Derek the Hybrid Detective
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DD1205 Neoregelia Princess Caroline

Neoregelia Princess Caroline with notes on N. carolinae, princeps, and carolinae ‘Princeps’ by Derek Butcher.

These last three names have been around for many many years be it in Australia, New Zealand or USA, but have they been linked to the proper plants? We can ascertain the identity of the first two names because they are recognised species with formal descriptions and herbarium specimens. The third name is a made-up one that nobody has tried to properly identify or to give a cultivar name. We hope to rectify this with this article.

Neoregelia carolinae has been in cultivation for over 100 years and most plants grown are of horticultural origin without a pedigree where the plant can be traced to a habitat environment. As Harry Luther pointed out in an article in J. Brom. Soc. 1983 pages 191-4, 223-4 this is well represented in herbaria and cultivation; quite variable in size and coloration. Many cultivated forms are highly selected and may be hybrids. My own experience is that the only ones I have which have a pedigree are those grown from seed actually from plants in the wild in SE Brazil and NOT Brazilian nurseries!

Neoregelia princeps forma princeps. This is what Harry had to say in 1983. “This is the most misapplied name in the genus; all material so named I have examined is N. carolinae. The true N. princeps is represented by 2 very similar clones that are only now beginning to spread in horticulture.” Remember this was Harry’s experience in the USA but we had had direct importation of several species to Australia from Brazil. This had me searching for the elusive N. princeps. All the plants I acquired with this name were more closely linked to N. carolinae after I had done my dissecting. But I do have several aff princeps !! ( Note that aff. is used by taxonomists for those plants that nearly fit the description BUT). These include a plant I got as N. farinosa (Bill Morris helped me with this one!) another as N. macrosepala from Queensland and another as N. pineliana from Sydney. All were what I would consider reliable sources but so far no luck. Remember one of the key factors to look for is red sepals. A plant exhibited at the 14th World Conference as Neoregelia princeps by Keith Smith is not this species either! Do not despair if your label has N. princeps on the label unless you are like me and love to dissect or you want to send pieces to the Identification Centre at Marie Selby Gardens in Florida. However if someone from Brazil feels sure they have the true species it would be good to get a good photograph of it.

Neoregelia carolinae ( var princeps ) or ‘Princeps’. Plants with this name have been grown in Australia and New Zealand (and the USA?) since probably the 1960’s but the name has never been officially queried. If you bought this plant you could have been advised “It is not really a carolinae or a princeps!” There is no reference to this name in any cultivar listing or taxonomical listing or the Journal of the Bromeliad Society International although there is a photograph of a Neoregelia carolinae ‘Princeps’ in Blooming Bromeliads by Baensch (1994) on page 119. Baensch said it was a trade name but I have been unable to trace this name in any of the old catalogues I have. Dennis Cathcart of Tropiflora has advised me that he does have this plant but in two forms, one with a thinner leaf than the other. The plot thickens! Is it a N. carolinae or a N. princeps? Growers assure me this plant is different to both! I have never grown it and have tried for years to get a photograph of it so we could resolve the matter.
Gerry Stansfield in New Zealand has come to the rescue by taking the inflorescence to pieces and we can find no link to either species which makes the origin of its name all the more mysterious. It must be of hybrid origin! He has also supplied me with a photograph of this plant which we must treat as a cultivar. Clearly the name carolinae princeps is misleading and we do not know who coined the name many years ago, so a replacement name should be similar. We decided that ‘Princess Caroline’ would solve the problem. So if you are growing this plant please change the name. A photo will be linked to the Bromeliad Cultivar Register on the BSI website.
This matter of naming has taken a certain urgency because Gerry has stabilised an albomarginate sport of ‘Princess Caroline’ which he will be calling ‘Princess Caroline Superb’.

Photo by Gerry Stansfield, New Zealand. Click for new window.

Updated 25/12/05