And so to the plants you thought I had missed in my talk. Undoubtedly the one to get most comment was the two bucketfuls of Aechmea that Keith Bradtberg had brought in. It had taken him some 15 years to get this far from seed from the American seed bank and the plants had offsetted many times before one plant per bucketful decided to flower. Was it our dry summer that was the trigger? This saga goes back at least 5 years when Keith surprised us with an oddity we could only call ‘Que Sera’ after the Doris Day song – ‘Whatever will be, will be’! These current plants have links to that! You may see my quirky sense of humour regarding the linking of the name to the name on the seed packet. You see, the name on the seed packet was Aechmea serrata.
In J. Brom Soc. 55: 207-9. 2005 I pointed out to the Bromeliad World that as far as I was concerned the only true Aechmea serrata was being grown in habitat on Martinique or in Europe. The plant growing in the USA and Australia under this name was an imposter and what I thought seemed closer to A. smithiorum.
Back to the meeting where others including Dave Wecker were mumbling under their breath “Butcher by name and butcher by nature”. This was all because Keith allowed me to remove the inflorescences for scientific purposes. In any event I promised him photos of my achievements and this has been accomplished. The inflorescences were clearly different. One looked like what was being grown as Aechmea serrata on the east coast of Australia and in the USA and the other a large heavy inflorescence with lots of flowers. For want of a name I am calling this one ‘Que Sera Superior’ because there are some links and people will want to grow this plant. What I did find very odd indeed was the branches of the compound inflorescence which were in tandem and only had one primary bract for the two branches - A mixed up kid indeed!
We know that Bill Treloar is growing A. ‘Que Sera’ which is basically a simple spike with a few branches at the base, so he will jump at the chance to get a plant with a decent large inflorescence. While Keith got his seed for ‘Que Sera’as Aechmea serrata in 1990, Peter Franklin in New South Wales had obtained seed of A. serrata the year before, also from the BSI seed bank. He was somewhat proud when PAF777 flowered. On seeing the inflorescence I suggested to Peter that he call it ‘Sight for Saw eyes’ but somehow the name died a natural death and in 2007 Peter does not know where the plant is!
If the seed in the BSI seed bank came from the same source then I have strong views that the A. serrata (now query A. smithiorum) is in fact a hybrid with A. fendleri or A. dichlamydea in its genes somewhere. We do know that Hawaiian and Floridian hybridists were busy hybridising these species in the 1970’s and reluctant to register their progeny. Perhaps this is the answer to our dilemma. I have tried to contact Chester Skotak who I know did grow this plant (mentioned in Blooming Bromeliads by Baensch 1994, p64) to find out if he did use it in any hybridising programme – alas no reply.
Our other dilemma is that the plant under cultivation in Australia and the USA as A. serrata seems to continue being grown as this name despite my article pointing out the name was wrong and suggesting that A. aff. smithiorum was preferable. It now appears that the A. aff. smithiorum is in fact a hybrid but to give it a cultivar name to identify it would only cloud the issue even further because of the lack of interest of some growers to have correct names on their plants.