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July 2006

<I>Wittrockia superba</I>
Wittrockia superba

- 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.

MONTHLY RAFFLE PRIZE ROSTER: (2 plants/prizes from each person on the list - thanks!)

Pat Alton/Carmel/John Carthew.

Don’t forget that our July meeting will be in the form of a Christmas-themed party in the Garden, with a start time of 11.00 AM. We plan just a very short meeting, followed by our usual plant competition, and then a chance to explore the Garden and to enjoy our usual great food. Chicken and barbecue meats, tea and coffee will be supplied but you are asked to bring a plate with a Christmas flair to help the festivities.

Ailsa has asked me to pass on her thanks to members of ‘The Brom Family’ who showed support and sympathy over the recent sad loss of her mother. As her father is also unwell, our thoughts and prayers are with you at this time, Ailsa.

At our May meeting Neville suggested that we might include a ‘Plants Wanted’ section in our newsletter and so we have started that with this issue. (See further down.)

I came across this very interesting and very beautiful web site when I was looking for information on tillandsias to include in this Newslink. As it turned out, Rainforest Flora Inc. is the nursery owned and run by Paul T. Isley III (author of that wonderful book, Tillandsia, and Jerrold Robinson who have been partners in this venture for 30 years — in fact it is their anniversary year, as it was begun in 1976. It is a place where birds, fish, frogs, and plants thrive. There are some wonderful sites, including a viewing of the facilities, featuring a slide of plants and views of the nursery (and inhabitants), a very comprehensive photographic library of tillandsia species, cultivars and hybrids and also sections on tillandsia care and answers to FAQs (frequently asked questions). Stag horn ferns are also a specialty of this beautiful and amazing nursery. One can spend hours at this site!

Coming Events :

July 1 Christmas in July - A Picnic in the Garden (see details above).
August 11 - 13 Cymbidium Club of Australia – Sydney Orchid Extravaganza –Dural Recreation Centre, “Ellerman Park”, 25a Kenthurst Road Round Corner (entrance from Pellitt Lane), DURAL - 9 am to 5 pm each day.
Sep. 7 - 10 Central Coast Bromeliad Society – Spring Show – Flora Festival, KARIONG.
Sep. 9 - 10 Illawarra Bromeliad Society - Spring Show – Uniting Church Hall, Russell Street, Corrimal.
Sep. 30 – Oct. 8 Leura Gardens Festival - Blue Mountains.
October 14 - 15 Bromeliad Society of Australia - Spring Show. Burwood RSL.
October 28 - 29 Bromeliad Society of New South Wales - Spring Show - Concord.


July 1: Christmas in July – a party in the Gardens.

August 5: Annual General Meeting and Preparing for Show.

September 2: Aechmea recurvata – species and hybrids [Graham Bevan]

October 7: Variegated Neoregelias


PLANT RESULTS - April 1, 2006

1st Ted Clare xWittrockia superba
2nd Rena Wainwright Guzmania lingulata var. minor
3rd Ted Clare Neoregelia Meyendorffii
3rd Ted Clare Neoregelia Gunpowder
3rd Alan Kirkby Neoregelia Predator
3rd Alan Kirkby Vriesea hieroglyphica
3rd Alan Kirkby Dyckia Warren

1st Rhonda Patterson Neoregelia Dark Beauty
2nd Rhonda Patterson XNiduregelia Mars
3rd Rhonda Patterson Neoregelia ?

1st Suzanne Burrows Tillandsia cyanea
2nd Rena Wainwright Tillandsia caerulea
3rd Rena Wainwright Tillandsia caerulea

PLANT RESULTS - May 6, 2006

1st Graham Bevan Orthophytum vagans
2nd Rena Wainwright Vriesea Belgium hybrid
3rd Alan Kirkby Neoregelia Bubbles
3rd Ailsa McDonald Vriesea fenestralis

1st Neville Wood Vriesea Red Chestnut
2nd Rhonda Patterson Neoregelia Fosperior ‘Perfection’
3rd Lucas Morgan Vriesea ospinae var. gruberi

1st Ted Clare Tillandsia leiboldiana (purple)
2nd Ted Clare Tillandsia duratii var. saxatilis
3rd Ted Clare Tillandsia disticha Major


Wittrockia superba: Ted’s lovely plant really was a ‘superb’ specimen, with bright red leaves which keep their colour well. He grows it on an open-sided, east-facing patio where it receives all-day sun. However, it needs some shelter in winter or it could be subject to spotting.

Neoregelia Dark Beauty:Rhonda’s plant was very pretty, and although I cannot find this recorded anywhere, Nina tells me that it is quite an old favourite, having been around for at least 20 years. If not grown with enough light, the leaves will be green, with a red centre. However, in good light it turns a maroon colour, with the centre turning very bright.

Tillandsia leiboldiana (purple): Another of Ted’s lovely plants which is quite new on the scene and I know that the first time I saw it was when Peter Tristram had a few for sale at the October, 2005 New South Wales show. Peter had collected it in Costa Rica, where he had found it growing on the same tree as Guzmania monostachia and the more familiar T. leiboldiana. In this ‘new’ variety (with a purple rather than the usual orange inflorescence), it seems that for the size of the plant, the inflorescence is quite large.

Tillandsia duratii (DUR-ah-TEE-EE)
(Ted brought this very handsome tillandsia to our May meeting—a largish plant, but I noticed that it had no roots attached to the lovely log on which he had it mounted. Looking for information on the species I came across this wonderful web site and the article is reprinted with the kind permission of Paul T. Isley III, of Rain Forest Flora, Torrance, California—see
Visiani; 1840
Subgenus: Phytarrhiza
Tillandsia duratii* was named for an Italian, Durat, who was the first to cultivate this species in Europe.

Tillandsia duratii grows as an epiphyte primarily in the drier areas of western Bolivia, eastern Paraguay, and northern Argentina, known as the Great Chaco. It is also abundant in the Andean foothills of Argentina and southern Brazil. In terms of sheer numbers and habitat range, T. duratii is one of the most successful Tillandsia species. It occurs at elevations of 200-3,500 metres.

There are two forms of Tillandsia duratiiT. duratii v. duratii and T. duratii v. saxatilis (L.B. Smith 'sahks-AH-til-is').
The chief distinguishing characteristic between the two forms of T. duratii is the shape of the inflorescence. The spikes of T. duratii are erect and strict (tight against the rachis), while the spikes of T. duratii saxatilis are curved-spreading.

Native populations of Tillandsia duratii often vary greatly in size. Small mature plants often bloom when about 20 cm in width and height. Giant specimens grow to 40 cm across and a metre high, not including the impressive inflorescence that is often another 80 cm. The stem on a specimen such as this may be 4 cm in diameter.

Tillandsia duratii is caulescent(1). The polystichous(2) leaves are long, narrowly triangular, and involute.(3) They are densely covered with subappressed, cinereous(4) trichomes.

The most interesting aspect of this species, besides its magnificent bloom spike, is the remarkable way in which the leaves tightly recurve. In nature, Tillandsia duratii almost always depends on these recurving leaves for growing support. As the older, lower leaves die back they desiccate, shrinking into tight ringlets around a convenient twig or branch. The plant grows upward along with the tree pushing its way through the leaves and branches and maintaining its position of exposure to the sun. Tillandsia duratii sometimes covers much of a tree, appearing as a flock of resting white egrets.

The inflorescence of Tillandsia duratii develops for several months, after which it produces heavily fragrant blooms for another month or so, longer than any xeric species. The linear to lanceolate spikes are complanate.(5) The imbricate(6), distichous(7), sublepidote(8) to subglabrous(9) floral bracts are stamineous(10) and fern green. Each flower has three large, mostly lilac petals. The throat of the corolla is white. For plant size, shape, and durability in combination with the bloom size and fragrance and longevity of its blooming cycle, T. duratii is in a class by itself.

Few Tillandsia species are easier to cultivate than the two forms of T. duratii. They thrive under a wide range of light, water, and temperature conditions. The water and light levels should be complementary, and when given in high doses, T. duratii often grows very large.

*Supercedes Tillandsia decomposita.

1. Caulescent – Having an evident leafy stem above the ground.
2. Polystichous – Arranged in several rows; attached all the way around the axis.
3. Involute – Referring to a flat body, such as a leaf, that is rolled inward or toward the upperside.
4. Cinereous – Light gray; ash-colored.
5. Complanate – Flattened; level
6. Imbricate – Overlapping, like the shingles of a roof.
7. Distichous – Arranged in two ranks, as the flower spikes of many vrieseas.
8. Lepidote – Surfaced with small scales (trichomes), a key characteristic of the family Bromeliaceae.
9. Glabrous – Smooth; glossy; without pubescence or hairs
10. Stamineous – Bearing prominent stamens.
The above definitions from: A Bromeliad Glossary (1998) Bromeliad Society International—Ed.

(Notes from a talk at our May 2006 meeting) By Steve Morgan.

* Vrieseas are closely related to Tillandsias.
* Native habitat extends from Central Mexico to Argentina, although they are mainly concentrated in Brazil.
* Most are epiphytes with a preference for trees.
* They were introduced into Europe in the 1840s and were named after a Dutch botanist, H. deVries.
* Some are cool climate, high altitude species and others are humid shade-loving plants.
* Brazilian species will tolerate near or slightly below freezing temperatures.
* Some foliage vrieseas flower at night. They produce quantities of nectar — pollination is done by nectar-feeding bats.

General Care:
Potting Mix:
- - 1 part charcoal
- - Pine bark—acid, e.g., V. hieroglyphica prefers an acid mix.
- - Perlite
- - Potting mix or peat
- - small amount Osmocote or Nutricote
- - Prefer good light, but not direct sun.
- - Plants with brown spots, bleached yellow leaves are receiving too much light.
- - Flyspeck scale — treat with Folimat
- - Grasshoppers — water plants late or early and as the hoppers try to escape, catch and dispatch.
- - Phostrogen at two-weekly intervals at strength as for indoor plants.
- - Summer, twice weekly
- - Winter, if needed once a week – early morning.

I live at Broulee, 20 km south of Batemans Bay. In summer we get good north-east winds and in winter we get light frosts. A few plants suffer cold damage but not enough to kill, only slight leaf damage.
This is how I care for my plants:
* Move plants around to find a good spot
* Only water when it’s been dry for two weeks or when it has been hot (300C+)
* Fertilize every fortnight with Phostrogen.
* 50% shade cloth.
* Remove pups--best times are mid-September to late November and mid-February to late March.
* I have encountered no real problems.
* These plants make great landscape features.

Enjoy your Plants!

By Bob Reilly, Brisbane Qld
(From Bromeliad Society of Australia’s January/February 2005 newsletter, Bromeletter, Vol. 43(1))

Most vrieseas are grown for their inflorescences rather than their foliage. However, there is a group of vrieseas which have attractively marked leaves as well as, in some cases, eye-catching inflorescences. In this article I describe them as the foliage vrieseas.

The Vriesea genus was recognized by botanists in 1843 and named in honour of the Dutch botanist, H. de Vries. Even before that date, foliage vrieseas were introduced into Europe, with V. splendens arriving in 1840.

While there are several hundred Vriesea species, over a thousand hybrids exist, most of which have not been formally registered. This is unfortunate, as it is difficult to easily “spread the word” about an outstanding, unregistered hybrid.

The foliage vrieseas are mainly epiphytes and occur in moist, shaded conditions in nature. Some of them occur only in environments which are quite different to those prevailing in coastal Queensland. As these plants do not thrive in this environment, they are not discussed in this article (such plants are often referred to as “cool climate, high altitude” species. If a plant is described in this manner, it is unlikely to do well in coastal Queensland. However, as there are some exceptions to this “rule”, it is always worth asking experienced growers if the desired plant will grow well at your location.)

All of the foliage vrieseas have “tanks” formed by their central leaves. These tanks store water which help the plants to meet their moisture requirements. All have spineless leaves.

Potting mixtures used successfully include:
· A mixture comprised of 1 part charcoal to 7 parts fertilizer-treated pine bark chunks. The chunks should be about 15 to 20 mm in diameter and treated with a special type of fertilizer, which is available from the Bromeliad Society of Queensland.
· Well-composted pine bark to which Nutricote or Osmocote is added when the plants are potted. Some people prefer to add Coco peat or peat moss to this mixture to improve its ability to retain moisture.
· Coarsely ground “clinker” to which Nutricote or Osmocote is added.

All of the foliage vrieseas appreciate receiving regular feeding with liquid fertilizer. It is essential to do this if you wish to maximize the size of your plants’ inflorescences. A fertilizer such as Phostrogen applied at weekly intervals, at the concentration recommended by the manufacturer for indoor plants, produces good results for many growers.

These plants vary considerably in their production of offsets (pups). Most produce pups arising from the leaves near their base. They will typically produce two or three pups after they have flowered. Remove these when they are one third to one half of the mature plant’s size. Another crop of pups can then often be induced by fertilising the “mother plants” with Nutricote or Osmocote.

Another group of foliage vrieseas only produces one or two pups halfway or more up the plant’s “stem”. These plants are sometimes described as “upper puppers”. A fair bit of skill is needed to successfully remove these pups so it is advisable to seek advice before you attempt this action. If the pups are removed (do so when they are one-third to one-half of the parent plant’s size), another one or two offsets may be produced by the plant. Because of these plants’ reproductive habits, most nurseries produce them from seed or through tissue culture, rather than relying on pups.

Some foliage vrieseas produce small, seedling-like offsets (known as adventitious pups) near their base. This event usually occurs well before flowering. Remove them when they are 7 cm to 10 cm tall. These plants may also produce pups from the lower or upper parts of their stem.

Pups removed during the periods mid September to late November, and mid February to late March, will often grow better than those removed at other times. Pot the pups straight into the mixture you use for mature plants.

Many of these plants grow best under medium density (70% to 75%) shadecloth during spring, autumn and summer. Fifty percent shadecloth will often produce the best results in winter. Plants with leaves having brown spots, or a bleached/yellowed appearance, are receiving too much light.

The plants like plenty of air movement around them. Place them on benches at least 20 cm above the ground. If practical, space the plants so the edges of their outer leaves are only just touching. (Regrettably, due to my desire to own “just one more plant”, I seldom follow my own advice on this point, but the plants do suffer because of my weakness!)

In winter, water the plants heavily once a week, in the morning between 7 am and 10 am (if practical). During summer, water them heavily at least twice a week during the early morning (6 am to 8 am) or late afternoon (4 pm to 6 pm). If practical, dampen the foliage once a day in early morning or late afternoon when the temperature exceeds 30C. (A heavy watering results in water coming out of the pot’s base for several minutes.)

The foliage vrieseas can suffer from flyspeck scale. This insect pest can be treated with a systemic insecticide such as Folimat. Some are susceptible to grasshopper attacks. These are best dealt with by squashing them (they are easy to catch early in the morning).

Only one of the plants described below is a hybrid. This does not reflect a lack of beautiful Australian and overseas hybrids. However, because these hybrids are usually only available in very limited quantities, I have decided not to describe them. If you wish to look at photographs of some of these hybrids, I suggest you refer to Ronald Parkhurst’s book (Parkhurst 2000). This book highlights many of David Shiigi’s (a prominent Hawaiian hybridist) plants. If you have internet access, look at the hybrid vrieseas in the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies’ website:

As well as Parkhurst’s (2000) book, I have drawn extensively on the descriptions contained in Padilla 1973, 1980. The plants listed below do not constitute anything like a complete listing of foliage Vrieseas.

V. bleherae. About 15 leaves, 2 cm wide at their base, form a small rosette about 40 cm wide and 20 cm high. The underside of the leaves typically is purple in colour, with the upper surface being grey-green. Padilla (1980) states there is a form with dark colouring on both leaf surfaces. A yellow sword-shaped inflorescence, which is 10 to 15 cm long and about 4 cm wide, is located at the end of a yellow stalk (floral scape) which rises well above the plant’s leaves. The flower’s petals are coloured yellow. This is a vigorous plant which usually produces five or more pups.

There is a variegated form of similar dimensions and vigour to the non-variegated form. However, the variegation is quite variable and the plant produces non-variegated, as well as variegated, pups.

V. fenestralis. About 30 leaves, 5 cm wide at their base, form a rosette up to 560 cm wide and 30 cm high. The leaves are tightly packed, and their tips curl back on themselves, giving the plant a compact shape. The upper surface of the leaves is a mosaic of dark green and light green patches. As the leaves age, the dark green patches appear to become more dominant. The underside of the leaves is covered in small dark brown-red circles. The inflorescence consists of up to 30 flowers, with yellow petals, spaced out along a branching spike.

V. fosteriana. About 20 leaves, 5 to 7 cm wide, form a 60 cm wide rosette. There is considerable variation in leaf colour. Typically, though, the light green leaves have dark red to purple tips, and a fine network of dark green lines on a light green background. The underside of the leaf is typically flushed red, and this colour suffuses through the whole leaf in bright light. In other forms, maroon banding of varying widths and density occurs on both leaf surfaces. The banding takes on a “speckled” appearance in some forms. In others, narrow white bands occur.

Many of these forms have resulted from intensive selection programs undertaken by nurseries on seedlings of this species. Some of the more desirable forms are labeled (at least in Queensland) as fosteriana v. seideliana Red Chestnut, fosteriana v. seideliana f. rubra, fosteriana ‘Bianca”, fosteriana ‘Speckles’.

Typically, the plants have a floral scape about 100 cm long, at the end of which there are about 30 flowers spread over a distance of around 50 cm. The plants produce seed quite readily. These plants will take more light than the other foliage vrieseas described in this article. They have been extensively used in hybridisation programs.

V. gigantea. About 30 leaves, 7 to 10 cm wide at their base, form a large rosette up to 100 cm across. The dark green leaves are marked with a network of light green, particularly towards the plant’s centre. The leaves are quite thick. In the plant described as gigantea v. seideliana (once known as tesellata ‘Nova’) the leaves have white blotches, particularly towards their base, on a light-dark green background. Because of this feature, v. seideliana is the better plant to grow.

The 150 cm tall inflorescence, which can be branched, has small yellow-petalled flowers scattered along it.

V. glutinosa. Many of the plants labeled as glutinosa are, actually, hybrids of this species. The 60 cm long, 7 cm wide, leaves are quite erect in appearance and form a fairly tight rosette, about 50 cm wide and 70 cm tall. The leaves are light green in colour with wide maroon bands, usually on the leaves’ lower surface.

The multi-branched inflorescence can reach 120 cm in length and rises well above the plant’s centre. Each branch is 30 to 40 cm long, about 7 cm wide, and a “glowing” red to orange in colour. However, there appears to be a lot of variation between plants (clones). The plant produces adventitious pups, as well as being an “upper pupper”. There is a variegated form, which is about one half the size of the non-variegated plant. It is very rare.

V. hieroglyphica. Up to 40 tightly packed leaves, 10 cm across, form a large rosette up to 150 cm in diameter and 100 cm tall. The shiny, bright green leaves are marked with wavy bands, which are black to purple in colour. Both leaf surfaces are marked in this manner. The 100 cm high, branched flower spike has up to 50 yellow-petalled flowers scattered along it. This plant can be quite particular as to its growing conditions and even experienced growers can have difficulty with it. However, it thrives once grown in a spot which meets its requirements.

V. ‘Highway Beauty’. About 30 leaves, 4 cm wide, form an open, tank-type, rosette about 70 cm wide and 30 cm high. A broad, cream-coloured stripe runs lengthwise up the centre of each dark green leaf. Each leaf is “flushed with red” for about half its length, commencing at the leaf’s base. (In young plants, the percentage of leaves coloured in this manner can reach 80 to 100%.) A multi-branched, 30 cm long inflorescence, with about 30 flowers spaced along it, occurs at the end of a 50 cm floral scape.

Unlike some variegated plants, the pups nearly all have good variegation. The plant is a “generous” pupper, with my specimen producing five pups without any special care.

V. malzinei. About 15 leaves, 4 cm wide at their base, from a semi-erect rosette about 50 cm wide. The leaves’ lower surfaces are coloured purple-red, and, in some plants the upper surface is a similar colour, especially at flowering. In other plants, the leaves’ upper surface is green. The 1 cm wide, rounded flower spike, about 30 cm long, rises well above the plant’s leaves. Colouration of the spike can be yellow, brown or bright red. The petals, which protrude about 20 cm from the spike, are creamy-white.

V. ospinae. This plant readily forms a clump within two years. Each plant has a distinct stem covered in about 30 leaves which are about 5 cm wide at their base. The plant’s width is about 50 cm. Both leaf surfaces have a network of thin dark green lines and small “splotches”, on a light green background. The inflorescence is a multi-branched spike. Each branch is yellow in colour, about 30 cm long and 3 cm wide. The pups occur along the plant’s stem. This species, along with V. fosteriana, has been used extensively in hybridisation programs.

V. ospinae v. gruberi. This is quite a different plant in appearance to ospinae. The 120 cm wide leaves form a tank-type rosette up to 70 cm wide. The light green leaves are marked with dark green to dark brown bands and lines. The dark brown colour is more pronounced on the leaves’ lower surfaces. The inflorescence is similar to that of ospinae.

V. platynema v. variegata. Like V. fosteriana, this species has been subject to considerable selection by nurseries. There are seven botanically-recognised varieties, and many more labeled incorrectly as other varieties.

Typically, the plant has about 20 leaves, 7 cm wide at their base, forming a rosette about 60 cm across. The ends of the leaves have large, dark red tips. The underside of each leaf is maroon-red in colour, while the upper surface has faint wavy green lines on a green background. In good light, the leaves’ upper surface becomes suffused with red. The inflorescence is similar to that of V. fosteriana.

V. saundersii. About 20, 4 cm wide, tightly packed leaves form a flat rosette about 50 cm wide and 30 cm high. The blue-green, succulent-like, leaves are densely spotted with small maroon spots on their lower surface and lightly spotted on their upper surface. A branched, arching spike about 30 cm long forms at the end of a 30 cm long floral scape. The 50 or so flowers are scattered along the spike. This is a hardy plant which grows well with little attention.

V. splendens. This species has been the subject of intensive breeding by European nurseries. This has taken place over 150 years. Some of the named variations include: ‘Major’, ‘Flammendes Schwert’, ‘Chantrieri’, and ‘Splenriet’. Typically, about 15 leaves form an erect, relatively open rosette up to 60 cm wide and 50 cm high. The leaves are light green to dark green in colour, with dark green to maroon bands on both, or only the lower, leaf surface. The inflorescence consists of a sword-shaped inflorescence up to 70 cm long and 7 cm wide. They are bright red to orange in colour. Some inflorescences are multi-branched. This species is an “upper-pupper”. This plant can be cold sensitive. There are several variegated forms of this species, although they are quite rare.

V. sucrei. Up to 30, 3 cm wide, leaves form a 25 cm wide rosette, about 15 cm high. The leaves’ upper surface are coloured a leathery green, while the lower sides are dark purple. When the plant is held up to the light, it almost “glows”.

The 20 to 30 cm long, red, sword-shaped inflorescence occurs at the end of a 30 cm floral scape. The flowers have yellow petals. About 4 pups are produced at the plant’s base. There is a variegated form of this species, but it is very rare.

If you wish to start a collection of these Vrieseas, I suggest you start with bleherae, fosteriana, saundersii, splendens and sucrei. However, all of the plants described in this article are well worth growing, although I suggest leaving the variegated forms until you have gained some experience with the non-variegated types.

I thank Olive Trevor for her help in preparing this article.

Padilla, V. (1973) Bromeliads, Crown Publishers, New York.
Padilla, V. (1981) The Colourful Bromeliads: Their Infinite Variety, The Bromeliad Society Inc., California.
Parkhurst, R. (2000) The Book of Bromeliads and Tropical Flowers, Pacific Isle Publishing Co., Hawaii.

Author contact details:

By Gerry Stansfield
(Reprinted from Bromeliad, Journal of the Bromeliad Society of New Zealand Inc., May 2006, Vol. 46 No. 5.)

Around about this time we usually give out some advice to our newer members and perhaps a reminder to others, about the few things we should do before the onslaught of the cold winter months.

There is one job we must do prior to winter, and it is extremely important to do it now rather than waiting for the usual spring clean up — dead leaf our plants.

Unlike in the spring and summer months, the dead leaves in the winter can and do start to rot and break down. This can very quickly turn to bacterial and viral infection. You might say, “How does that happen?” Well, actually, we do know quite a lot about rotting vegetation. After all, that’s what composting is all about. However, the important difference between composting and dead leaves lying next to our bromeliads is that in composting we allow the temperature of the compost to rise dramatically which generally kills any pathogenic and viral bacteria, and leaves us with the lovely sweet smelling compost. This does not happen with our dead bromeliad leaves! How does this bacteria get into our plants? We do know that all bromeliads have trichomes, and we know that these trichomes are there to facilitate the absorption of water from rain and nutrients, and we also know that they are quite capable of absorbing matter from decaying vegetation.

It is well known that vectors (or carriers) such as animals, insects, mites, aphids, nematodes, mealy bug, scale and the sucking or chewing type of slugs and snails, etc. are all potential viral disease carriers, and by chewing and sucking at our plants they can and do pass on forms of infection that can attack the stomata pores of the leaves and of course also the stem cells. In particular, the sucking and chewing insects, that just love rotting vegetation, are extremely harmful to our beloved bromeliads.

By getting rid of the dead leaves we are helping our bromeliads to continue to grow and stay in a healthy condition.

If you have only a few bromeliad plants, this may not be a big job. But it you have a large collection, either in your garden, green house or shade house, then it is a much bigger job and should be planned. If your plants are in pots, then it is just a matter of lifting the pots, cleaning up the plant and replacing the pot. If you have planted in the ground, then it is more complex and perhaps you can do with the help of a kneeler or thick foam pad. We find the kneeler is ideal, and the handles allow you to easily hoist yourself up again. They are available from the Mitre 10 shops.

Finally, when you have finished it is a good time to lay slug baits.

An extract from The Florida East Coast Bromeliad Society Newsletter, September 2003

§ If your plants are not actively producing new growth, their water requirements are not as great as they were during the Summer. Reduce your watering frequency accordingly and monitor the media moisture a little more closely. We are entering that time of year when the risk of losing plants to rot organisms is at its greatest, so stay alert!
§ Did I say watch your watering practices because too much water can lead to rot problems? Well, watch your watering practices because when the humidity gets low those potting mixes can get pretty dry. Most bromeliads are very tolerant of dry conditions, but others don’t appreciate being left to desiccate. This is why some bromeliads just never do well mounted on driftwood for display. So don’t under-water either!
§ If you haven’t already separated and potted up your neoregelia pups, you may want to continue to procrastinate until the Spring. Neoregelia pups started in the late Fall and Winter often don’t seem to get the good start necessary to develop well because the plants are not in their active growth mode. In comparison, pups started in the Spring seem to rapidly develop roots and firmly establish themselves.

By L. Hromradnik
(This article was kindly supplied to me via Email by Chris Larson of the Bromeliad Society of Victoria — and appeared in their April/May 2006 newsletter, Vol. 23(2))

It is known that T. xerographica is one of seven Tillandsia species, which are included in appendix 2 of the Washington Protection Agreement, now known as CITES, because this plant after decades of intensive collection for sale is in danger in the wild.

In 1996 from Guatemala alone officially 190 tons of tillandsias were exported and Holland, the world’s greatest importer of plants, followed by the USA and Japan as the greatest buyers of plants from Guatemala. In the years 1999-2003 some large importations of 100,000s of T. xerographica, which were supposed to be propagated, but a large portion were discovered to be plants collected in the wild and were confiscated.

In 2003 because of this, the EU placed an import ban on this plant as trade in this plant would endanger the plant in the wild. A Dutch commission was formed to explore the status of T. xerographica in nature in Guatemala and see if further export of this plant collected in the wild was possible without endangering the species. It was also necessary to decide how government inspectors would determine the difference between wild and cultivated plants before export.

The scientific Director of the Botanic Institute of the University of Vienna asked for an Austrian “Bromeliad Expert” with a detailed knowledge of growing and cultivating tillandsias and I was approved. Two Dutch experts, Dr. Chris Schuermann, CITES representative, and Dr. Eric Gouda, Custodian of the Botanic Gardens of the University of Utrecht, also took part in the weeklong study tour, which partly solved the language problem between the only Spanish speaking and the only English speaking participants!

It was no holiday, relaxation or exploration trip of the usual kind. Even before leaving for Guatemala, an exact time-table with many deadlines was set: meetings with nursery owners and exporters; talks with members of the ministries; with the Nature-Protection CONAP and the botanical members of the University. In Guatemala we spent one day in the countryside with long trips for information with visits to different T. xerographica nurseries.

In Guatemala there are 22 known Tillandsia nurseries, of which 7 are registered as producers of T. xerographica. The plant stock must be controlled by inspectors every four months. Only registered nurseries with the ability of propagation, to maintain the balanced amount of parent stock without the use of plants from the wild, receive an export license. In addition are a few non-registered and therefore illegal nurseries which have no export-license but probably sell plants to exporters.

In past years different methods have been detected in exporting illegally wild collected T. xerographica in large numbers, hidden in exports of ordinary green plants. After three of these instances up to now, the nurseries were shut down. The plants were not confiscated and the nurseries could start up again under a different name. It is hoped that our visit will change this.

The fines compared to the number of exported plants is ridiculous. In 1999 a consignment of 100,000 T. xerographica collected in the wild was confiscated and the seller was fined US$250. If you take the wholesale price of $1.50 - $2.00 the consignment was worth $150.000 - $200,000. Even the highest fine of US$2,500 would not be a deterrent.

The six of us who inspected nurseries for T. xerographica showed a stock plant count of very different numbers and origin. While some have been registered for 15-20 years and believable because there was no plant increase with plants from the wild, we found one registered in 1989 which had bought plants from the wild in 1995, as well as 2000 plants from other nurseries. This explains the discrepancy between numbers of pathetic looking, so-called cultivated stock plants and the large number of beautiful young plants, where most had been taken from the wild.

In the nurseries we found different methods of cultivating and multiplying T. xerographica, which even in its habitat only flowers at the age of 20 or more years, produces 1-3 offsets, of which the first is the largest and about 1 year after flowering is taken off and then supposed to replace the stock plant. More offsets come later, grow slower and need 2-3 years for export size. The circle from flowering stock plant to the next flowering takes three years. With this method of multiplying for continuing export is hard to believe and is so time consuming. The black sheep amongst the nurseries would rather throw the stock plants away after the removal of the offsets and replace them by buying new plants.

Uwe Feldhoff tried many years ago with chemicals to increase the number of offsets and so increase the number of plants. Meanwhile by using his knowledge and using his tried “formula” in other nurseries the number of plants available has reached an unbelievable scale.

First the stock plant is prevented from flowering (which is not wanted) through the use of hormones which, when stopped, produce many offsets which are removed relatively early. With optimum shade, watering, fertilizing and the use of fungicide and pesticide every one of the 3,000 - 60,000 stock plants bring three more generations of offsets (reportedly 8-10) which grow in 1.5-3 years to masses of perfect, almost clone-like, plants suitable for export. Twenty to thirty percent are held back to increase the stock. The productivity increases through this method by 300% but even by this method a steady number of 17 stock plants is necessary to export one plant every month.

In comparison the effort to propagate T. xerographica from seed has only been tried in the last few years. No young plants larger than 10cm and older than 5 years could be seen.

The largest business was only registered in 1999. They have 3 hectares of shade houses (will be increased to 28 ha) and a 1.5 square km forest in original habitat of T. xerographica. The owner took from the supposed 500,000 T. xerographica (by our account that number is greatly exaggerated) 67,000 plants as stock plants to his nursery where by 2003 the number had increased to 120,000. The grounds are protected by armed guards against thieves. So far no export. The owner intends to export 150,000 in 2005, 500,000 in 2006 and in 2008 1,000,000 plants at 50 cents each “so everybody can afford them”. The owner has a construction firm and runs the nursery, which also has 100,000 T. harrisii, as a hobby.

As doubtful as the number of mother plants is, the method he uses is successful, a cross between natural growing and the use of chemicals. The plants are shaded, watered and fertilized like the other method but allowed to flower. In the shade houses humming birds buzz about and pollinate the flowers and on the older plants are seedlings which are removed and laid on nets.

Certainly there are many more T. xerographica in the nurseries than in the wild. The only known habitat of T. xerographica with certainty, is in a dry area in the valley of Rio Motagua at the foot of Sierra de las Minas. There is also the small village San Agustin Acasaguastlan with a lovely pilgrim church and a little park with an ancient Breadfruit Tree, Ceiba peltandra, the national Tree of Guatemala on which is found the greatest number of T. xerographicas in Guatemala--80-100 large plants and many more young plants as well as many other tillandsias. The population of the village has, through petitioning, hopefully stopped the cutting down of this tree.

We were recommended to visit a side valley of Monte Spinoso. There is supposed to be a beautiful stand of T. xerographica better than anywhere else. We tried a count at a height of 600m on a stretch of 8km with a visibility of 30-50m we saw 16-30 examples, that is the number of plants per square km between 32-125.

Also a count by the University of Guatemala of T. xerographica for the original growing area in the last 2 years resulted in 7 down to 1 plant per square km. So you would say T. xerographica in Guatemala in nature is nearly extinct.

Experts like Uwe Feldhoff with years of experience realize without measures like re-seeding in the wild, the possibility of survival is not very good. Pressure on the rest of the plants at $1 - $2 per collected plant, through illegal trade is too great.

Apart from T. xerographica, statements made by the Nature Protection Board suggest many more tillandsias are nearly extinct in nature through mass collecting, like T. harrisii, T. streptophylla, T. pruinosa, T. filifolia, T. deflexa, T. magnusiana and T. matudae. Indeed some are mass-produced for the trade but they came from the wild and are still taken from nature as a visit to a now-closed nursery showed. There were 100,000s tillandsias undoubtedly collected in the wild, like T. streptophylla, T. fuchsii var. gracilis, T. seleriana as well as T. xerographica. They were stored under terrible conditions and were rotting.

As a result of the report by Dr. Chris Schuermann the import ban of the EU has been lifted; however a new export quota has been given by the investigative team after considered judgment even including the non-registered nurseries.

Finally the author would like to point out that the remarks and data are not a guess but backed by the Guatemalan CITES, the Nature Protection Advisor of Guatemala, the botanists, and some of the responsible nursery men who are concerned about the continued survival of these species in nature.

Originally printed in Die Bromelie 2: 57-60, 2005. This has been translated from German by George Rudolf from the Bromeliad Society of South Australia.


- Tillandsia, by Paul Isley
- New Tillandsia Handbook, by Hideo Shimizu and Hiroyuki Takizawa

- Any fresh tillandsia seeds

If you are able to supply any of the above items, please contact:
Laurie Dorfer
Phone: H (02) 4267 2807/Mob. 0439 605 038

As part of the
September 9-10, 2006

A little earlier than usual, perhaps, to start talking about our Show, but as this will be the last newsletter to come out before then, I just wanted to put in some reminders.

* * Firstly, in Sections 1 and 2 (Open and Novice), only certain classes allow there to be multiple plants in the pot to be eligible under the judging criteria—i.e., only billbergia class (b), tillandsia (e) and (k), Other bromeliad (g) and (m) and Established Colony (h) allows more than one plant in the pot. Aechmeas [a] and [i], neoregelias [c] and [j], and vrieseas and guzmanias [f] and [l] must be single specimen plants, unless, as the Schedule states, that … “pups are permissible only if they are so small that their removal might jeopardize their survival.” Last year, unfortunately, some lovely neoregelias were out of the running for prizes because there were two in the pot, and these were plants which could easily have been separated and would have been allowed to have been put in as two separate entries Sometimes it might just take a little extra time and planning ahead to help you to come up as ‘Number 1’!

* * Another thing that makes a difference is how well the plant has been prepared for Show. Have the leaves been carefully trimmed and old leaves from the base removed? Has the mix been topped up to an appropriate level, or does the pot look half-empty? Is the plant/pot free from water spots/dust/debris, etc.? Taking care of these details can again make you a winner!

* * It will again be our usual set-up time of 2.00 pm on Friday , with judging to commence at 9.30 am on the Saturday morning. We will also be discussing other details at our August/September meetings.

Click HERE for Show Classes.

2 oz butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cold water
1 egg
2 cups self-raising flour
Melt butter with water—add sugar.
Take off heat and quickly add egg, stir well.
Allow to cool, then stir in flour.
Bake in a moderate oven (180C) until golden.
Makes 3 tart cases or two-and-a-half dozen tartlets.

Ailsa’s Caramel Filling (for tarts)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons custard powder
1 teaspoon butter
Combine milk, sugar and butter — bring to boil and thicken with custard powder mixed with a little water.
Cool and pour into pre-cooked pastry shell, then allow to cool completely.
If you want a sweeter taste, add 1 cup sugar instead of 3/4 cup.

Orange Filling for tart or tartlets
Juice of 5-6 oranges
1 dessertspoon sugar
Boil together and then add 1-1/2 tablespoons custard powder, as above.

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

Click HERE for Show Classes.

Updated 12/06/06