This was first described as Nidularium spectabile by T. Moore in 1873 and this was said about the plant at the time. -
“N. spectabile was imported by Mr. Bull from the interior of Brazil, and flowered in his establishment in December, 1872. It is a very striking plant and may at once be recognised from any species hitherto cultivated in England, by the singular bright blood-red ends of the leaves, which form a clearly defined and singular contrast both to the bright green of the upper surface and the glaucous dull green of the lower surface of the leaf.” (See below for full transcript.)
The painting shows whitish petals but it is said these are violet-blue.
We can trace this species in Australia to the 1960’s when species were abundant and hybrids rare. In all probability it came to Australia direct from Brazil although it could also have got here from the USA at later dates. Some have more distinct barring on the underneath surface of the leaves and these are to be cherished.
It must have been about the 1970’s that someone imported a N. spectabilis that was different because it was supposed to be variegated. These were the days when everything that had even a slight variation in the colour of longitudinal stripes was snapped up. After all it could only improve! Since then the intensity of variation in colour has made us choosier regarding this attribute. Meanwhile, offset after offset was taken from this ‘variegate’ and even the most optimistic of growers gave up in despair. This did not stop new owners of the plant having the same dreams.
Even with my pushing for bromeliads to be given cultivar names if different to the norm, I could see nothing worthy in this plant.
In February 2012 Ian Hook from the BSA, informs me that this plant is making a revival on ebay and sometimes called ‘Jaffa’ and I have no idea the significance of this name. All I can remember is rolling such things down the aisle while watching ‘the pictures’.
Anyway we are recording this name in the Bromeliad Cultivar Register just in case in the future someone says “What is a ‘Jaffa’?”
Notes from Ian Hook to Derek Butcher, Feb.2012:
1. I have read that Mulford Foster had around 400 versions of spectabils cultivars and hybrids. After his death, the collection was broken up, given away to friends, and records were poor.
2. Many of Foster’s hybrids are listed in the BCR as “parent = spectabilis variegata”
3. This variegated spectabilis also goes by the name of “Foster’s spectabilis” in older Sydney collections. Such fairy tales often have some element of truth.
4. The variegation is not great by today’s standards, and seems to fade in too much sun.
5. Frequently found in Bromeliad collections. Particularly among beginners who dream of breeding a better variegate.
6. Often called N. 'Jaffa' on eBay and other commercial websites (and worldwide?)
7. Neither N. JAFFA, N. spectabilis Variegated, or ‘Foster’s spectabilis are registered.
8. Wikipedia: “Jaffas - The name derives from the Jaffa orange. The sweet is ... Through association with this sweet, Jaffa is sometimes used to describe a chocolate-orange flavour.”
9. Is it just a variegated spectabilis ? Growers here suggest it could be either a hybrid or an extreme version of spectabilis. (from Foster?)
9a. The leaves get an orange background that is not well duplicated in the dark green spectabilis grown all over Australia.
9b. Where did the red spots on the leaves come from? (not present in spectabilis.)
9c. The ”purplish banding towards base of leaves” is far less prominent in 'Jaffa'.
9d. Typically shorter, broader, fewer leaves in 'Jaffa'.
9e. Flowers light blue, slightly paler than spectabilis???
None of these are proof it is a hybrid of course, but we suspect it’s more than just a spectabilis gone variegated. Does anyone feel like getting seed and growing to check ? or finding one that reverts back to a ?
If anyone has any information to add, please contact the webmaster, Ian Hook.
I'm also keen to find out what this plant looks like, or is named, in other countries.
Fig.1, Whole plant reduced; 2, flower and bracts; 3, portion of tube and a segment of corolla with anthers; 4, ovary: - all magnified.