis Regel, have been erroneously associated with Guzmania erythrolepis Brongniart ex Planchon. The latter species is based on an illustration of a cultivated plant that was grown in Paris in 1852 and was said to have been discovered by Linden at Santiago, Cuba. No type specimen exists and the illustration is drawn from a plant cultivated by Van Houtte that may not even be the same one studied by Brongniart. Such are the problems of the nomenclature of cultivated plants. Our new species does not entirely agree with material from the Greater Antilles, nor does it fit the circumscription of G. melinonis. It is quite possible that specimens presently associated with that species may in fact be misidentified, but only continued careful investigation will clarify the full range and diversity of Guzmania desautelsii. The name honors Paul E. Desautels, Curator of the National Orchid Collection. It was during an orchid collecting expedition headed by Paul that specimens of G. desautelsii were collected and studied.

In Flora Neotropica by Smith and Downs (1977), this species would be #88a and is distinguished from G. erythrolepis in the key on page 1282 by the following:

124.Sepals coriaceous.
124a.Sepals scattered punctate lepidote, with slightly raised nerves when dry, dark castaneous basally; leaf blades subglabrous, green, 88. G. erythrolepis
124a.Sepals light, firm, smooth when dry, not dark castaneous; leaf blades densely appressed lepidote, greyish-purple to green beneath, 88a. G. desautelsii
124.Sepals membranaceous

88a. Guzmania desautelsii R.W. Read and L.B. Smith, sp. nov. A G. erythrolepis Brongniart ex Planchon, cui valde affinis, scapi bracteis longe acuminatis, inflorescentia brevi, floribus 6-serialibus differt.

PLANT: flowering 2-3 dm high. LEAVES: rosulate, 3-7 dm long, greyish-purple to green beneath, densely punctulate-lepidote throughout becoming less so apically; sheaths distinct, elliptic, ca. 10 cm long; blades ligulate, acute, often acuminate, 3-5 cm wide. SCAPE: erect or ascending, glabrous; scape bracts erect, densely imbricate, the lowest subfoliaceous, the upper subelliptic, acuminate, mostly widely scattered lepidote but densely so apically. INFLORESCENCE: simple, ovoid, ellipsoid or subglobose strobilate, fertile throughout, 7-10 cm long. FLORAL BRACTS: elliptic, to broadly rounded wholly erect and imbricate, thin, chartaceous with membranaceous margins, ca. 4 cm long, exceeding the sepals, orange to scarlet at anthesis, obscurely pale lepidote. FLOWERS: 6-seriate. SEPALS: glabrous, firm, even, coriaceous, obtuse, short-connate, slightly carinate, ca. 20 mm long, wholly covered by the floral bracts. PETALS: white, ca. 28 mm long, barely exserted from bracts, connate for most of their length.

Photo by Robert W. Read
Guzmania desautelsii.

TYPE: R. W. Read, P.E. Desautels, & B. Van Scriver 81-58, 10 Jan. 1981; collected in wet forest above El Cope at sawmill clearing, ca. 1200 m elev. Prov. Cocle, PANAMA (US, holotype).

COSTA RICA: LIMON: Hacienda Tapezco to Hacienda La Suerte, 29 air km west of Tortuguero, 10 30' N, 83 47' W, 40 m alt., 22 August 1979, Donahue 8674 (LAM, US). PANAMA: Prov. PANAMA: Cerro Campana, low cloud forest near summit, 31 December 1957, C. Earle Smith, Jr. & H. Morgan Smith 3345 (PH, US); La Eneida, region of Cerro Jefe, cloud forest, ca. 800 m alt., 2 Septembre 1974, H. Kennedy, Maas & Dressler 3373 (US); El Llano-Carti Road, 9.8 km from Inter American Highway, wet forest, 330-360 m alt., 28 December 1974, Mori, Kallunki & Hansen 4169 (MO US). DARIEN: Cerro Campamento, south of Cerro Pirre, cloud forest, Duke 15700 (US); Serrania de Pirre, on the northwest slope of the mountain range dominated by Cerro Pirre, along the trail from Q. Perecingo (Perasenico), a tributary to Rio Pirre, to Cerro Pirre from Rancho Ron (at Laguna Chibiqui) to Rancho Frio, about 10 air km south-southeast of El Real, in subtropical moist to wet forest from about 300 to 740 m elevation, 8 02' N, 77 43' W, 30 January 1979, Reveal & Duke 4926.

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

The Florida Bromeliads: Tillandsia pruinosa


Habitat photograph of Tillandsia pruinosa.

Tillandsia pruinosa Swartz is known by a variety of common names including hoary or fuzzy-wuzzy air plant. Both common names as well as the specific name, pruinosa, refer to the dense covering of scales or modified trichomes. Craighead (1963) noted the resemblance of this tillandsia to a spider, an appropriate analogy. When first seen, T. pruinosa appears as a silver-green tarantula, quietly waiting for its next victim.

Of the 15 bromeliad species that are native to southern Florida, Tillandsia pruinosa is the rarest. In Florida it is found only in the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, in Collier County, a part of the Big Cypress Swamp (Ward, 1979; Bennett, 1982). The few populations of T. pruinosa in the Big Cypress are seldom large, usually numbering less than thirty individuals, and are usually isolated from one another by some distance.

T. pruinosa is one of the most attractive of the native bromeliads especially when in flower. The plant is usually less than 20 cm in height. The recurved, involute leaves are widest and inflated at the base; tapering rapidly to a linear tip. T. pruinosa produces a distichous spike which is usually shorter than the longest leaves of the plant. Flowers are typical of the other Florida species in the subgenus Tillandsia; 3-merous, tubular with exserted stigma and stamens. Petals are purple. Up to 10 capsular fruits may be borne on a single plant but usually only 1-3 are found. Fewer seeds per fruit are produced than in most other Florida tillandsias and this may be part of the reason for its rarity.

T. pruinosa is associated with several other bromeliads including T. setacea, T. valenzuelana, Catopsis berteroniana, C. floribunda, C. nutans and Guzmania monostachia. Rare orchids and bromeliads are usually found in the remote sections of the Big Cypress, especially in the deeper swamps which are inundated most of the year. Fraxinus caroliniana (pop ash) and Annona glabra (pond apple) are the most common trees in such areas and serve as the hosts for many epiphytic species. Many of the epiphytes are also found near small, solution lakes within the Fraxinus-Annona swamps. These lakes probably mediate temperature fluctuations in the area and also increase the relative humidity, thus enhancing the probability of survival for these tropical epiphytes.

Unlike Catopsis and Guzmania species, however, Tillandsia pruinosa is seldom found in Fraxinus-Annona swamps. Rather, this species is most often associated with mixed swamp habitats immediately adjacent to Fraxinus-Annona swamps. Within the mixed swamp habitat T. pruinosa is found on a wide range of hosts including Acer rubrum (red maple), Fraxinus caroliniana, Quercus laurifolia (laurel oak) and Taxodium distichum (bald cypress). Host preference is not apparent.

In a study in the Fakahatchee Strand, more Tillandsia pruinosa individuals were found on the N-facing sides of their hosts than on the other sides but these differences were not statistically significant. These epiphytes were found at an average height of 3.6 m (range: 1-6 m) with an average of 2.7 individuals per host. In comparison, one hundred or more Guzmania monostachia individuals may occur on a host.

Little is known about the reproductive biology of Tillandsia pruinosa. Flower morphology suggests that this species may be facultatively autogamous as is the case with several other Florida bromeliads. Craighead (1963) reported that flowering occurs in late fall and winter but may continue throughout the year. During this study flowering specimens were found only in the winter.

Habitat modification and collection has caused a decline in the numbers of native Florida bromeliads including Tillandsia pruinosa. Parts of the Big Cypress that currently support the plant were logged in the 1940's and early 1950's for cypress. The relative abundance of T. pruinosa prior to these dates is not known. Illegal collection continues to be a problem even though the State of Florida recently purchased much of the Fakahatchee Strand. A few greedy collectors may deprive future generations from the joy of seeing this epiphyte in its native habitat and also cause a loss to the scientific community. The future of T. pruinosa in Florida is dependent on maintenance of the few swamp habitats that support it and stricter enforcement of laws which protect the native plants of Florida.


Bennett, B.C. Ecology and distribution of 6 species of the Bromeliaceae in southern Florida. Fla. Sci. 45 (suppl. 1):22. 1982.

Craighead, F.C. Orchids and Other Air Plants of the Everglades National Park Univ. of Miami Press, Coral Gables, Florida. 1963.

Ward, D.B. (ed.). Rare and Endangered Biota of Florida, volume 5, Plants. Univ. Florida Press, Gainesville, Florida. 1979.

The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Guzmania lingulata 'Superb'


The shaded portion of the driveway leading to my house is lined with many plants of Guzmania lingulata. This form, from Ecuador, is quite floriferous. At almost any time of the year there will be plants in various stages of flowering, producing many shades of red to red-orange.

Some years ago, while working in one of the beds, I stumbled across a young offshoot with a single creamy white stripe down the center of the leaf. The stripe was quite pronounced, being more than a quarter of an inch wide. The sucker was carefully removed from the parent plant and placed in a pot. As the plant grew this single stripe continued to appear, but only on one side of the plant, giving it a lopsided appearance. At maturity the plant flowered in the usual manner and I knew that once the plant started to produce offshoots the true test would begin. Since theoretically if a bromeliad lives long enough it is capable of producing an offshoot for each leaf made during its life cycle, it seemed there was a good chance that I would get one coming from the variegated side of the plant. If any of the suckers appeared from between any of the leaves that were variegated, then the chances were even greater that the variegation could be perpetuated. The first two appeared from between all green leaves and showed no sign of variegation. Just as soon as I was certain of this, the very young offshoots were cut away from the parent plant, thus hastening further suckering. Then at last the third sucker appeared from the variegated portion of the plant and there it was, a nice clean white stripe down the middle of the leaf. Finally another appeared from the variegated side and it too bore a single stripe.

Both offshoots grew rather slowly for I was afraid to fertilize them. I did not know how stable the variegation might be. As they grew, I noticed an increase in the width of variegation on one of the plants. From this plant several suckers were obtained, one of which was outstanding. It was from this plant that all the offshoots obtained were of a very fine and uniform variegation. The next step was to test the stability of the variegation and this was accomplished by feeding one of the plants with Peters 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer once a week for six months. The end result was a plant more than three feet in diameter with long straggling leaves, but the variegation held true in every leaf. So it had taken three generations with a lot of luck to produce a truly outstanding bromeliad.

Guzmania lingulata 'Superb'

Guzmania lingulata 'Superb' generally grows to about eighteen inches in diameter at maturity, depending on culture. The leaves are more than an inch and a half at the widest point. An area of creamy white overlaid with green lineations extends down the center of the leaf and is bordered by green margins. At flowering the primary bracts of the emerging inflorescence are also variegated, but this disappears after several weeks as the rising inflorescence intensifies in color. Guzmania lingulata is among the easiest of the genus to grow, requiring no special treatment, and its variegated counterpart is just as easy. The only time the variegation is not crisp and clear is when it is being grown under very dark conditions. This plant should be a welcome addition to any collection.

It should be noted that I have used the name 'Superb' rather than follow the usual erroneous practice of naming the plant, variegata, medio-picta, lineata and so on. The rules of nomenclature by which we are all governed clearly state that seedling or vegetative sports of species in cultivation be given cultivar names. Since cultivar names are NEVER latinized, that means that more than 90% of all variegated bromeliads in cultivation today are improperly named. One catalog lists no fewer than fifty-six improperly named variegated bromeliads. It is not unusual to see the somewhat rapid increase in variegated bromeliads, for as more and more bromels are cultivated and more and more of them are grown from seed, the chances for variegation increase. Unfortunately, nurserymen have chosen to take the short cut of giving their plants the more descriptive latinized names and I am sure it helps to sell plants, but is that the only consideration? The person who gave one of his plants the name, Aechmea fulgens var. discolor 'albo marginata' 'rosea lineata', should be made to write the name a thousand times and even then should have his mouth washed out with soap. One of the more recent entries into cultivation is, Aechmea orlandiana variegata. It is somewhat ironic that this improperly named vegetative sport comes from Aechmea orlandiana 'Ensign', a properly named seedling variant. Have we not learned anything in the more than fifteen years since its introduction? Can we live within the rules? Ask any serious grower what Aechmea orlandiana 'Ensign' and Aechmea lueddemanniana 'Mend' are and right away they can conjure up a mental picture of beautiful variegated bromeliads. The grower has the perfect vehicle to launch his new plant by using the Journal. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then all that is needed to properly name and spread the word is a good picture and a brief descriptive article in our Journal. If a bromeliad is worth cultivating, it is worth naming properly.

Miami, Florida

Miscellaneous New Taxa of Bromeliaceae (III)


Photo by Herb Hill, Jr.
A painting of Vriesea ospinae by John P. Barbie, Jr.


For the past several years there has been circulating in the horticultural trade a very pretty, small species of Vriesea with a multitude of erroneous and invalid names. As I am partially responsible for one of the fictitious epithets, I hasten to put this interesting and attractive plant on the record.

Vriesea ospinae Luther, sp. nov.
A V. chrysostachys E. Morr. affinis, sed foliorum laminis acuminatis tesselatisque, spicis percomplanatis et bracteis florigeris carinatis differt.

Plant habit variable from nearly stemless to long caulescent; leaves 18-25 cm long; sheaths elliptic, 2-3 cm long, ferruginous-lepidote; blades acuminate, 2.5-3.5 cm wide, minutely punctate-lepidote, pale green or yellow-green tessellated dark green or reddish; scape erect, slender, mostly obscured by the leaves; scape bracts imbricate, ovate and acute; inflorescence digitate or pinnate with 1-5 lateral branches (rarely simple); primary bracts like the scape bracts; spikes linear-lanceolate, acute with 3-9 sterile bracts at the base, strongly complanate; floral bracts densely imbricate, broadly ovate with an acute, incurved apex, sharply carinate, slightly nerved, 26-28 mm long, nearly exceeding the flowers, bright yellow; flowers subsessile, 28-30 mm long; sepals lanceolate, free, posteriorly carinate, nerved, 14-15 mm long; petals linear, obtuse, cucculate, 26-28 mm long, yellow; capsules 9 mm long.

Etymology: The specific name honors Sra. Berta Hernandez de Ospina of Fusagasuga, Colombia who first grew this plant in her garden.

Type: COLOMBIA: Without specific locality, flowered in cultivation by Jeffrey Kent, 22 Sept. 1979, H.E. Luther s.n. (Holotype: SEL). Additional collections: COLOMBIA: Cundinamarca: Fusagasuga, cultivated by Sra. Berta Ospina, submitted by Dennis Cathcart, 8 July 1980, H.E. Luther 320 (SEL); Without specific locality, flowered in cultivation at the Institute of Ornamental Plant Growing, Melle, Belgium, 4 Aug. 1982, O. Merkers s.n. (US); WITHOUT LOCALITY: Obtained in Europe, flowered in cultivation by Ervin Wurthmann, 4 May 1980, H.E. Luther s.n. (SEL).

Vriesea ospinae is very closely related to V. chrysostachys E. Morr. and particularly to its variety stenophylla L.B. Smith but can be distinguished by its tessellated foliage, strongly complanate spikes and carinate floral bracts.

Unfortunately it has not been possible to ascertain the exact nativity of Vriesea ospinae. All known collections are suspected to have been obtained originally from Sra. Ospina's collection but considering the close affinity with V. chrysostachys it is quite probable that V. ospinae is to be found at medium elevations in S.E. Colombia.

Vriesea ospinae has been grown under a variety of names including V. 'ampullacea', V. 'Espirito Santo' and V. 'ospina'.


I thank Jeffrey Kent, Jean Merkel, Ervin Wurthmann and Dennis Cathcart for help in acquiring material and information pertaining to this species.

Fig. 471. Ronnbergia nidularioides. A. Inflorescence; B. Flower; C. Sepal; D. Petal and stamens;
E. Section of ovary, modified; from Flora Neotropica, Monograph 14, Part 3, p. 1500. 1979.


Recent field work in western Ecuador as well as the study of cultivated plants at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens confirms that the species originally described as Nidularium deleonii L.B. Smith was correctly transferred to the genus Ronnbergia, but that it is not conspecific with R. deleonii L.B. Smith as cited by Dr. Smith in his monograph of the Bromeliaceae (Smith & Downs, 1979).

As the specific epithet deleonii is thus preoccupied, the following nomenclatural changes are necessary to incorporate this unnamed plant into the genus Ronnbergia.

Ronnbergia nidularioides Luther, nom. nov.
(Nidularium deleonii L.B. Smith, Bromel. Soc. Bull. 12:104, 1962.)
(Ronnbergia deleonii L.B. Smith pro parte, Flora Neotropica Monograph 14, part III: 1499-1500, 1979, non Ronnbergia deleonii L.B. Smith, Phytologia 9:247. 1963.)

Type: COLOMBIA: Narino: vic. of Espriella, April 1960, flowered in cultivation, Jan. 1962, Nat DeLeon 362 (Holotype: US!; photo SEL). Additional collections: ECUADOR: Los Rios: Rio Palenque Science Center, 220 m, 27 Feb. 1975, C.H. Dodson 5783 (SEL); Pichincha: Montanas de Ila, Centinela, 600 m, 13 Feb. 1982, C.H. Dodson & A.H. Gentry 12421 (SEL). Not vouchered: ECUADOR: Pichincha: vic. of Tandapi, ca. 1500 m, all plants sterile, Sept. 1981 (pers. obs.).

It should be especially noted that figure 471 on page 1500 of the Flora Neotropica monograph is based on the type of Nidularium deleonii and therefore represents Ronnbergia nidularioides and not R. deleonii as is stated in the text.

Ronnbergia nidularioides differs from R. deleonii by having broad subligulate leaves, nearly symmetrical sepals, blue petals and orange, apparently non-explosive fruit. In the latest key to the genus (Smith & Downs, 1979) R. nidularioides would key out to R. petersii but differs from this Panamanian species by its much more spreading habit, shorter scape and longer sepals.

Ronnbergia nidularioides is found in dense, wet forests where it occurs as an epiphyte low on the trees or as a terrestrial in large clusters.

Miscellaneous New Taxa of Brom (I), (II) have appeared in Selbyana Vol. 5 Nos. 3, 4 and Vol. 7 No. 1 respectively.


Smith, L.B. & R.J. Downs, 1979. Flora Neotropica Monograph No. 14, Part III: 1497-1506.

The Mulford B. Foster Bromeliad Identification Center, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota, Florida

Neoregelia Fosperior 'Perfection'


Neoregelia Fosperior, a hybrid developed by my father, Mulford Foster, approximately 18 years ago improved its lot in life by giving birth to a magnificent variegated offshoot. The offshoot was actually only half variegated. This mutation happened in my greenhouse about five years ago. I grew the plant for 1 years and then something happened which caused the plant to die, fortunately for the bromeliad lovers in the world a perfect offshoot appeared before the parent plant died. I raised that plant to maturity and the plant pictured above is the best of the litter and I am naming the gorgeous plant Neoregelia Fosperior 'Perfection'. Some day everyone can share the beauty of this plant but due to its slow growth habit it will not be for sale for years.

Orlando, Florida

Vriesea uxoris


Photo by Kathleen Burt-Utley
Habitat photograph of Vriesea uxoris.

Vriesea uxoris Utley is a striking species known only from the montane rainforest life zone in Costa Rica. In April and May when this species flowers, the plants with their maroon colored leaves and peach or salmon bracts make a colorful addition to the montane landscape. The color of the bracts in V. uxoris is unique among the thecophylloid vrieseas and this character along with the relative size of sepals and floral bracts as well as ecological distribution readily separate this species from other vrieseas. Vriesea uxoris is one of four Costarican vrieseas with a pendent inflorescence (Utley, 1981). Its elongated inflorescence in conjunction with day blooming flowers and brightly colored inflorescence bracts strongly suggested that this species was pollinated by hummingbirds and our field observations have confirmed this.


Utley, J.F. Two New Montane Vrieseas (Bromeliaceae) From Costa Rica. Brittonia 33:581-586. 1981.

University of New Orleans, New Orleans, Louisiana

Drawing by Kathleen Burt-Utley
Vriesea uxoris. A. Habit; B. Leaf; C. Lateral inflorescence branch;
D. Petal; E. Floral bract, excised and flattened; F. Flower.

New Tillandsias from Mexico


Tillandsia erubescens var. arroyoensis.

During her last trips in Mexico, Mrs. Renate Ehlers of Stuttgart, Germany collected many interesting tillandsias, among them some new species and distinct varieties. Four from this group will be briefly described and pictured below. The full Latin diagnoses are in print in Feddes Repertorium (Academie-Verlag Berlin).

Tillandsia erubescens Schldl. 1845 var. arroyoensis Weber & Ehlers
Differing from the typical variety: all parts are narrower than the type; plant caulescent, leaves spreading to arcuate secund recurved, equal or shorter than the elongated scape; inflorescence simple polystichous, narrow fusiform with sterile erect bracts at bases and mostly with 2 yellowish-green flowers like the typical variety. HOLOTYPE: Mexico: Leon, on road between Dr. Arroyo and La Escondida, alt. 2000 m., leg. Renate Ehlers March 1981, flowered in cultivation Hort. Weber 25.5 1981 WEB 286.

Tillandsia erubescens var. patentibracteata.

Tillandsia erubescens Schldl. 1845 var. patentibracteata Weber & Ehlers
Plant flowered 25 cm long (expanded), leaves to 18 cm long but shorter than the long pendulous inflorescence, scape to 14 cm long, scapebracts many times longer than the internodes, 45-55 mm long, the lower with long subulate blades, the upper long lanceolate, acuminate, membranaceous, roseate, very dissite lepidote, spreading; inflorescence 7 cm long, subdense polystich 6-flowered. Flower bracts like the upper scapebracts, spreading, roseate, membranaceous, minutely apiculate, only at apex indistinct lepidote; sepals oblong-ovate, subacute, equal, free, ecarinate, to 30 mm long and 12 mm wide, membranaceous, glabrous, whitish, at apex pale roseate; petals 52 mm long, white, at apex pale yellowish-green, stamens and pistil exserted. This beautiful, large variety is distinguished from the type by its long pendent not fusiform inflorescence and the spreading bracts. HOLOTYPE: Mexico: Durango, on the road between Durango and Mazatlan, leg. Renate Ehlers March 1981, flowered in cultivation Hort. Weber 27.2 1982 WEB 429.

Tillandsia mitlaensis.

Tillandsia mitlaensis Weber & Ehlers
Plant flowered 16 cm high; leaves suberect, subsecund, dense coarse pruinose-lepidote, the outer reduced; sheaths indistinct, ovate, to 30 mm long, 20 mm wide; blades narrow triangular, stout, canaliculate, apex subulate, subobtuse acute, not pungent, 7-9 cm long, faintly nerved; scape suberect, short, hidden from the leaves, stout; scapebracts erect, dense imbricate enfolding the scape, with short subfoliaceous blades, dense pruinose lepidote; inflorescence simple, distichous, few complanate, lanceolate, 7 cm long, 16 mm wide, about 5-flowered; flowerbracts suberect, dense imbricate, lanceolate-ovate, obtuse acuminate, 32-35 mm long, 16 mm wide, ecarinate, strongly nerved, submembranaceous, with hyaline margins, reddish, on both sides subdense lepidote; flowers sessile, about 35 mm long; sepals lanceolate, acute, 23 mm long, posterior carinate and 5 mm high connate, thin membraneous, glabrous, nerved, whitish; petals dark violet at apex whitish, stamens few exserted.

This new species is closely related to T. circinnatoides Matuda but differs in the only faintly nerved, not strong sulcate leaves, the dense coat of spreading white scales and the shape of the flowerbracts. The habitat resembles somewhat that of T. pueblensis. HOLOTYPE: Mexico: Oaxaca, near Mitla, leg. Renate Ehlers March 1981, WEB 283.

Tillandsia schiedeana var. totolapanensis.

Tillandsia schiedeana Steud. 1841 var. totolapanensis Weber & Ehlers
This variety is distinct from the type by its arcuate secund recurved leaves, equal or shorter than the scape and more succulent, a few specimens have straight leaves, but never the older reflexed as in the type. The dry petals are red maculate, not yellow. All other flower parts are like the typical variety. HOLOTYPE: Mexico, Oaxaca, on the road from Oaxaca to Tehuantepec near Totolapan, saxicolous, leg. Renate Ehlers March 1981 WEB 472.

Waldsteinberg, The German Democratic Republic

The Watch Spring Billbergias in Cultivation


Figures all natural size. Fig. 1: Billbergia zebrina (complete flower); fig. 2: B. rosea (ovary and sepals); fig. 3: B. venezuelana (ovary and sepals); fig. 4: B. violacea (ovary and sepals); fig. 5: B. meyeri (floral bract, ovary and sepals); fig. 6: B. alfonsi-joannis (sepal); fig. 7: B. decora (ovary and sepals); fig. 8: B. brasiliensis (complete flower); fig. 9: B. magnifica (floral bract, ovary and sepals); fig. 10: B. macrolepis (floral bract, ovary and sepals); fig. 11: B. rubicunda (ovary and sepals); fig. 12: B. cylindrostachya (ovary and sepals); fig. 13: B. velascana (ovary and sepals); fig. 14: B. porteana (ovary and sepals); fig. 15: B. cardenasii (floral bract, ovary and sepals); fig. 16: B. pallidiflora (ovary and sepals).

One of the easiest groups of bromeliads to distinguish is that of the watch spring or helicoid Billbergias, because their tightly recoiled petals are unique in the family (see fig. 1). In fact some botanists have favored separating them as a genus, Helicodea, but intermediates with true Billbergia, like B. brasiliensis, make this separation appear undesirable.

Beside their curious petals, the helicoid Billbergias have a number of other characters in common. Their few leaves form a long tubular rosette, their scape-bracts are very large and a beautiful shade of rose, and their inflorescence is always simple and usually pendent. In fact there are so many similarities that we have little left to distinguish the species from each other except the shape of the sepals and the ovary. However, as a sort of compensation, these vary more than in most other bromeliad genera.

The oldest cultivated helicoid on record is Billbergia zebrina (fig. 1) published in 1826 as a Bromelia in plate 2686 of the "Botanical Magazine" and transferred to Billbergia the next year. It is also one of the easiest to recognize because of its top shaped ovary with large protuberances above that soon lose the white down covering the rest of the ovary and the sepals. The bare areas are very dark, giving the effect of a ring of black spots around the swollen top of the ovary. The green to yellow petals are not particularly noteworthy, but the snowy white covering of the remainder of the inflorescence plus the brilliant rose scape-bracts make this a most attractive species for cultivation. It is a native of eastern Brazil.

Their warty sepals and ovary distinguish B. rosea and B. venezuelana from other helicoids, and this character although not unique with them is at least very rare elsewhere among bromeliads. B. rosea (fig. 2) has narrowly triangular unequal sepals and floral bracts that are not more than 4 mm long. It was described by Beer in 1857 from cultivated material from Trinidad but seems to have died out since. B. venezuelana (fig. 3) has elliptic equal sepals and at least the lowest floral bracts are long and exceed the sepals. It is a relative newcomer, having been described by Mez in 1914, and is still known in cultivation.

Billbergia violacea and B. meyeri have long tapering sepals unlike the remaining helicoids that we have to consider. B. violacea (fig. 4) has a long open inflorescence and short floral bracts. Like B. rosea, it was described by Beer in 1857 from cultivated material and has disappeared since, although wild plants have been collected in Guiana. B. meyeri (fig. 5) is a native of eastern Bolivia and interior Brazil where Mulford Foster found it showing a preference for palm "boots". Its floral bracts are large and it has the shortest most compact inflorescence of all the helicoids.

The remaining helicoids all have broad sepals with broad tips, but B. alfonsi-joannis, discovered and described by our honorary trustee, Padre Rauline Reitz, has a three-pointed sepal (fig. 6) unmatched in bromeliads. The unusual hyphenated specific name is in honor of his two brothers and fellow padres. The species is one of the handsomest of all Billbergias but unfortunately Padre Reitz has not been able to propagate it to any extent.

Billbergia decora, (fig. 7) and B. brasiliensis (fig. 8) have evenly rounded ovaries while those of all the remaining species are prominently grooved and ridged. B. decora was discovered in Peru by Poeppig on his Amazonian expedition in 1829, but it did not reach cultivation until later under the name of B. baraquiniana. Its petals are green and form the typical tight coils. B. brasiliensis on the other hand, has dark blue petals that vary greatly in their amount of coiling. It was originally described as B. leopoldii, but as that name had already been used for another species, this one had to be given a new name.

The lower flowers of Billbergia magnifica and B. macrolepis are subtended by large bracts. B. magnifica (fig. 9) is a native of Paraguay and southern Brazil and has rather rounded sepals, where B. macrolepis (fig. 10) of Central America and northwestern South America has broadly ovate acute sepals. Both are relatively recent arrivals, dating from 1903 and 1936 respectively.

Billbergia rubicunda (fig. 11) stands out because of its glabrous axis, but its cylindrical ovary and equally large elliptic sepals are also distinctive. Mez named this one in 1916 from material cultivated in Vienna but did not know where it was native.

Billbergia cylindrostachya and B. velascana have blue or violet petals, where the remaining species, B. porteana, B. cardenasii and B. pallidiflora, all have yellow or green ones. B. cylindrostachya (fig. 12) has rounded apiculate sepals and a cylindric ovary, while the sepals are acute and the ovary stoutly ellipsoid in B. velascana (fig. 13, see Bromeliad Society Bulletin, vol. 7, p. 35). B. cylindrostachya was one of Glaziou's numerous discoveries described by Mez. It came from Rio but whether it was native or cultivated there we do not know as it has not been collected since. I strongly suspect that B. maxima (see Bromeliad Society Bulletin, vol. 4, p. 39) is the same as B. cylindrostachya, but so far have been unable to verify.

In Billbergia porteana (fig. 14) the lower part of the flower has an hourglass figure because of the large epigynous tube (epi, upon, and gynous, ovary) between the ovary and the unusually short broad sepals. This is another species described by Beer in 1857. It is a native to eastern Brazil and is well known both in the wild and in cultivation.

Billbergia cardenasii (fig. 15) of Bolivia has clear yellow petals and equal sepals, while B. pallidiflora (fig. 16) of Mexico has green petals and unequal sepals. B. cardenasii was described in 1953 from material sent us by Dr. Cardenas, and does not appear to be well known in cultivation yet. B. pallidiflora was described in 1854 by Liebmann, a famous plant explorer of Mexico and Central America, but until recently it has not been known in cultivation.

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C.

Reprinted from The Bromeliad Society Bulletin vol. 13 no. 1.

Tillandsia bourgaei Baker


Tillandsia bourgaei.

Tillandsia bourgaei Baker. This very showy species is native to central Mexico and is found also in the state of Chiapas, near Oaxaca, and Puebla, among other locations. The particular specimen shown in the photograph was growing near Morelia. It is found at elevations of 2500' to 6500' usually in oak trees. The leaves are about 1' in length, the inflorescence about 1' in height, the floral bracts are rose, and the petals are violet or occasionally yellow. This species was first described in 1891 and named after a French horticulturist named Bourgeau who first collected it in 1865 near Mexico City.

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