Derek the Hybrid Detective

DD1111 Vriesea ‘Royal Hawaiian’.
by Derek Butcher November 2011

This seems to be a favourite cultivar name amongst Queensland growers but as far as I can find out, David Shiigi’s hybrid of this name has not been imported to Australia. I find it a challenge to write this name without making a spelling mistake, so I find its use difficult to understand. Perhaps it has some special mystique.

Because of recent revelations I felt it necessary to go into print for those interested in knowing a bit of history about your plants. The following information is on the BCR (Bromeliad Cultivar Register) at

Vriesea ‘Aussie Royal Hawaiian’
In the 1993 catalogue of the Olive Branch a Vriesea ‘Royal Hawaiian’ with parents (fosteriana x bleheri) was listed but over the years no attempt has been made to query this name with that of David Shiigi’s ‘Royal Hawaiian’ registered 5 years later in 1998 that had different parentage. In October 2011 Vic Przetocki sent me photos of both Vriesea ‘Nissa’ and ‘Royal Hawaiian’ in flower and there was great similarity in plant and flower. Alarm bells rang! The only difference between the two was that ‘Nissa’ has parents of (bleheri x ‘Red Chestnut’) or, in other words the reverse parentage. In both cases you can expect pointed (attenuate) discolored leaves with faint glyph markings with an inflorescence reminiscent of the feather-like V. bleheri. In other words nothing like ‘Royal Hawaiian or Basic’s Royal Hawaiian’ that have broad strap-like glyph leaves as in V. fosteriana. We will have both ‘Aussie Royal Hawaiian’ as well as ‘Nissa’ even though they look very similar.

Vriesea ‘Basic’s Royal Hawaiian’
We do not have a definitive photo because they were raised from seed sent by Sharon Petersen in Hawaii obtained from her 'Royal Hawaiian' and the seedlings raised by Cheryl Basic were a varied bunch as can be expected. Some keen purchasers realised that they could not be called 'Royal Hawaiian' and registered their clone under a different name. There are currently seven of these on file. Many others ignored the problem so there are many plants being grown in Australia called ‘Royal Hawaiian’ but are not. Some have the name and a clone number which should alert the grower to the fact it is not the David Shiigi’s hybrid. If you have a plant called 'Royal Hawaiian' that has broad strap-like glyph leaves but does not look like David Shiigi's photo on the BCR and you consider it was Australian born, then consider 'Basic's Royal Hawaiian'. On the other hand, if your plant called 'Royal Hawaiian' has pointed (attenuate) discolored leaves with faint glyph markings and looks very similar to 'Nissa' then this is now recorded as 'Aussie Royal Hawaiian'

Vriesea ‘Aussie Royal Hawaiian’.

Photos Ross Little 11/11.

Updated 17/11/11