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January 2008

<I>Billbergia euphemiae</I> <I>Quesnelia marmorata</I>

Billbergia euphemiae . . . . . . .Quesnelia marmorata

- Articles appearing in this issue of NEWSLINK are for information purposes only and are not necessarily endorsed by the Committee or the Illawarra Bromeliad Society.
- The Society is, by the holding of meetings, displays and competitions, to provide a forum for the people of the Illawarra region who are interested in the culture and collection of bromeliads.

A very warm welcome to new members Sandra Southwell, who joined at our Show in September, and to Brian and Muriel Baldwin (Coral’s Mum and Dad) and Eunice Spark who joined in November.

A very hearty congratulations to our Points Score winners for 2007. We saw so many very beautiful plants on our competition tables this year and I would like to thank all of those who make the effort to bring their plants to our meetings. I’m sure I’m not only speaking for myself when I say, “They do the heart good!” and we can all learn so much when they are presented and discussed.
- Open: - Neville Wood
- Novice: - John Carthew & Bruce Cluff
- Tillandsia: - Graham Bevan

We will again use the roster system for providing prizes for our monthly raffles, and as we’ve had a wonderful influx of new members (21) this past year, we have been able to roster four to five members each month for supplying these prizes. The same rules will apply: if you are unable to supply a bromeliad then items such as potted herbs, cuttings, spare fruits/vegetables from your garden, gardening tools, etc. are acceptable. Also, if you are unable to attend the meeting — and/or are unable to supply a raffle prize when rostered — it would be appreciated if you would either ‘work a swap’ or speak to Elizabeth about getting a fill-in for your month.

As our membership fees are kept very low, we rely on these raffles to help defray the costs involved in the running of our Society, and so your support is very necessary, and very much appreciated.

Naomi Hurst/Coral Baldwin/Ted Clare/Russell Dixon/John Carthew
Rhonda Patterson/Noel Pearce/Stephen Morgan/Neil Wheway
Paul Godin/Barry Kill/Dick Jamieson/Meri Stefanidakis/Jarka Rehak
Jan Stammers/Fred Burrows/Eric Jordan/Jenny Taylor/Eileen K
Loreen Whiddett/Carolyn Buxton/Colette/Graham Bevan/Martin Pitt
Valda Beckett/Catherine Wainwright/Neville/Eunice Spark/Beth C
Christine Okoniowski/June Smith/Glenise Weston/Brian Baldwin/Phillip
Peter Netting/Sandra Southwell/Ailsa McD/Pat McIntyre/Tom Cross
Carmel Glanville/Jenny McKenzie/Sharyn/Dawn Climent/Muriel Baldwin
Alan Kirkby/Bruce Cluff/Dot Stephenson/Laurie Dorfer/Carol Carthew

As our first workshop proved very popular we will be running another one on Thursday, February 7, this time dealing with the mounting of bromeliads. Again it will be held at Sharyn Baraldi’s home at 25 Antrim Avenue, Warilla (Phone: 4296 2166) from 10.00 am until 2.00 pm and anyone interested is invited to attend. Bring your lunch — tea and coffee will be supplied.

Elizabeth, Graham, Beth and Pat have been busy arranging a coach trip for us, to take in Sydney Flower Power Nursery at Enfield (a clean and well kept old nursery complex), Olympic Park for a lunch stop and then on to Eden Gardens at North Ryde for an afternoon of exploring this award-winning nursery. Originally scheduled for March, the outing has had to be put forward to February Thursday 21st — perhaps a date which may not suit everyone, and for this our organisers apologise. However, there were many things to consider when planning the trip, not least of all being that the major destination — Eden Gardens — does not take bus traffic at weekends and an early Easter and daylight savings also had to be taken into account. Cost is $25 per person. BYO lunch and refreshments.
Details will be available at our February 2 meeting or contact Graham: 4261 1173 or Beth 4447 2213.


Feb 24
183 Windsor Rd, NORTHMEAD (Next to “The Home Team”-- 9.00 am - 4.00 pm (Park in Mary Street or Windermere Ave) Email: or (02) 9674-4720
Mar 20 - Apl 2
BROM.SOC.NSW - Display & comp at Easter Show Homebush
Apl 4-6
April 19-20
BROM.SOC.NSW, AUTUMN SHOW 9-11 Wellbank St Concord
April 19-20
AUTUMN ON FARM PLANT SALE & NATIVE GARDEN, 140 Russell Lne Oakdale 10-4pm
April 26-27
Sunshine Coast Spectacular
May 3-4
Brom.Soc.Australia AUTUMN SHOW Burwood RSL Email:
June 24 - 30
‘BROMELIADS DOWNUNDER’ - The 18th World Bromeliad Conference, CAIRNS, QLD.
Aug 29-31
Sept 11-14
Sept 13-14
ILLAWARRA BROM.SOC. SPRING SHOW Uniting Church Russell St Corrimal 9-4
Oct 11-12
Oct 12
HILLS DISTRICT ORCHIDS OPEN DAY. 183 Windsor Rd Northmead, Email: or (02) 9674-4720
Oct 14-16
HUNTER VALLEY GARDENS TOUR See below for details.
Oct 25-26
BROM.SOC.NSW SPRING SHOW 9-11 Wellbank St Concord
Dec 7
HILLS DISTRICT ORCHID OPEN DAY. 183 Windsor Rd Northmead, Email: or (02) 9674-4720
April 10-13(2009)
BROMADELAIDE2009 Brom. Conference.
May 16-17(2009)
Oct 10-11(2009)

(The Hunter Valley Gardens cover 25 hectares of spectacular display gardens, nestled at the foothills of the Brokenback Ranges in the heart of the Hunter vineyards)
Tuesday October 14 - Thursday October 16, 2008
A couch tour has been organised jointly by the Shellharbour Garden Club and the Illawarra Bromeliad Society to take in some of the attractions of the Hunter Valley region, including the Hunter Valley Gardens, McGuigans Winery, The Hunter Valley Cheese Factory and the Hunter Valley Chocolate and Fudge Shop.
On the way home, a stop at Bromeliads Australia (Bob and Gleness Larnach’s nursery) at Wyee, and Bob Cherry’s Paradise Plants at Kulnura on the Central Coast.
Cost is $398 for 3 days/2 nights twin share (single supplement $78 extra).
A deposit of $100 is required to make a booking by the end of March; remainder will be accepted in two instalments in May and July.
Graham will have full details at our meetings or contact him on (02) 4261 1173

The Fifteenth Australasian Bromeliad Conference
Easter 2009 - Friday 10 April – Monday 13 April

Registration: Very early bird (paid before 31/7/2008) - $170
Adelaide Meridien special room rate: $125/night per room – Password: Bromadelaide2009
Toll Free 1800 888 228 or email:

- February 2, 2008: Shadehouses for Small Areas, by Neville Wood
- March 1, 2008: Hanging Tips and Basket Making, by Dick Jamieson
- April 5, 2008: Growing the Grey-Leafed Tillandsias

PLANT RESULTS - October 6th, 2007

Neville Wood Aechmea recurvata var. recurvata
Ailsa McDonald Neoregelia carolinae hybrid(Skotak)
Neville Wood <Aechmea orlandiana Ensign
Catherine Wainwright <Aechmea Pie in the Sky

Coral Baldwin Vriesea Asahi
Coral Baldwin Neoregelia Fireball
Bruce Cluff Aechmea recurvata Aztec Gold
Bruce Cluff Aechmea Inca
Rhonda Patterson Neoregelia Amazing Grace

Catherine Wainwright Tillandsia ionantha
Catherine Wainwright Tillandsia bergeri
Dick Jamieson Tillandsia tricolor
Ailsa McDonald Tillandsia ionantha
Catherine Wainwright Tillandsia Victoria

PLANT RESULTS - November 3rd, 2007

Neville Wood xNeophytum Galactic Warrior
Sue Burrows Aechmea nudicaulis
Neville Wood Billbergia Kip
Alan Kirby Neoregelia Khan
Graham Bevan Aechmea kleinii
Dick Jamieson Vriesea Barbarosa - Red

Bruce Cluff Neoregelia Red Gold
Jan Stammers Neoregelia Imperfector
John Carthew Vriesea Burgundy - Yellow Import
Bruce Cluff Orthophytum vagans
Bruce Cluff Neoregelia Amazing Grace
Dick Jamieson Tillandsia stricta 8 inflorescence - Lovely!
Dick Jamieson Tillandsia deppeana
Graham Bevan Tillandsia cacticola
Catherine Wainwright Tillandsia ionantha
Laurie Dorfer Tillandsia imperialis

Aechmea ‘Inca’: A. ‘Inca’ is one of the spineless hybrids released in recent years, made by Chester Skotak and marketed by DeRoose Nurseries of Belgium. These were apparently brought to Australia around 2000/2001 by Marlborough nurseries in Brisbane and reached Sydney unlabelled but bearing PBR (Plant Breeder’s Rights) stickers. There were two others which came to Sydney at about the same time—one very similar to A. ‘Inca’ (A. Mohican)—both having bright reddish inflorescences--and the other with a very beautiful pink inflorescence labelled at the time ‘Primera’, but the correct name we have found out to be Aechmea ‘Maya’. Geoff Lawn from Perth kindly did the research on these plants for me some time back but was able to find out the parentage of only one of them—A. ‘Maya’—which is A. flavorosea x A. fasciata.

Neoregelia ‘Imperfecta’: Jan Stammers brought in this lovely plant which is a Skotak hybrid made in the late 1980s. It is a cultivar of N. carolinae x ‘Painted Lady’, a plant larger than ‘Perfecta Tricolor’ with richer pink colour suffused with orange variegation down the centre of the leaves. Fades in too bright a light and high heat. Whimsically named as a takeoff on ‘Perfecta Tricolor’ it appears more salmon orange-coloured than ‘Perfecta Tricolor’—Extremely prolific. (*Beadle, Don.A. (1998) The Bromeliad Cultivar Registry.)

Neoregelia ‘Red Gold’: A cultivar of N. cruenta (rubra) x ‘Morris Henry Hobbs’ selected from seed supplied by George Anderson, a New Orleans grower and hybridizer, and grown up by Grace Goode some time in the early 1980s. The Cultivar Registry tells us that it is a large broad-leafed cruenta - form open rosette with many stacked strappy leaves in light yellow green covered by solid red glazing, allowing occasional spots and small areas of the yellow to show through. The centre remains ‘gold’ at blooming.

Tillandsia cacticola : The Latin name of this beautiful little plant translates as “cactus dweller’ since Tillandsia cacticola are occasionally found growing on cacti in their native habitat in dry valleys of northern Peru. As Graham’s flowering plant, brought to our November meeting, seemed a more unusual variant of the typical dainty T. cacticola, I queried it with Derek Butcher who advised that there are, in fact, at least two forms in Australia. In this form the inflorescence seems (to me!) to have a somewhat more ‘robust-looking’ appearance (although still very dainty), with a deep purple edging to the white flowers. A Tropiflora Cargo Report describes them thus: “A soft rosette of half-inch wide gray leaves; produces a spectacular inflorescence of lavender branches with purple-edged, white to yellow flowers. Grow on the dry side, bright and airy. Likes fertilizer.” Derek also advised, “...we have found that if your offset is reluctant to flower it may get bigger than usual and produce a larger flower spike!”

Tillandsia ionantha : Rena brought an exquisite clump of T. ionantha to our November meeting which had almost completely covered the lovely, twisted old piece of wood on which she had been growing it for around 40 years. The species name comes from the Greek ion, meaning violet, and the Latin antheros, meaning flower.
In its native habitat, its range extends from Southern Mexico to Nicaragua, where it is found growing high in trees in both moist and xeric (dry) forests. Although tolerant of shade, T. ionantha does not bloom well until exposed to bright light and in their native habitat, most bloom in winter after the trees have shed their leaves.(* When not in bloom the leaves are normally silvery-green in colour, with up to 40 leaves typically forming a dense rosette from 4 to 10 cm high and 2 to 5 cm wide. However, it is sometimes known as ‘Blushing Bride’, because the top half flushes red when it flowers. (*Reilly.R. (2003) Growing Small, Grey-Leaved Tillandsias, Bromeletter Vol.41(6))
Tillandsia ‘Druid’ (with white flowers) is a cultivar of T. ionantha, having occurred as a natural sport in the Veracruz, Mexico area. In this form the leaves turn yellow, rather than red, at flowering (see article page 7).
Tillandsia ‘Fuego’ is a rare, fiery-red form that was originally found in a Guatemalan mangrove forest. A small grower to about 2 inches with narrow, upright growth it has reddish leaves all year that turn brilliant red when in bloom. Probably the reddest of the various ionantha forms.

Tillandsia ‘Victoria’ : While commonly known as a cultivar of T. ionantha x brachycaulos made by Mulford Foster in 1943, and named to honour Victoria Padilla, the BCR tells us that it also occurs as a natural hybrid in Mexico. Foster resembled it to a king-sized T. ionantha, which, when in bloom, reaches 5-6 inches tall, the leaves turning a rich cerise pink with many “purple ‘candle’ flowers in the centre.”

By Eloise Beach, Apopka, Florida
About fourteen years ago, Drew Schulz of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, collected a large quantity of Tillandsia ionantha near the city of Vera Cruz, Mexico. Nothing unusual appeared until 1971 when Drew was surprised to find a plant that turned bright yellow in the centre and produced flowers with white petals, in contrast with the plant that blushes red and has violet flowers (the name ionantha refers to the colour violet). One by one, more of the unusual yellow plants appeared in that original group until six were found. Those six were given lots of tender loving care.
{*As this article appeared in the January-February 1984 issue of the JBS it is now nearly 40 years since the original T. ionantha was collected.}

The cultivar name, ‘Druid’ was selected to give an aura of mystery, while incorporating the collector’s name.

When not in bloom, T. ionantha ‘Druid’ looks like the common ionantha: it is a miniature rosette, only two-three inches tall, and the leaves are covered with silvery scales. It should be mounted, not potted, and can be grown in shady to nearly full sun locations. Spring is the usual blooming time.

While Tillandsia ionantha has many different sizes and shapes, few tillandsias in bloom command more admiration. Now T. ionantha ‘Druid’ joins this variety-filled group and introduces a strikingly different colour. Nature is full of surprises!

(From Dave Anderson’s talk at the Bromeliad Society of New Zealand’s monthly meeting in April 2005, and appearing in their May 2005 Journal, Vol. 45[5])
The word ionantha means violet-flowered which refers to the intense violet colour of the flowers.

Growing as an epiphyte in the Central American countries from Mexico to Costa Rica at an elevation of 450 to 1700 metres, it forms dense masses growing both in the moist forests as well as in exposed deciduous trees where it is well adapted to the xeric conditions. In cultivation the plant should be allowed to dry out after becoming wet.

It is one of the most delightful miniatures with 20-40 succulent leaves that are rarely more than 50 mm long, growing in vertical rows. The different varieties of ionantha form plants 40-100 mm in height and their lettuce green coloured leaves are covered with silvery-grey trichomes that are sometimes tinged crimson. Approaching flowering the entire plant turns rosy red. The narrow tubular flowers emerge from deep in the centre of the plant, topping the leaves by 30-40 mm. The flowers are vivid purple as mentioned above.

It is a durable species with the recognised varieties that are seen in many collections in New Zealand, being:
- var. ionantha, the most common variety being a stemless plant with no scape.
- var. van-hyningii: a true dwarf growing in colonies on the vertical limestone cliffs at Chiapas. This small variety has distinct stems with the same flowers and no scape.
- var. stricta with fine leaves that are red throughout its life. This variety has a special clone known as forma fastigiata. Very small with tight leaves, and commonly known as ‘Peanut’.
- ‘Druid’, a cultivar of var. ionantha that turns an unusual yellow colour with flowers that have white petals when it blooms.

There are a number of other cultivars that are seen in many collections in New Zealand, namely:
- ‘Huamelula’, ‘Hand Grenade’ and ‘Cone Head’ which are large cultivars, 75-100 mm high.
- ‘Peach’ whose leaves turn peach coloured when the plant blooms.
- ‘Fuego’ that is similar to var. stricta but with stiffer leaves.
- ‘Rubra’, a cultivar from Guatemala that turns a light pink-rose when in bloom.

The plants growing in Guatemala and Mexico can be compared thus: The Guatemalan plants are fuzzier and larger, being 80-100 mm in height and width, whereas the Mexican plants are 50-60 mm in height and width.

Although it is a reasonably robust plant it should be given shelter through the winter months as the plant does not thrive in the cooler, wetter conditions of the Auckland climate. You will find it a most rewarding plant to grow, forming clumps that are always admired.

(See cover illustration - Ed.)
By Jamie de Salis
(From Fraser Coast Bromeliad Society Inc., Newsletter Vol. 3(10), 24 November, 2007)

I know that I am not alone in my difficulty differentiating between these two genera. Consequently, I thought it might be fun to explore this subject. I asked Derek Butcher to assist me in unravelling the associated mysteries, in particular in relation to Quesnelia marmorata — see photo on page 136 of Andrew Steens’ book ‘Bromeliads for the Contemporary Garden’ — green cover (looks like a billbergia to me!). The following article attempts to explain the difference between the two genera and to dispel the myth that you can identify a plant by its appearance alone. Direct quotes from Derek’s response are in italics.

Apparently my confusion about these two genera is shared by many as Derek pointed out that all who can tell the difference between Quesnelia and Billbergia on face value are deluding themselves. There are two sorts of Billbergia — one with watch spring petals and one without.
Watch spring petals are tightly coiled petals (hence the name). An example of this type of billbergia is B. zebrina which is a Billbergia subgenus Helicodea. These types of Billbergia can never be confused with Quesnelia. There are two types of Quesnelia — one like Quesnelia quesneliana with its crinkly paper pink bracts and ones that look like billbergias.

I can be forgiven for not being able to tell the difference between the Quesnelia marmorata and a Billbergia when I learned that Q. marmorata was first described as Billbergia marmorata in 1855 and stayed that way for 40 years. It then became an Aechmea for some 70 years before it became a Quesnelia. Quesnelia marmorata has different pollen to a Billbergia.

Still confused on the difference between the two genera? You are not alone. There are many learned taxonomists (people who classify living and extinct organisms) around today, including a number of Brazilians who get their Doctorates of Botany in Bromeliaceae. One such scientist is Claudia Vieira who, in 2006, presented a paper on this very subject. A brief summary from her concluding paragraph is “[that] only through several researchers’ efforts based on natural groups will taxonomic groups like Aechmea, Quesnelia and associated genera be placed in their proper places — A task that remains as the biggest challenge for specialists in Bromeliaceae.

Taxonomy in relation to bromeliads is a complex science and it can take many decades before a plant is correctly classified. As you can see from above, pollen analysis (palynology) is sometimes the only way to differentiate some genera, not the visible differences in leaves and petal appendages which the general public use to identify these plants.

Given the rather protracted classification process, we may be wise to follow Derek’s advice and "leave the name on the label until the dust settles!"

By Neville Wood - Illawarra Bromeliad Society.
Where should I grow it? How much sun does it need? These questions are often asked by new bromeliad growers when acquiring a new plant. Hopefully this article might help answer some of these questions. The following information is based on my own experiences growing bromeliads under my local conditions at Shellharbour on the south coast of New South Wales.

First of all a warning: be careful of what you read in books. This information quite often applies to other states in Australia and even other countries throughout the world and more than likely an entirely different climate and set of growing conditions to where you are planning to grow your plants.

When you consider that bromeliads grow from sea level to high in the mountains at elevations of thousands of feet in their native habitat, you can imagine the great variation in light levels over this enormous range of conditions. As well as all of these variations in conditions, you have all of the different species and their individual requirements also, so it’s impossible to have one set of rules about light requirements to suit all types of bromeliads.

It is generally accepted that a level of light which is too low for a particular type of plant will minimise the chances of it flowering and will rob most coloured leaf types of their best leaf colour. Not enough light will make the leaves become long and strappy as they reach out for more light. On the other hand, if the light level is high it usually makes the leaves become shorter and sturdier. Too much light will begin to bleach the colour out of the leaves and if combined with a high temperature over an extended period this will eventually yellow and burn the leaves. The burns will initially appear as white scorch marks which will eventually change to look like areas with the consistency of brown paper. Likewise, low light combined with very low temperatures can also damage leaves and leave them with unsightly spots and blemishes. So the challenge is to just get the light requirements of your plants within an acceptable level. This article is more about light requirements, not high and low temperatures, but suffice to say the extremes of temperature can be rectified simply by using common sense. If it’s extremely hot, move the plant to a cooler location. If it’s extremely cold, move the plant to a warmer location. I find if the weather is uncomfortably hot or cold for me, it’s usually not the ideal climate for my plants either.

To grow bromeliads well you require the right amount of light for each species to bring out their best shape and colour. I find that bright filtered light suits most of the aechmeas, neoregelias and vrieseas that I grow while my guzmanias require less light and my nidulariums require the least of all.

You often hear in discussions that this or that plant needs “full sun” to bring out its best colour. How is “full sun” defined? Is it total unobstructed sunlight all day, just in the mornings, just in the afternoons, or somewhere in between? When considering this question it should be realised that very few gardens have access to full sun all day. They are usually obstructed for part of the day by some sort of barrier, be it a tree, shade from another building, your house or perhaps a separate garage or shed. Maybe the property next door interrupts the amount of sun your garden receives especially if it has a large tree or two storey home on it. I think a better approach is to ask, what degree of light does this plant require? I think the term “full sun” is misleading, especially when you think of the damage bright, unfiltered sunlight can cause during the hottest part of summer; especially during extremes like the January heat waves a couple of years ago.

To correctly answer the question of how much light a plant needs, there are many factors which need to be considered and used as guidelines. Firstly, in what type of environment is the particular plant species found in its natural state? Does it grow high up in trees where it is exposed to high degrees of partially filtered light most of the day; on rock faces where it only gets strong unobstructed light in the mornings or afternoons; in totally dry open areas exposed to strong light all day; or perhaps very low light on the forest floor in heavy shade beneath trees? We should also consider the level of humidity present in these varying conditions and although the requirements of most of the hybrids we now grow have changed somewhat from those of the original species, the information about where the species grow in their natural habitat is still a very useful guide. There is a wealth of knowledge on this subject to be found in books in our society’s library. Remember our library is there for our use so take books out and read them.

When acquiring any new plant, I like to find out, if possible, in what conditions it has previously been growing: for instance was it grown in bright light, heavy shade, out in the garden or in a pot in a shade house, and initially I try to provide similar conditions. If I think the plant will benefit from more light, it must be acclimatised to the new environment and any changes must be made gradually--e.g., if it is a Neoregelia which has dark green soft leaves, there is a good chance it was grown in substantial shade. As most Neoregelias require good light to bring out their best colour, the amount of light it receives can probably be increased. To move this plant out into the open during summer where it will be exposed to bright sunlight even for part of the day would most likely result in “sunburn”. The amount of light for this plant should be increased gradually and started in the cooler months. This will harden the plant and toughen it up so it can tolerate the stronger light without becoming damaged. However, even with this gradual increase in light it must be remembered that not all plants will tolerate unlimited exposure to bright sunlight without burning.

The thickness of the leaves is yet another guide. Plants with thick leathery leaves such as Aechmea recurvata will usually withstand a sunny, brightly lit environment all day but still need to be acclimatised gradually to your conditions if previously grown in a lower light location. On the other hand plants such as Nidulariums with thin leaves generally require low light conditions and the protection of a shady environment and will usually burn if exposed to bright direct sunlight for a lengthy period.

The colour of the leaves is yet another guide. Plants with green leaves which are soft, shiny and pliable and have maroon or red underneath are designed for shady areas where the light can pass through the leaf and be reflected back by the red pigmentation thereby maximising the amount of available light. Aechmea 'Royal Wine' is an example of this type of plant and if exposed to harsh sunlight will usually scorch.

So if reading books, obtaining information from other growers and becoming familiar with your own plants and conditions is a good guide to your plants’ light requirements, how do you go about providing these requirements?

It’s really only common sense: if the plants’ requirements are for bright light, move them to a brightly lit area. If your yard is shady and only has low available light, use companion plants with light coloured leaves to reflect this light. Likewise if they are in a shade house, use a low percentage shade cloth, e.g., 30% or 28% “Orchid Shade” to make good use of all available light. You can use reflection to your advantage by painting all the timber or pipe work in the shade house with a glossy paint in a light colour such as white or a very pale green. You will be surprised how much this increases the available light in the shade house. If the rear wall is a fence or the wall of a shed or garage, paint this a light colour as well, as it will also increase the available light. Some growers have even been known to use white Styrofoam boxes to sit plants on instead of benches to increase the available light.

Precautions should always be taken when plants are located near a north facing brick wall, a light coloured house or near a pool. In these cases the degree of light will be exaggerated by the effects of reflection and this extra light must be taken into consideration as it could just be sufficient to lead to scorching of the plant.

If your plants are growing beneath trees, place the plants requiring the most light furthest from the trunk out toward the tree’s drip line on the northern side. If on the other hand your plants require more shade, move them back beneath the tree closer to the trunk. If lower light is required in a shade house, use a higher percentage shade cloth e.g. 50% - 75% and use paint with low reflective qualities such as a dark olive/grey/green with a matt finish to minimise light reflection. Create various levels of light in your shade house. Plants requiring high light can be hung near the roof, plants requiring medium light can be placed on benches while plants requiring low light can be placed at a level below the benches or on the floor.

If you have two or more plants of the same variety, experiment by placing them in locations with different light exposures; the response of the plant will soon give you an idea of what conditions are most suitable. Finally, remember all growers have different growing conditions and what suits one grower won’t necessarily suit another. Also, your yard has different areas of light and shade, warmth and coolness. Get to recognise these areas and utilise them to suit your plants.

Much has been written about what plants should be grown where and because all locations are different, this information should only be used as a guide. It is really up to you to decide where you should grow your plants to obtain the best utilisation of the available light, but remember if you intend to introduce changes to increase light, increase it gradually and start in the cooler months.

By Michael Spencer
(From Journal of the Bromeliad Society Vol. XXXI(4), July-August 1981)

Many people have eaten the pineapple and can readily call to mind its luscious taste. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have within our grasp the many different forms of bromeliads can greatly enhance this culinary experience by delving into the unknown, past the glory of the pineapple, and into the realm of the truly exotic by trying the many different types of bromeliad fruit. Their often subtle taste makes them unusually difficult to compare and describe. This can only be done by personal trial. According to Dr. Lyman Smith there are no known toxic principles in the Bromeliaceae. So with due caution these trials can be made with relative impunity.

My first clue to the possible edibility of these wild berries was at Mr. Julian Nally’s estate where I noticed large numbers of bluejays, cardinals, and mockingbirds squabbling over the ripening fruit of Aechmea distichantha. In the following months I observed that the birds went systematically from plant to plant snatching this tropical fruit as it matured in the Florida sun. Like my winged friends I couldn’t resist these free treats and thus began my feast on this surprisingly delicious fruit.

In general only the baccate fruits of the Bromelioideae are worthy of note. All are brightly colored and give the alluring appearance of palatability. Aechmea, Ananas, Bromelia, and Neoregelia are usually the most abundant suppliers of good edible fruit. Many are large like Aechmea mexicana, A. distichantha, Ananas bracteatus, and Bromelia balansae, but the majority are smaller and raisin-like such as A. lueddemanniana, A. nudicaulis, and A. augustifolia. The South American natives recognize the bromeliad fruit as a food source, but many of these are eaten only in the most desperate of conditions and even then sparingly.

One exception to the baccate rule is the plumose seeds of tillandsias and vrieseas. These wind-swept seeds can be used as a natural chewing gum, which surpasses man’s poor copy, lasting longer and having fewer or no harmful chemicals. It is perplexing to think that man overlooks the simple abundance of his natural surroundings for a second rate gum, especially since his copy is made out of the same things rubber tires are. You might as well be chewing your steel belted radials. So next time you have to chew on something you might want to give bromeliads a second thought.

The pineapple was the first bromeliad to be discovered by ‘civilized man’ and was brought from the new world to Europe by Christopher Columbus in 1493. In 1516 it was first mentioned in print in Peter Martyr’s book Decades of the New World. After this, in 1535, the first illustration of the pineapple appeared in Gonzalez de Oviedo’s book Historia General de las Indias. But probably the most well-known illustration is the painting of King Charles II accepting one from his gardener John Rose. The references to the pineapple in literature are probably the most extensive of any New World fruit.

Almost as numerous as its historical accounts are the beneficial elements the pineapple contains. Among these are calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, the B-vitamins, vitamin C, folic acid, niacin, panthothetic acid, malic acid, citric acid, and tartaric acid. As if these were not enough the pineapple also contains bromelian*, a proteolytic enzyme. This digestive enzyme is related to papain (from the papaya), but unlike papain it does not decompose as the fruit ripens. This enzyme is not only present in the pineapple but in the fruits of other species of bromeliads as well.
(* Also known as bromelain.)

Dr. R. M. Heinicke, director of chemical research for the Hawaiian Pineapple Co., who first extracted bromelian, says “... it digests dead tissue without touching live tissue, removes scabs to aid in burn treatment, and has been successful in treating painful or difficult menstruation. It also cleans teeth.” Pharmaceutically, the bromelian is marketed under the name of Ananase, and the Physicians Desk Reference states that it “is designed to supplement and augment standard therapeutic procedures for reduction of inflammation and edema, to ease pain, speed healing, and accelerate tissue repair.” This ability to help repair tissue is thought to be caused by the breakdown of fibrin deposits which block small blood vessels and pores. Once this fibrin block is removed tissue repair can begin.

One extraordinary use of bromelian, although unknown at the time, came to light recently when it was learned that the Spanish Moss (T. usneoides) used as a substitute for bandages during the Civil War was having a beneficial effect on the soldiers’ wounds due to the bromelain in the moss. My great grandmother has told me that when she was a young girl her family used Spanish Moss and household cobwebs on open wounds, and thought them much better than conventional bandages. Not only were they absorptive, but if not too bad, would stop the flow of blood completely, a quality the American Indians knew well before the coming of the white man and retained after his subsequent introduction of ‘civilized methods’.

Once only available by prescription, bromelains are now sold in most health food stores. A small amount, whether in raw or pill form, will greatly aid in the digestion and absorption of foods. Its most widely known use is that of tenderizing meats. Many people use it for this reason without realizing just how good it really is.

Probably the least known quality of bromelian is its use as a vermifuge. It seems that most intestinal parasites cannot take its high acidity. What else the pineapple holds in store remains to be seen, but what has already been proven places the pineapple on a pinnacle that few fruits can attain.

The fruits of Bromelia balansae, Billbergia venezuelana, and B. brasiliensis are alike in their orange color, irritable hairs, formidable pulp, and citrus-like juice. But these similarities vanish when compared to the native uses of Bromelia balansae. The fully mature inflorescence is often sold in street markets where the fruit is eaten either raw or cooked. There is also a cough medicine made from the syrup of this fruit. The South American natives make an intoxicating drink from the strained juices of Bromelia balansae and Puya hamata, much like the mescal of the Mexican Indians which they make from the Agave.

Some of the lesser known bromeliads with good tasting fruit are Aechmea mexicana, A. nudicaulis, A. bracteata, A. lueddemanniana, A. distichantha, A. tillandsioides, Araeococcus flagellifolius, Neoregelia cruenta, N. carcharodon, N. melanodonta, N. concentrica, N. johannis, Quesnelia marmorata, and Portea petropolitana var. extensa. While reaching down to pick the ripe fruits of a neoregelia you may have to stick your hand in smelly water, but don’t let this discourage you, even though at times it is quite repulsive. This decaying matter is part of the plant’s life blood and should be looked at with wonderment and not disgust. Wash out the plant’s center or the fruit itself and proceed. There are so many good bromeliad fruits that it would be practically impossible for me to list them all and, besides, all the fun is in trying them for yourself.

(Website Ed. I can also recommend my favourite, Aechmea bromeliifolia var. albobracteata, and don't forget the early morning pick-me-up of wonderful nectar from the likes of Aechmea pectinata - better than honey - or Guzmania roezlii)

The avid grower may scoff or even be disturbed at the wanton destruction of so many potential plants, but nature did not intend for bromeliads to be as abundantly grown as man would like to have them; and I, being like the birds, prefer to eat them and let nature take its course.

There are considerably fewer bromeliads with edible leaves. The most notable of these are Tillandsia rubella and T. maxima. In Bolivia the natives peel off the outer leaves of these two and eat the heart much like we eat celery. The tender young leaves of Puya hamata are also used as a pot-herb and highly prized by the natives. In Puerto Rico the young inflorescence of Bromelia pinguin is used as a vegetable. Here in Florida I have eaten the young inner leaves of T. recurvata. There isn’t much but what there is, is quite good. The most amazing use of a bromeliad is in north Brazil where the Indians boil down the leaves of Bromelia laciniosa (which they call ‘macambira’) and make a flour very high in calcium. There are undoubtedly many more edible bromeliads but these have not yet come to my attention.

Pollen is one of the most miraculous nutrients that we know of. It contains all of the essential elements needed for human survival, making it the most complete food supplied by nature, so complete that an average person can survive on from 20 to 35 grams daily. It is also one of the highest sources of protein. At 35% it is believed to be higher than meat, fish, eggs, and milk products. There have been many studies to document the high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and hormones in plant pollens. Bromeliad pollen is no exception! By instinct the bees collect only the most nutritious pollens, by-passing the rest. So the fact that the bromeliads are frequented by the bees speaks for itself.

Not only is the pollen nutritious it is therapeutic! Scientists have shown that daily doses of pollen increase hemoglobin and erythrocyte production, making it a valuable aid in treating anemia. It has also been used successfully in lowering high blood pressure. The most important aspect of pollen is that of being antibiotic. The South American Indians have long used pollen on open wounds. Here in America, pollen is prescribed by some doctors for external as well as internal infections. A good example of this antibiotic quality is the many small insects and animals preserved in a mixture of pollen and honey and have yet to decay.

Not all bromeliads make their pollen readily available to the human predator. The billbergias and vrieseas with their often exerted stamens are the easiest to harvest, especially those with reflexed petals like Vriesea ‘Mariae’, Billbergia distachia, B. elegans, B. brasiliensis, B. venezuelana, and the ever present B. pyramidalis. Those without reflexed petals are more difficult to harvest, but definitely worth the effort. Many times when the pollen is hard to get I eat the petals along with the stamens. By eating the corolla in this manner I am sometimes rewarded with an extra treat of nectar. This nectar is very good and explains the abundance of predators that flock to it.

Mrs. Racine Foster once told me how her husband, during his many pollinations, was unknowingly consuming this natural source of vitality by washing his brush off in his mouth. She attributed his tenacity and longevity to this consumption of pollen, and in turn has directed me to its use. Anyone who knows Mrs. Foster can say that she, too, is healthier than most. One of the secrets is the daily intake of pollen!

One afternoon while working at Bromel-La, I noticed the numerous Billbergia distachia in bloom and promptly ate the pollen laden anthers. I was amazed at the boost of energy I received and how much quicker the day passed by. Now I am constantly foraging the grounds for these precious morsels, often competing with my natural companions, the bees. This brings me ever closer to the simple truths of life hidden in the consciousness of plants, simple truths that have inspired men for ages. One such inspired man has said, “Take a lesson from the flowers of the field.....that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these.” Ah! Sweet bromeliads, so much to give, yet they ask so little in return.

1. The Nutrition Almanac. John Kirschman. 1975
2. The Merk Manual. Martha Windholz. 1976
3. Physicians Desk Reference. 33rd ed., 1979.
4. Brazil, Orchid of the Tropics. Foster. 1945
5. The Encyclopedia Britannica. 1937
6. The Complete Handbook of Nutrition. Null. 1972
7. Bee Pollen and Your Health. Wade. 1978
8. Natural Health Bulletin. Wade. 1980
9. Bromeliad Bulletin. Vol. II, 3,4,6. 1952
10. Bromeliad Bulletin. Vol. VI, 3. 1956
11. Bromeliad Bulletin. Vol. VIII, 6. 1958!

Three beautiful new books have been added to our Library:
- Mountain Plants of Venezuela – The Coastal Range, The Andes and the Tepuis Bromeliads By Francisco Oliva-Esteve
- Fragments of the Atlantic Forest of Northeast Brazil Biodiversity, Conservation and the Bromeliads By José Alves Siqueira Filho and Elton M. C. Leme
- Bromeliaceae III By Francisco Oliva-Esteve

We still have a few copies of the Andrew Steens’ books for sale and they are terrific value at $30 a copy with beautiful pictures and great, usable information!
- Bromeliads for the Contemporary Garden (I heard this described as “My New Best Friend”!)
- Bromeliads – The Connoisseur’s Guide by Andrew Steen.

Its not too late to register for the
$US165 to April 30/$US200 from May 1 + $US40 BSI Membership Fee Information: or see Eileen for details.

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Updated 24/02/08