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April 2013

Nev’s Neos: ‘After the Rain’
Photograph by Neville Wood

- 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.
- Under the provisions of the Privacy Act, use of names and references to private details, such as illness, holidays, birthdays and items of a similar nature, may only be published with the written permission of the person concerned.


A very warm welcome to our new member, Terry Davis, who joined our Society in March.


Freda Kennedy, Hetty Kerstholt, Gary Claydon, Robyn Firth, Chris Butler, Joan Banks
Nina Rehak, Glenrae Barker, Loreen Whiddett, Terry Stedman, Carole Taylor, Lyndell Gollings
Eileen Killingley, Catherine Wainwright, Maadi McKenna, Steven Dolbel, Stephen Wain, Barbara Jones-Beverstock
Michael Leggett, Stephen Astill, Lydia Chinnock, Sandra Southwell, Carmel Glanville, Anne-Marie Brun

I am very excited to let you know that in October 2012 one of Neville’s lovely hybrids was accepted for registration in the Bromeliad Cultivar Register - No. 11265. See page 6 for how this all came about.


April 13-14
For information: 02-4567-2026/04-5851-5738 Entry price include free parking: Saturday $12 or $10 prepaid, 8am–4pm
Sunday $10 or $8 prepaid, 9am–4pm; Weekend $12 prepaid only. Bookings: – Speaker Program: $33 pp.
April 27-28
April 27-28
TOWN & COUNTRY SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS GARDENS – Entry $5 ea/$25 all 7. 10am-4pm - Ted Duncan 4862-4263 or
May 4-5
BROMELIADS AUSTRALIA – OPEN DAY – WYEE – See back page for details
May 10-12
May 25-26
July 13
August 24-25
Sept. 7-8
Oct. 12-13

Bromeliads in Paradise. Sept. 8-14, 2014
Ala Moana Hotel, 410 Atkinson Drive
Honolulu, HI, 96814
April 6, 2013:
Graham will talk about his recent travels in Thailand and Norfolk Island.

May 4, 2013:
Bigenerics – Presented by Neville Wood

June 1, 2013:
Tillandsia - Presented by Graham Bevan

July 6, 2013:
CHRISTMAS IN JULY! - Soup and Dessert

PLANT RESULTS - February 2

1st = Suzanne Burrows = Guzmania (Variegated)
2nd = Suzanne Burrows = Nidularium longiflorum*
3rd = John Carthew = Neoregelia hybrid

1st = Lydia and Ian Chinnock = Neoregelia ‘Perfecta Tricolor’
2nd = Lydia and Ian Chinnock = Portea petropolitana var. extensa
3rd = Lydia and Ian Chinnock = Neoregelia ‘Royal Robe’
3rd = Bob Stephens = Vriesea hieroglyphica

1st = John Carthew =?
2nd = John Toolan = bergeri

1st = Ann Kennon = Orthophytum gurkenii
2nd = Ann Kennon = Orthophytum vagans – Variegated
3rd = Ann Kennon = Cryptanthus

1st = Steven Dolbel = Ananas comosus var. variegatus
2nd = Lydia and Ian Chinnock = Ananus comosus
3rd = Freda Kennedy = Aechmea fasciata ‘Primera’ (a spineles cultivar)
3rd = Stephen and Laila Astill = Vriesea hieroglyphica

1st = Jørgen Jakobsen = araujei

Nidularium longiflorum/N. innocentii var. paxianum(?)/N. innocentii: This very showy Nidularium was formerly known here as Nidularium innocentii var. wittmackianum until it was noticed in Elton Leme’s book, Nidularium – Bromeliads of the Atlantic Forest (2003) pp. 144-153, that in an in-depth review of the genus Nidularium the plant had been renamed Nidularium longiflorum.

‘Detective Derek’, looking into the matter, asked himself, “How did our Nidularium. Innocentii var. wittmackianum get identified as such?” {DD1112 at} Looking at Smith & Downs 1979 it seemed the closest fit when compared against the key to varieties of Nidularium innocentii, in that the leaf blades were wholly green. And while the name N. innocentii var. paxianum (Mez’s original description in 1895 does not refer to any variegation, yet in Smith & Downs 1979 it clearly states ‘Leaves with a single large medium white stripe’) has also been bantered about in respect to this plant, Leme has placed these taxa as synonyms of N. innocentii, so that they come under this broad umbrella, rather than using varietal names. Therefore, N. innocentii var. wittmackianum and N. innocentii var. paxianum now come down to Nidularium innocentii. (Butcher, Derek (2013) Personal communication)

By Noel Kennon

1. . The plant competitions are held at ten (10) General Meetings each year. They are not held in January (no meeting) or December (Christmas party).

2. . The competitions are held in three sections:
Tillandsia Section
All other genera – Novice Section
All other genera – Open Section

3. . Each Section is judged by popular vote of the members present at the meeting.

4. . Points are awarded to the place getters in each Section as follows:
First place - most votes - the entrant gets 3 points
Second place - second most votes - the entrant gets 2 points
Third place - third most votes - the entrant gets 1 point

5. . In the case of a tie, each entrant gets the full 3 points, 2 points, or 1 point.

6. . The points awarded to members in each monthly competition are accumulated, and, after the November meeting, the member with the highest number of points in each Section wins the ‘Annual Points Score Award’ for the year.

7. . A member who wins the ‘Annual Open Points Score Award’ or ‘Annual Novice Points Score Award’ in any year may not enter plants in the Novice Section in all following years.

8. . So, all members may enter plants in the Novice Section – excepting those members who have won an ‘Annual Novice Points Score Award’ or an ‘Annual Open Points Score Award’.

9. . All members may enter plants in the Open Section.

10. . All members may enter plants in the Tillandsia Section.

11. . Plants must be submitted for competition before 12.30 pm. Plants submitted after this time will not be accepted.

12. . A member may not enter plants in both the Open Section and the Novice Section in the same month.

13. . A member must have owned a plant for at least three months before entering it in any competition.

14. . There is no limit to the number of times a member may enter the same plant in any competition in a calendar year.

15. . The leaves, inflorescences and flowers of a plant entered into competition may be cleaned with water but should not be treated with any other substance.

16. . The competitions are managed by the Competitions Officer (Sharyn Baraldi) and the Assistant Competitions Officer (Sylvia Clare). They receive the plants and list them and entrants, then number the plants and set them out. They provide the voting cards and pencils, then count and record the votes to determine the winners for the month. Finally, they keep the tally of points awarded to members towards the three ‘Annual Points Score Awards’.

Neville Wood, Illawarra Bromeliad Society

One of the first lots of seedlings I raised in 2002 was from a crossing I did using Neoregelia concentric as the seed parent and Neoregelia ‘Charm’ X ‘Cracker Jack’ as the pollen parent. The reason these two were selected as the parents is that they were the only two I had in flower at the same time.

As we all know, Neoregelia concentric is a species which has been used successfully many times as a parent in breeding programs, resulting in some beautiful plants. The N. ‘Charm’ X ‘Cracker Jack’ pollen parent was an ‘unknown quantity’ as it had never been used in breeding before. It was an immature seedling when given to me some years before by an elderly gentleman who also lived locally and who had ‘dabbled’ in a little ‘backyard hybridising’ but never registered anything. He had told me he thought this seedling ‘showed a bit of promise’ and to grow it on and bring it back and show him when it matured. Unfortunately, he never got to see it as he passed away the year before it first flowered.

I pollinated the flowers and waited until the seed eventually matured. I then sowed them and got a reasonable germination rate but lost a lot due to the fact that I was still very much ‘feeling my way’ and had never done it before. Four years later some of the seedlings matured and came in an assortment of different colours but one in particular was quite different and stood out from the rest. This was probably because of its nice glossy ruby colour which seemed to emit a sort of ‘glow’ which, unfortunately, could never be adequately captured by my camera.

Many people who saw this plant commented on it and I was regularly asked, “Why don’t you name it?” I liked the plant but had read that plants needed to be ‘something special’ before considering registration and although I liked the plant I didn’t consider it to be in this category.

Three or four years went by and as each lot of pups were produced they proved that the plant was stable in colour, size and shape (which I was told was one of the criteria required for registration) and people who saw it still thought it worthy of a name and in the end I decided to ‘bite the bullet’ and register.

The question was what to call it. I thought about many names but I wanted to name it something that was a bit ‘special’ to me but would still fit in with the qualities of the plant as well. In the end I decided on Neoregelia ‘Dunmore Ruby’: ‘Dunmore’ after the place with many happy memories for me as it was where I was raised and spent a very happy childhood, met my future wife, married and raised our family there. The second part of the name I decided to call ‘Ruby’ after the nice glossy rich ruby colour of the foliage.

I thought about whether or not to go ahead with it for some time and it wasn’t until after I had visits from other growers and the continuing prompting that I should name it that I finally went ahead and registered it. And that’s the story of Neoregelia ‘Dunmore Ruby’.

By John Catlan, an article from “Under the Mango Tree” – reprinted from Bromlink, Gold Coast Succulent and Bromeliad Society Inc., September/October 2000 issue.

1. Bract colour: The centre of neoregelias produce a flush of colour which begins with the initiation of flowering. The colour ranges from green, white and various shades of red through to purple. With some neoregelias the colour fades rapidly while others last for twelve months or more.

2. Light blushing: The top layer of cells in the foliage of plants of the Neoregelia carolinae complex and others have the ability to flush with colour. This flush of colour is governed by light intensity, day length and nitrogen levels.

3. Temperature variation. Especially during spring, with fluctuating periods of temperature, in neoregelias such as Neoregelia ‘Bob & Grace’ and Neoregelia ‘Lambert’s Pride’ the green banding is initiated. Increased fertiliser may increase the banding but there is a limit. What I believe happens is the discolor-syndrome layer of cells is laid down during its growth and as the growth exceeds the normal rate it leaves gaps in the colour. All these plants are subject to sun tanning.

4. Sun tanning: Is associated with the top layer of chlorophyll cells. The same as light blushing. The difference between light blushing, which will fade in decreased light, is that sun tanning is fixed. Once it happens, it is there forever. The neoregelias N. ‘Charm’, N. ‘Gold Fever’, N. ‘Gespacho’, N. ‘Red Planet’, etc. are subject to sun tanning and hide the variation of colour in the lower layer of cells forever; but if you turn the leaf over, you will find the spotting has not changed. In some Neoregelia concentric hybrids you find that sun tanning may affect 25 cm to three-quarters of the leaf and is normally black and is fixed and is in the top layer of cells. On a dark night, shine a torch from beneath the leaf, through the black sun tanning, and you will find little green flecks—cells that did not tan. Also you can see ring spot in the lower layer of the cells that the sun tanning has hidden. Sun tanning starts from the tip of the leaf and works down.

5. Ring spot: Caused by evaporation of water from the meniscus of the cup water and droplets. The cooling effect of evaporation is so sudden that the cells on the leaf surface cannot cope and rupture. They then cease to function, allowing sunlight to tan the lower layer of cells. This happens winter or summer, shade or bright conditions. It is the variation in temperature that begins the effect. Open conditions and low humidity in winter allow for more rapid cooling.

6. Discolor syndrome: In a dense forest, the foliage can restrict the light that reaches the forest floor so that it may be as low as one percent. In these low light areas, the majority of this light is red and plants with discolor foliage have developed this adaptation to absorb the maximum of red light available. The green top layer absorbs the blue light, the red light is absorbed and reflected by the bottom layer of red cells. The light that is reflected back through the green cells gives these cells a second chance to absorb the light. When you see discolor bromeliads you know they require low light.

With Neoregelia ‘Charm’, N. ‘Gold Fever, N. ‘Gespacho’, N. ‘Bobby Dazzler’, etc., they all have these red cells in the middle layer of cells. I believe they are an adaptation to take advantage of low light. As this does not fit the meaning of discolor, I refer to it as discolor syndrome. These plants are green spotted and look better and perform better at lower light levels. All these plants have a safety factor against high light intensity. The top layer of cells is subject to sun tanning. In the red spotted layer of cells the colour is fixed and it doesn’t matter how low the light level gets within reason as the colour remains.

7. Chlorophyll: Comes in various strengths from yellow in Neoregelia ‘Gold Fever’ to green in Neoregelia ‘Charm’. The yellow chlorophyll allows the reds to have a clear, iridescent colour, while green chlorophyll darkens the red. Fertiliser will darken the chlorophyll cell and consequently darkens the red.

8. Variegation: This is stripes that run the length of the leaf and may be white, yellow, red, and anything in between. I will leave anything that needs to be said for an article. The only comment is that neoregelias that have the discolor syndrome that are variegated, the chlorophyll cells in the top layer turn white and the bottom layer stays red. Because the green disappears altogether, the red glows with a clarity that is stunning.

9. Fingernail markings: These red tips to the leaves are intriguing in very bright light. They darken in colour and in low light they glow. Neoregelia spectabilis that has these striking fingernail markings has a green centre. Why? I was told that it was to attract birds that would pollinate the flowers and I believed them. Then I thought about it! The fingernail colour lasts from the beginning to the end of the plant. So for four to five years birds visit this species in anticipation of a four week window of opportunity to obtain nectar! Not a very cost effective pastime for birds!

10. Speckling: Neoregelia ‘Barbarian’ has very fine speckled markings. These plants are subject to sun tanning but leaves the centre speckled.

11. Fertiliser: Very mild fertiliser stress will enhance colour. Too little fertiliser and any excessive stress, light, heat, cold or lack of humidity will damage plants. Too much fertiliser and green will be your favourite colour!

12. Blood water: If you tip the water out of some bromeliads you will find it tinged red. The explanation given is that neoregelia growers drip their blood into the bromeliad cups in an effort to enhance the colour. I’ve tracked this bromeliad myth down to a few tillandsia, guzmania and vriesea growers who are jealous of the fact that our neoregelias are colourful throughout their life span while their silver or green plants have to flower before becoming interesting!

By John Catlan, from “Under the Mango Tree” – Bromlink, September/October 1996

By crossing orthophytums with neoregelias, hybridists have developed a line of plants called xNeophytums. These plants have indeed contributed to the pleasure of growing bromeliads. They grow well and their hardiness is obviously a lot due to their neoregelia side of the cross.

When you take a neoregelia pup off very late in its development, this has a limiting effect on the plant to be able to develop a strong root system. This little idiosyncrasy found in a lot of broms seems to be amplified when you are dealing with xNeophytums, sometimes to the point that mature pups refuse to develop a root system. To avoid, or, to be more accurate, limit this problem take all xNeophytum pups off as soon as practicable and do this to avoid winter by finishing up your potting program very late summer or early autumn.

Bill Bishop - Gold Coast Succulent & Bromeliad Society – Bromlink – March/April 1966

Plants dislike mineral oil. Use vegetable oil on tools, especially cutting edges. You might decrease edge browning when trimming leaves.

PS: No need to buy expensive walnut or super-duper extra whatsit olive oils: the cheapest will suffice!


By Neville Wood

Well, we’ve been through a very unsettled summer (weather wise) and who knows what winter will have in store for us. It was this thought that prompted me to write these few lines about what we can do to help our broms through these sometimes extreme weather conditions and difficult times.

I initially started thinking about this after our recent two heatwave days, but more so after I had read an article written by a doctor about the plight of impoverished children in Third World countries and their extremely high mortality rate.

This doctor said that in his view the high mortality rate was mainly because these children were malnourished; this lowered their resistance to disease and weather extremes made them much more at risk to diseases than well fed children from other countries. He said the way to alleviate this was simply to build up their immune systems by providing good food, combined with a good tonic; this would then boost their immune system which in turn would help them build up resistance to combat these various diseases.

This then set me thinking that if this would work for humans, why wouldn’t it work for other forms of life such as plant life or, more specifically, bromeliads.

When I first started growing broms I was told, “You don't need to fertilise your broms, and if you do you will only lose the colour.” Well I took this advice from growers who I thought knew much more than I did and when the cold weather came I had a few losses like some other growers did, and just assumed it was a normal thing that brom growers experienced. This went on for a couple of years until I noticed that some of the growers of the better quality plants didn't seem to be getting these losses like my friends and I who were following the advice we had been given.

Finally, I decided to try something a bit different to what we had been told, and following the suggestion the doctor had made about the impoverished children, I set about putting a system in place to provide food and a ‘tonic’ to help boost my broms’ resistance to the extremes of weather.

I reasoned that if a plant was also malnourished there was every possibility that in its ‘run down state’ it would react in the same way as the ‘impoverished children’ when confronted with extreme weather conditions and be less likely to be able to withstand them without sustaining any damage either. The thought about changing my cultural methods was probably hurried along after we had a heatwave in about 2006 (I think it was) and like many other growers, my plants suffered quite a lot of heat damage. About five months later this was followed by one of the coldest winters we had ever had in our area and consequently my plants then again suffered damage from the excessive cold as well.

It was during the heatwave period I read about a natural product called ‘Seasol’. I read where it is made from two species of seaweed–Bull Kelp and Knotted Kelp. The Bull Kelp used to make Seasol grows in the clean oceans around King Island and the west coast of Tasmania. It is collected from the shores of remote beaches and is not harvested from living marine forests. Knotted Kelp grows in shallow intertidal waters. When it is harvested–with care being taken not to remove the whole plant–the base is left intact so that the kelp regrows. In effect, the kelp is harvested by ‘pruning’. The main claim was that Seasol was promoted as a ‘tonic’ and not a fertiliser.

There was a long list of benefits but the main one that attracted my attention was the claim that “Seasol is a powerful pick-me-up during times of plant stress.” It went on to claim that it is a plant ‘booster’ which promotes tougher, more resilient plants, healthier growth, stronger roots, bigger, better blooms, higher yields and can be used in all gardening situations and at all times of the year.

It was also claimed that Seasol contains natural compounds and trace elements which promote thicker, stronger cell walls. Therefore plants are better able to cope with stresses such as heat, drought and frost, as well as some insect and disease problems.

After reading all of this I decided I had nothing to lose, so I bought some and sprayed every plant in the yard the day after the 2006 heatwave and again two weeks later. I mixed it at the rate recommended for ‘stressed plants’ and the results were nothing less than remarkable. In next to no time the results were obvious; climbing beans that had been hanging limp and dying from a trellis had perked up and were beginning to sprout new side growth after just a couple of weeks and the broms, although some were severely damaged by the heat, after a few weeks were also showing the formation of new pups. After a while things seemed to be getting back to normal and then the cold winter hit, and once more the broms copped the brunt of ‘Mother Nature’; this time in the form of cold damage. Once again I got out the Seasol and applied it in the same way and once again with the same great results.

This caused me to think about how I could provide better cultural methods which would help protect my plants during these times of stress. Rather than ‘shutting the gate after the horse had bolted’ I needed to be proactive rather than reactive and I based my changes around how that doctor thought the problem with the children could best be solved.

Thinking back to when I was a child, I (like some of our older members) remember regularly getting a dose of ‘Cod Liver Oil’ as a ‘tonic’ to keep me healthy, and it worked as I rarely ever got sick, not even a common cold. So I thought if a tonic can help to build up resistance in children, why wouldn't it work for other living things such as plants? The other part of the equation was food: if any living thing is deprived of food it will naturally become weaker and its resistance to disease is decreased also. I applied this to what happens with plants, comparing the potted plant (in our case broms) to ‘the child with no food’.

When a plant is grown in the garden it has the opportunity to send out ‘feeder roots’ to forage for food if there isn't sufficient food where it is growing, but when grown in pots (like most of our plants are) it has no such opportunity, and depends wholly on what we provide. So from then on I started a regular monthly foliar spraying programme using this product called ‘Seasol’ as a ‘Plant Tonic’ and used it alternately with one of the many foliar fertilisers available to provide the food.

The monthly cycle I started and still use is as follows:
Week 1 Seasol
Week 2 - Half strength fertiliser
Week 3 Seasol
Week 4 - Half strength fertiliser.

I could probably save myself a lot of time by mixing the fertiliser and the Seasol together but as I use different fertilisers from time to time and don't know if they are all compatible with the Seasol, I prefer to play it safe and keep them separate.

I am neither a doctor nor an expert brom grower; all I know is that since I started this programme my plants have never looked better and they came through the recent two heatwave days virtually unscathed except for some plants fully exposed to the midday sun in the front garden. All I have to do now is wait and see how these plants will handle winter.

I think it is a programme worth trying as it's just common sense that if a plant has sufficient food and is fed a ‘tonic’ it must be healthier and be able to withstand extremes of weather much better than the plant which is given nothing else except the occasional watering.


By Mary Nicholson (Reprinted from the Gold Coast Succulent and Bromeliad Society’s BROMLINK, November/December 1996)

With summer and the storm season rapidly approaching, a thought for those who may have hail damaging their bromeliads. Don’t empty out your plants. Don’t try to get the hail out of them as you will only cause more damage if you do. Leave the hail melt and you will find that you won’t have burn marks as the hail will gradually dissolve and this is not such a shock as being frozen and then suddenly emptied.

If there are bruise marks on the leaves, split the soft part with your fingernail and this will allow the soft tissue to dry. If you don’t you can lose the leaf altogether.

From an article by Robert Meyer (under the title “In Case You Missed It”) which appeared in BromeliAdvisory, the newsletter of the Bromeliad Society of South Florida in March 2011.

Nat DeLeon came to speak but the three items of focus when attempting to better produce suckers or pups for plants.

The talk revolved around: (1) light; (2) potting medium and (3) fertilizer. Each, with intrinsic character or variable effect upon the other items of focus, can greatly aid or deter the production of a bromeliad’s offspring.

The basic rule for light is that the plants with enough light produce more pups than those with not enough light. And, sometimes, the suckers which abut the lower leaf sheaths of the parent are helped when you cut back the dead leaf matter of the parent which may curl down and ultimately shade the emergence of the pups. Good examples include Alcantarea imperialis and Aechmea ‘Little Harv.”

Potting medium has been the topic of other discussion and what makes the best is a great topic of debate. But, for purposes of improving the growth of pups, Nat asks for three things: (a) loose; (b) good drainage; and (c) full of nutrients. In order to facilitate drainage, Nat endorses the Landmark A-600 six inch pots as they have four side holes in addition to four bottom holes.

Interestingly Nat believes the soil he used years ago remains the best he ever used—a fern soil. Its ingredients were fibrous peat and perlite. Today, he states, the peat moss is often too powdery and lacks the fibrous character needed for drainage. And Nat adds that he stopped using perlite and opts for Styrofoam pellets instead.

Soil issues may also arrive from the plants you buy. At the larger nurseries they use potting machines which most likely implement peat moss without perlite or other drainage aids. If the soil dries, the medium becomes extremely difficult to soften, thereupon strangling the roots and diminishing the ability of the pups to reach adulthood. Places like Home Depot and Lowes stock up on such plants and Nat advises that the pups be removed from this soil into a new potted medium that you make or buy which has fibrous compound and perlite or Styrofoam.

Fertilizer’s basic mantra is Nutricote. Unlike Osmocote, Nutricote will endure heat and water better, and therefore last longer and not release as readily. He asks for topical fertilizer as opposed to liquid fertilizer. But, at the nursery, they commence plants in pots with good drainage, and apply 20-10-20 for two weeks with liquid fertilizer, and follow with calcium/magnesium mix which is sprayed for two weeks. Upon the completion of this fertilizing ritual, the plants are left on their own.

Nat, the granddaddy of the BSSF, offered more tips to listeners. Best way to start a pup is to pot the plant—and he showed us a secret to holding the plant up (see photos). The plants with “arms or legs” he held down with one dowel. The plants with no “arms” or “legs” (maybe stoloniferous as opposed to non-stoloniferous) he held down with two dowels. The dowels could be bought, or ad-libbed with oak tree twigs which fall down from a storm.

Beyond the concern of light, soil and fertilizer is the concern of when to institute the regimen for the pups. Nat believes that the time arrives to remove the pup when it is 33% the size of the parent.

By Michael Spencer (Reprinted courtesy of the BSI Journal, Volume 31 No. 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 blue jays, cardinals, and mocking-birds 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 coloured 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 Aechmea lueddemanniana, A. Nudicaulis and A. Angustifolia. The South American natives recognize the bromeliad fruit as a good 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. The 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 tyres 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 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, pantothenic acid, malic acid, citric acid, and tartaric acid. As if these were not enough the pineapple also contains bromelain, 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.

Dr. R.M. Heinicke, director of chemical research for the Hawaiian Pineapple Co., who first extracted bromelain, 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 bromelain 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 oedema, 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 bromelain, although unknown at the time, came to light recently when it was learned that the Spanish Moss (Tillandsia 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 bromelain is its use as a vermifuge {serving to expel worms or other animal parasites from the intestines, as a medicine}. 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 colour, 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 centre 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.

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 are highly prized by the natives. In Puerto Rico the young inflorescence of Bromelia penguin is used as a vegetable. Here in Florida I have eaten the young inner leaves of Tillandsia 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 lacinosa (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, bypassing 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 haemoglobin and erythrocyte production, making it a valuable aid in treating anaemia. 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 her secrets is the daily intake of pollen!

One afternoon while working at Bromel-La {home of Racine and Mulford Foster}, 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.


• If any of you are considering lighting your hot/green houses because the fibreglass roof has gone brown or black with mould read on. (Supplied by ‘Cactus Kate’ (in turn from Neil Flemming from Elanora Heights) – Bromlink Nov/December 1996)
A cheap yet effective option is to clean the roof with neat chlorine. Spray it on using any garden sprayer until the roof is wet and leave for approximately one hour. Then wash off with a garden hose. Do it late autumn or early winter so as your plants won’t get sunburnt. It should put off the expense of replacing the roof for a few years. Wear old clothes and protective gear.

• When adding soil to top up a pot, make a newspaper funnel or chute and let the soil slide down around the plant, then level off. (Bromlink – July/August 1998 (Gold Coast Succulent and Bromeliad Society Inc.))

• A word of warning to all brom growers. Never lay pups down on the ground in the sun as they will burn in only a few minutes during summer.

• I often use Styrofoam broccoli boxes to carry plants home in because they have no holes and therefore do not leak water all over your vehicle.

• When you place plants in your boot, cover them with layers of newspaper to stop radiant heat from your boot lid burning the plants. If you are in a hurry when you get home, loosely stand the pups upright in empty pots and water well, making sure cups are full and store in a very shady position till you are ready to pot up. These watering and holding instructions do not apply to grey-leaf tillandsias. These will require a bright, airy position and would do best if dry by sundown. (Bromlink - November/December 1996 (Gold Coast Succulent and Bromeliad Society Inc.))


Bob, Gleness, Jamie and Jennifer Larnach
49 Rutleys Road, WYEE, 2259
Saturday/Sunday, May 4 – 5, 2013. 9am – 4pm
Phone: (02) 4359 3356 Email:
Light refreshments available



Rare and unusual Tillandsia, colourful Neos and Guzmanias, spectacular Vrieseas, dazzling Aechmeas...


Saturday/Sunday, April 27/28.

You will find us at:

Concord Senior Citizens Centre:
9-11 Wellbank St. Concord, NSW 2137
Saturday 10-4
Sunday 9-12


Books and fertilizer for bromeliads also available.

For more information please contact:
Garry Flemming - 02-6553-9868 / 0413-178-884
Peter Tristram -

Click HERE to return to Illawarra Bromeliad Society "Club News Page".

Updated 09/04/13