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October 2011

Tillandsia guatemalensis
(See articles in this issue.)

- 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 Cathie Berger, Betty Ellis, Judy Schutz, and Heather and Les Thain. Also welcome back to Maureen Wheeler, who has remained a member but has been living in Bundaberg for a few years. We wish you all a long and happy association with our Society.

We will again be using the roster system for providing prizes for our monthly raffles. Bromeliads are preferred, but if you are unable to spare one then items such as potted herbs, cuttings, garden 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.

Glenise Weston, Warwick Varley, Ann Kennon, Eunice Spark
Loreen Whiddett, Yvonne Perinotti, Meri Stefanidakis, Sharyn Baraldi
Catherine Wainwright, Carole Taylor, Dot Stephenson, Laurie Dorfer

As The Illawarra Lapidary Club’s annual exhibit requires the use of our usual meeting room in November, we will switch to the Scribbly Gum Room, which is located to the right of the main entry of the Dapto Ribbonwood Centre, on the Princes Highway side of the building.

This year’s Christmas Party will be held at our usual meeting venue and will be a catered affair. Cost for members will be $15 and will include a choice of carved meats, salads and desserts. Our Society will also supply the usual prawns, wines, beer and punch. We will have access to the Laurel Room from 11.30 am on Saturday, 3rd December and so, after time for setting up, the festivities should begin around 11.45 am. As in past years please bring a small gift for sharing. (Men bring presents suitable for men and women bring presents suitable for women [and bromeliads always welcome!]). Elizabeth needs the party money by November 5.

We plan on organising a Workshop for early in the New Year and will discuss this with members at our meetings before then.

Catherine (Rena) Wainwright was recognised at our August meeting for her outstanding service to our Society over the past fifteen years. Rena, and her grandson Evan, joined in June 1996 and, until school and other commitments needed more of Evan’s time, he and Rena attended many of our meetings together (along with their beautiful plants) when we met at the old location, the Wollongong Botanic Garden.

For those of you who are newer members of our Society you may know Rena only as the lady who organises our wonderful afternoon teas—and feeds us at our Shows. But she is much more than that, and has been for many years—she is also our Publicity Officer, sending monthly ads to the local newspapers, and is one half of the Welfare Team, keeping in touch with, and sending cards to, members who may not have been too well.

Committee meetings held at Rena’s are always special—and not only because of the wonderful treats she bakes up for lunch and morning tea—but mainly because her garden just does the heart so good. It is immaculate—these days containing many beautifully grown bromeliads, but also so many other plants (such as brilliant red anthuriums, gorgeous begonias, pink calla lilies, bright little succulents and brilliant plantings of blooming seasonal flowers—not to mention the orchids!) and she is also so ready to agree to open up her garden when we request it for garden visits, etc. The bromeliads which she puts into competition are also inspiring, including her 40-year-old clump of Tillandsia ionantha (which won Grand Champion this year) and the curtain of Neoregelia pauciflora, which is quite magnificent.

Also, I don’t know how we would manage without her regarding our Show paraphernalia, as her garage must be half full a lot of the time with bits and pieces, and is used as a staging point and holding area until it can all be cleared.

Thank you, Rena! You are wonderful!!!


Oct 13–16
BERRY GARDENS FESTIVAL – EIGHT GARDENS TO VISIT – 10am – 4pm. Mary Seelis 4464 1191/Jennifer Swan 4464 2563
Oct 29–30

20TH World Bromeliad Conference - Orlando, Florida - Caribe Royale Hotel
September 24 – October 1, 2012
Early Bird Registration Rate (before 28 February 2012) for BSI Member: US$160
For non-member (countries outside US) US$210 (includes BSI membership for 1 year)
Registrations March 1-August 24, 2012: Member US$175/Non-member US$225
After 25 August 2012 and at the door: Member US$200/Non-member US$250


Register your interest at: for all the latest conference news and ‘early bird’ offers.
World Class Conference Presenters Already Confirmed: Elton Leme [renowned author and collector of bromeliads], Brazil
Michael Kiehl [growing, creating and supplying wonderful bromeliads for over 20 years], USA
Jose Manzanares [author of the beautiful books, Jewels of the Jungle], Ecuador.
Andrew Maloy [New Zealand’s leading hybridizer of exotic patterned leaf vrieseas]

PLANT RESULTS - August 6, 2011

1st = Graham Bevan= Aechmea Pica
2nd = John Carthew= xNiduregelia Something Special
3rd = Jørgen Jakobsen= Neoregelia Fosperior ‘Perfection’
3rd = Chris Butler= Neoregelia Paula

1st = Chris Butler= xerographica
2nd = Suzanne Burrows= scaposa
3rd = Sandra Southwell= butzii

PLANT RESULTS - September 3, 2011
1st = Jørgen Jakobsen = Aechmea recurvata
2nd = Chris Butler = Vriesea Highway Beauty
3rd = Chris Butler = Orthophytum Warren Loose

1st = Chris Butler = xNeophytum Firecracker
2nd = Noel Kennon = Aechmea apocalyptica
2nd = Yvonne Perinotti = Bowl of cryptanthus
3rd = Sandra Southwell = Neoregelia ‘Fireball’ X ampullaceal
3rd = Sandra Southwell = Neoregelia Tiger Cub
3rd = Sandra Southwell = Quesnelia marmorata

1st = Maureen Wheeler = ionantha – a beautifully grown ball
2nd = Noel Kennon = recurvifolia var. subsecundifolia (Smaller form)
3rd = Chris Butler = tenuifolia


Catherine Wainwright - Tillandsia ionantha (Large clump on curled root)

Elizabeth Bevan - Aechmea recurvata (Brazilian)

Catherine Wainwright - Tillandsia ionantha (Large clump on curled root)

Janine Varley - ‘Broms for the Bride’

Class a - Aechmea (12 entries)
1st = Nina Rehak = fasciata Variegated
2nd = Graham Bevan = recurvata
3rd = Nina Rehak = Bert Variegated

Class c - Neoregelia (8 entries)
1st = Nina Rehak = Aussie Dream
2nd = Nina Rehak = Fosperior ‘Perfection’
3rd = Freda Kennedy = hybrid

Class e - Tillandsia (15 entries)
1st = Chris Butler = rodrigueziana
2nd = Laurie Dorfer = tricolor
3rd = Suzanne Burrows = recurvifolia var. subsecundifolia

Class f - Vriesea/Guzmania (8 entries)
1st = Catherine Wainwright = Vr. Ospinae var. gruberi
2nd = John Carthew = Vr. Splenriet
3rd = John Carthew = Vr. Gigantean var. seideliana

Class g - Other Bromeliad (4 entries)
1st = Catherine Wainwright = Dyckia Warren
2nd = Catherine Wainwright = xNeophytum ‘Galactic Warrior’
3rd = John Carthew = xNiduregelia Something Special

Class h - Colony: Aechmea/Vriesea (5 entries)
1st = Graham Bevan = Aechmea nudicaulis ‘La Tigra’
2nd = Maria Jakobsen = Aechmea nudicaulis ‘La Tigra’
3rd = Noel Kennon = Vriesea vagans

Class i - Colony: Neoregelia (8 entries)
1st = Noel Kennon = pauciflora 2nd= Catherine Wainwright = hybrid
3rd = Catherine Wainwright = Heart’s Blood X

Class j - Aechmea (11 entries)
1st = Elizabeth Bevan = recurvata (Brazilian)
2nd = Sandra Southwell = recurvata
3rd = Elizabeth Bevan = recurvata var. ortgiesii

Class k - Neoregelia (6 entries)
1st = Chris Butler = carcharodon Variegated
2nd = Sandra Southwell = Hot Gossip
3rd = Sandra Southwell = hybrid

Class l - Tillandsia (12 entries)
1st = Sandra Southwell = ixioides
2nd = Chris Butler = subteres
3rd = Ann Kennon = tenuifolia

Class m - Vriesea/Guzmania (8 entries)
1st = Maria Jakobsen = Vr. Fosteriana
2nd = Ann Kennon = Vr. Fosteriana ‘Red Chestnut’
3rd = Chris Butler = Vr. Highway Beauty

Class n - Other Bromeliad (6 entries)
1st = Chris Butler = xNeophytum ‘Galactic Warrior’
2nd = Noel Kennon = Orthophytum vagans Variegated
3rd = Chris Butler = Canistrum triangulare

Class o - Mounted Tillandsias (9 entries)
1st = Catherine Wainwright = ionantha (Large clump on curled root)
2nd = Laurie Dorfer = tectorum
3rd = Laurie Dorfer = streptophylla

Class p - Mounted Bromeliad other than Tillandsias (1 entry)
1st = Sandra Southwell = Neoregelia ‘Fireball’ X ampullaceal

Class q - Basket/Decorative Container (1 entry)
1st = Catherine Wainwright = Basket of Bromeliads – Aechmea recurvata

Class r - Bromeliad Garden (4 entries)
1st = Catherine Wainwright = Large terrarium with cryptanthus
2nd = Lydia and Ian Chinnock = Vrieseas and Billbergia nutans in trough
3rd = Lydia and Ian Chinnock = Billbergia nutans in frog vase

Class s - Artistic Arrangement (7 entries)
1st = Janine Varley = An exquisite bridal bouquet with aechmeas—A. ‘Pie in the Sky’, ‘David Barry’, A. Winkleri (?) and tillandsias.
2nd = Elizabeth Bevan = Cryptanthus Our Glad on low, matching stand
3rd = Maria Jakobsen = A pretty arrangement with bluebird ornament

2009 = 17th Show = 146 entries = 19 competitors
2010 = 18th Show = 113 entries = 16 competitors
2011 = 19th Show = 151 entries = 20 competitors

Aechmea ramose var. festiva and Aechmea ramose ‘Pink Phase’:
Our member from Bundaberg, Rhonda Symonds, kindly contacted me with additional information on these two plants which I had mentioned in our July Newslink. While they are very similar in appearance, there are several differences which set them apart. First off, I was incorrect when I thought that my Aechmea ramose var. festiva must have been ‘Pink Phase’ because of the colour of the leaves, but Andrew Steens does tell us in his book, Bromeliads the connoisseur’s guide, that “Aechmea ramose var. festiva differs from the species {A. Ramose} mainly in the foliage, with narrower leaves that have a colouring of salmon orange and vicious but highly decorative blood-red to black spines.” These leaves are very lightly scurfed from bottom to top on both sides. The colour of the berries are also a much brighter yellow/gold—Rhonda describes it as a ‘colour to die for’. However, the spike of the inflorescence is not as stiff as in A. ‘Pink Phase’, being slightly pendulous.

Aechmea ramose ‘Pink Phase’ on the other hand has somewhat softer, wider, glossier leaves with spines markedly less pronounced than those on A. ramose var. festiva. There is also no evidence to the naked eye of any scurfing. Compared with A. Ramose var. festiva, the leaves are similarly salmon-orange on the undersides but paler on top and the berries have a more creamy-yellow appearance.

Tillandsia wagneriana: In Lee Moore’s tribute to his friend, Ron Wagner, he mentioned that “Ronnie had worked with Bill Haast {1910-2011} of the Miami Serpentarium, having learned the technology of venom extraction and the freeze drying process for venom research. He had also learned from Haast the technology of immunization, by administering minute doses of venom to himself over a period of time, creating antibodies, until a full dose, from the dangerous reptiles that he would be handling, would have little effect.” And so it was that when I read of Bill Haast’s passing in the June 27, 2011 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald there was sadness, as well as amusement, when I read that, “In 1954, he was bitten by a blue krait, one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. “I had never heard of a krait bite victim ever surviving,” Haast told the Associated Press in 1996. “I felt like the skin had been stripped from my body, like every nerve in my teeth was exposed, like my hair was being ripped out of my head.” But Haast recovered and soon went back to work. The snake died 10 days later.”

By Brad Gillis, M.D.
{Chris Butler has kindly forwarded on this posting from a recent member of the Tillnuts Group – Dr Brad Gillis. I think that we can switch the words ‘Tillandsia’ and ‘Tills’ to ‘Bromeliads’ if we prefer, but basically I think we’ve probably all been bitten by the same bug.—Ed.}

I’ve taken it as a given that humour is positively encouraged on admission to the Tillnut funny farm and all those who do not converse with a smirk on their face {while typing} risk expulsion, or at least measured for a straightjacket plus some Helium to deeply breathe in.

Being a doctor {GP variety—not one of those pretender PhD types—apologies to anyone with a PhD in the group} I am available and would be honoured to become the honorary medical adviser for the Tillnut group as all of us have been afflicted by the tillandsia contagion and may need therapy either sooner or later {individuals can decide which group they fit in}.

I am led to believe that the contagion infects slowly and early symptoms include:
• being able to pronounce tillandsia and appearing smug about it
• not being able to walk past one without checking it out {talking about Tills here}
• rescuing plants from chain stores to save them from certain death on someone’s fridge door
• inability to throw any Till into the rubbish unless dead brown all over and falls apart in hand {hands up all those who keep plants with centre rot even when the centre falls out}
• impulse buying of Tills
• talking to Tills
• looking besotted gazing at a Till in full bloom
• learning Latin as a second language so you can try and pronounce Till names correctly
• frequent pilgrimages to Brom Society meetings/shows
• Tills taking over any hanging space around the home
• playing with them for hours at a time—gluing, tying, etc., instead of working on spouse’s chore list
• friends and family not understanding your obsession with Tills {my brother calls them green sticks—how unkind}
• and it gets worse-before you know it you end up on a Tillnut list and you start playing God {a.k.a. hybridizing}—that makes us positively certifiable

Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for everybody else, there is no cure. Once afflicted by the contagion there is no going back. It’s until death do we part! Hmmm—Do Tills go to heaven?

From the Hunter District Bromeliad Society Inc.’s newsletter of September 2011
(This article also appeared in the July 2007 issue of the Illawarra Society’s Newslink)

The two articles below show that the best way to grow tillandsias may not necessarily be the method that is usually adopted.

By Kathy Dorr
Reprinted with acknowledgement from the J. Bromeliad Society (International), Nov/Dec 1985 which in turn was reprinted, with permission, from Long Beach-Lakewood Bromeliad Study Group (Bulletin), 10(3): 1974

Perhaps brainwash is too strong a term to use, but I could find no other word in Webster that was as apt to the situation. One of the definitions of brainwash is ‘persuasion by propaganda or salesmanship’ and although it was, in my opinion, lack of actual growing knowledge, as well as a necessity for Mother Nature to be taken as gospel, this would apply.

From time immemorial it has been written, taught and exhorted that, basically, tillandsias are epiphytic. Apparently no one considered the various theories that bromeliads may have originated from one or a few terrestrial species. The possibility of the statement, “You can take the boy out of the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy,” applying to bromeliads apparently has not been tested too thoroughly.

Benzing writes: “Some bromeliads are facultative epiphytes—in other words, they can grow as terrestrials. A substantial number, like many tillandsioids, are obligate epiphytes—i.e., they cannot grow in soil.”

Every grower has found that the “soft” leaved tillandsias, for the most part, grow much more happily as terrestrials. These would include such plants as Tillandsia flabellata, T. lucida, T. multicaulis, T. viridiflora var. variegate, etc.; T. cyanea and T. lindenii are native to areas that make them conducive to growing terrestrially. Experimentation has shown that the list does not stop with only these.

About three years ago I decided to test or establish this hypothesis. I started with sixteen tillandsias acknowledged to be epiphytes. They included two varieties of Tillandsia ionantha, T. araujei. T. didisticha, T. stricta, T. caput-medusae, T. bulbosa, T. streptophylla, T. argentea, T. schiedeana, T. tectorum, T. victoriana, T. albida, T. bergeri, etc.

I planted all these as terrestrials in four-inch pots. I used a terrestrial mix of humus and sand (commercial azalea mix). They were watered the same as all the terrestrials. The plants were placed where they had slight protection and received strong light, but very little direct sun, perhaps only an hour a day. They were fertilized (some of them) with Jobe’s sticks.

Results were very interesting. First, they developed a terrestrial type of root and most produced an abundant supply of them. I had previously found that when some of these, such as T. caput-medusae, were laid in a pot with another plant, they would immediately send down roots even though they were not actually planted.

Tillandsia stricta has flowered for the past two years and set offshoots. The plants are lush appearing. The inflorescences are no larger than those on plants grown epiphytically. This year there were three inflorescences and I was surprised when they appeared smaller than usual until I noted that all the mounted ones were also smaller than usual this year.

Tillandsia ionantha var. ionantha flowered last year and it was a most attractive plant. It opened out more than T. ionantha grown epiphytically, showing the inflorescence to a better advantage—in my opinion. It has set offsets and I would venture to say it will flower again this year.

Tillandsia caput-medusae grew larger and definitely more vigorous appearing. It is now on its third generation and each generation has been larger than the last! If the third generation offshoot grows into its present appearance, it is really going to be a great one. There are two offsets showing and they are large, lush, and beautiful! The inflorescence also was larger than the ones on plants grown epiphytically.

Tillandsia didisticha is unquestionably happier in a pot in my growing area. I always had problems with this plant as an epiphyte and it has produced a lovely plant grown in this manner. It has not flowered yet, but is large enough (larger than most grown as epiphytes) to flower.

Tillandsia tectorum delighted in being a terrestrial. It flowered last year and has produced two beautiful offshoots, which have grown much faster than the offshoots which appeared at the same time on a Tillandsia tectorum grown as an epiphyte.

Tillandsia streptophylla took to terrestrial growing like a fish to water. It has gotten nice, and fat, and happy. It would give one the impression that it possibly preferred growing as a terrestrial.

Both varieties of Tillandsia schiedeana are getting ready to flower. The plants are healthy, sturdy plants and perfectly content growing as terrestrials.

Tillandsia araujei has been very interesting in that when the plant had been potted for about a year, approximately an inch of the tip of the plant was accidentally broken off. I simply stuck it in the soil beside the original plant, expecting it to wither and die. Surprisingly, it rooted and started growing! Some time later, I deliberately broke off another piece and stuck it in the soil and it, too, began to grow. Neither of these pieces had any sign of a “base” or root when planted. If the two pieces had not been broken off, I believe this plant would have flowered by this time.

Tillandsia argentea is fascinating. It was a very small plant when planted and has not flowered as yet, but it is a beautiful little, fat, fuzzy plant at the present time and will probably flower this year.

Tillandsia Victoriana grew a little larger than one of the same size that had been mounted on cork. They both flowered about the same time.

Several months ago, I planted a number of different species and intend to continue the experiment. Such information as I have gleaned so far tends to dispute some accepted hypotheses and has become a source of controversial theories.

By Peter Paroz
(Reprinted with acknowledgement from Bromeliaceae, J. Queensland Bromeliad Soc., January/February 2002)

Tillandsia narthecioides is a loose, open rosette plant consisting of 20-30 narrowly triangular green leaves, 8-10 cm by 200-300 mm in an open rosette. The flower spike is distinctive: erect to upright on a slim stem with numerous fragrant white flowers arranged alternately in two ranks. There is a colour variant in local cultivation with leaves that have a permanent dark reddish colour.

Some years ago I acquired a plant of this tillandsia and, not having any cultural information, mounted it on a cork block. It survived without thriving. When I was eventually able to divide the plant, I mounted one offset on a piece of tree fern fibre and the other was potted in coconut leaf fibre in a small (75 mm) terracotta pot. Both plants are grown in a bushhouse with regular watering and a weak foliar spray of Phostrogen every 7-10 days.

After fifteen months, when the plant flowered in November, the potted plant has clearly outgrown the mounted specimen. The number of flowers and offsets for the potted specimen was 36 and 4 respectively, compared to 20 and 1 for the mounted plant; a convincing case for potting—at least for my cultural conditions.

From a talk given by Vic Przetocki at the Western Australian Bromeliad Society’s July, 2011 meeting. Reprinted from W.A. Society’s August-September 2011 Bromeliad Newslink.

I had decided to do a talk about tillandsias but thought that I might narrow down the field by choosing the ones that are endemic to Mexico. Doing a little bit of research I didn’t realise that Mexico has about 200 of the 600 known tillandsia species accredited to them. After going through my collection I managed to find 31 tillandsias which I have listed on the following pages and thought that this wasn’t too bad a representation. There were plants that I had tried to grow but lost and these were T. plumosa, lieboldiana, macdougalii, deppeana and lucida. A lot of those 31 tillandsias are not solely from Mexico but are also found growing in other countries of North, Central and South America. I don’t know if the plants I have actually originated from Mexican stock or that they came from another locality, but for the exercise of this talk will assume that they have come from Mexico.

Mexico has a varied climate and habitat and not every tillandsia from there should be treated the same. The altitude should be considered; the higher up the cooler conditions the plant likes, but most grow in a mid range altitude, not too hot and not too cold. The type of surfaces they are growing on gives an idea of what they prefer—i.e, wood (epiphytic growing) or rock (saxicolous growing). Terrestrial tillandsias require a well drained mix, I am growing plants such as T. fasciculate, T. caput-medusae and T. streptophylla in clay pots with pea gravel as the medium but expanded clay will also do.

Most of the tillandsias listed are quite hardy but several like T. atroviridipetala and T. mauryana are not growing well. I had been growing a lot of my tillandsias in a glasshouse and had been told that I should have been reported for cruelty to tillandsias. Nowadays I grow most of the tillandsias outdoors under different lighting conditions and they have never looked back. I still need to do some experimenting with how much of the direct Perth summer sun some of the tillandsias can take.

The table showing only my tillandsias provides their growing conditions and habits and this information was extracted from a booklet Tillandsias A Growers Guide published by The Bromeliad Society of New South Wales. I would say that their growing conditions have been described from conditions that the tillandsias have been grown under in NSW and should only be used as a guide here in Perth. For interest I also included generalized details of the inflorescence and colours may vary slightly.

Most of the Mexican tillandsias are a tough lot and are well worth growing; they have interesting shapes and colourful flower spikes.

Growth Habit
Growing Conditions
1300–1500 m
Bright, Moderately dry
Grow outside all year round
Simple spike, red bracts, greenish-white flowers
1600-2400 m
Bright, full sun, Fairly dry
In Summer, outside in half shady place, not too cold in Winter; head should face downwards.
Compound spike, green flowers
0-1080 m
Moderate shade, fairly dry
Grows in dry thickets
Red bracts, purple flowers
0-1500 m
Bright, fairly dry; Humid
Grows in forests
Branched spike; red bracts, purple flowers
0-1350 m
Moderate light, moist, humid
Grows in bright, open forest
Scape red; blue or violet flowers
capitata Red form from Mexico
1065-1220 m
Bright to full sun; moderately damp
Grows on the west side of rocks in Durango
Purple flowers
40-2400 m
Bright, moderately damp, fairly dry
Branched spike; red bracts, pale blue flowers
600 m
Bright, full sun; fairly dry
Grows on exposed limestone canyon walls
Simple spike; pinkish bracts, blue or violet flowers
0-1500 m
Bright, Fairly dry
Now Tillandsia paucifolia
0-1800 m
Bright, mod. damp, mod. humid
Dry exposed habitats
Branched spike; deep rose bracts, white or greenish flowers
700 m
Bright, dry, humid
On steep granite rocks in deciduous forest
Branched spike; pinkish red bracts, flowers blue violet white at the base
10- 45 m
Moderate light, fairly dry. Moderately humid
Dry forests and thickets
Branched spike; rosy red bracts, violet flowers
0-2000 m
Bright, fairly dry, humid
Simple or branched spike; Yellow to red bracts, white to purple flowers
100-2000 m
Moderate shade. Moist, Mod. humid
Branched spike; pale lilac flowers
225-1500 m
Bright, Moderately damp. Mod. humid.
Branched spike; red bracts, violet flowers
ionantha var. ionantha
140-1520 m
Bright to full sun. Moderately Damp.
Grows in moist forest and also on exposed deciduous trees and rocks in arid areas.
Foliage flushes red; vivid purple flowers.
ionantha var. stricta
1980 m
Bright. Fairly dry.
Grows on oak trees.
Foliage red all the time. Purple flowers.
ionantha var. van-hyningii
Bright to full sun. Moderately damp.
Grows on vertical limestone cliffs.
Foliage flushes bright pink. Purple flowers.
700-1200 m
Bright, fairly dry
Deciduous dry forests.
Compact branched head. Brilliant red bracts. White to bluish purple flowers.
1800 m
Bright, fairly dry, humid
Simple spike; reddish bracts, dark violet flowers
0-1500 m
Bright, fairly dry. Moderately humid.
Grows on trees and bushes.
Branched spike; reddish bracts, white to violet flowers.
0-1000 m
Bright, Fairly dry.
Simple spike; pinkish bracts, lavender flowers
300-1000 m
Bright, Fairly dry
In trees in seasonally dry open forests
Branched spike; red bracts, white to lavender flowers
2000 m
Bright, Fairly dry
On trees in dry areas of the highlands
Simple; reddish pink bracts, violet flowers
300-2300 m
Moderate shade. Moderately damp.
Simple spike; orange red bracts, flowers white near apex, violet below.
Branched spike; pinkish bracts, dark violet flowers.
Bright,Fairly dry.Moderately humid.
Steep rock walls.
Simple spike; pinkish bracts, dark violet flowers.
50-1800 m
Bright,Fairly dry.
Grows in conifer and oak forests; also on cliffs
Simple spike; red bracts, yellow flowers.
270-2100 m
Moderate shade. Moist.
In Pinus and Quercus forests.
Branched spike; pink bracts, violet flowers.
0-1400 m
Bright,Fairly dry.Moderately damp.
Too much water, spiral twisting of the leaves disappears.
Branched spike; red bracts, purple flowers.
1400-2300 m
Bright.Moderately damp.
On trees in cloud forests.
Simple spike; red yellow bracts, violet flowers
200-600 m
Very bright to full sun.
Grows on trees and boulders.
Branched spike; red & yellowish green bracts, pale lavender flowers.


By Gerald Krulik
(Reprinted from PUP TALK, Newsletter of the Saddleback Valley (California) Bromeliad Society), 13(10) Oct. 2006)

I originally was going to ask, “What is your most boring bromeliad genus?” However, I soon realized that there were too many possible candidates for this. Most of the plants we see in collections are only from about ten or so genera, versus 50-60 or so genera for the whole group. We see predominantly only aechmea, billbergia, dyckia, hechtia, puya, neoregelia, ananas, tillandsia, vriesea, bromelia and cryptanthus. Thus it would be too easy for people with only one or two in a genus to proclaim that genus as boring. For example, I can find no aesthetic reason for the existence of Racinaea, a plant that grows well as an epiphyte like Tillandsia, and flowers and clusters easily. Yet, even in flower, it is hard to spot or appreciate when growing mixed in with lots of other tillandsias on a long piece of aluminium edging mesh nailed to a fence. The most common genera in cultivation generally have many species, and are mostly not boring.

My own nomination for the most boring bromeliad species, in our collection, is Tillandsia guatemalensis. Yes, you heard me right—I am nominating a species of my all time favourite genus, a tillandsia, as the most boring bromeliad.

What makes me think it is boring? Well, for one thing, it is easy to grow, even outdoors. It clusters without shame, and all the plants are perfectly green. It seems like the arch-typical plain vanilla (i.e., green) bromeliad. My plants have no spots, acne-caused or otherwise; no stripes; no warts or crenulations; no spines; no non-green pigments. The flower spike is tall, open, thin, sparsely branched, greenish-red with tiny blue flowers briefly appearing in parsimonious amounts. (I will put all photos, in colour, on my website at

Having said this, I did decide to do a little further research. The Internet is great for this, but I started the traditional way, with the Tillandsia Handbook by Shimizu and Takizawa(1). They only have one photo of this species, and apart from some brownish red pigmentation on some leaves, and a more reddish flower spike, it looks just like mine. Case closed!?

Just to be thorough, and maybe to find another picture or two to back up my case, I went to the Google search page. Imagine my surprise when I found that some people actually think that it is a wonderful plant! This was cited by an Australian journal as having a beautiful tall red inflorescence(2). Conversely, a California grower took hers, spray-painted the inflorescence green, and made it into a miniature Christmas tree(3). By the way, note the misspelling of the name. I only found this photo because my first search was by the wrong name. It is supposed to be T. guatemalensis, not T. guatamalensis

I then waded through more photos and some short notes. Most of the plants were dull and green, like mine, but some were stockier, didn’t have rings of pups, and were an appealing shade of red. Now, I could understand some of the colour difference since my plants are grown in deep shade. I am sure that they would colour up some in the sunlight, though the other plants I grow don’t seem to have such a difference between shaded and sunny environments. And my shade is not that shady anyway.

Onwards through the Internet. It got more interesting. Tillandsia guatemalensis is found in Guatemala, and also in Chiapas, Mexico, further north. I found a picture {shown on the front cover} of a very attractive, stout-leaved red single-headed plant attached to a wild tree. It looks nothing like my plant. Finally I found that there seem to be two different forms of this species. The one from Guatemala is green, and clusters and grows easily in the shade. The Mexican form seems to like bright sunlight, gets a beautiful red coloration, and is normally monocarpic! This is Latin meaning that it only flowers once, then dies, like Agaves. It does not offset. The field photo shows an absolutely gorgeous plant(4).

To sum up, I find that I was half right. I still think that Tillandsia guatemalensis is one of our most boring bromeliads. But now I have to go out to find the OTHER form of this species: its non-clustering, and thus far more costly, grown only from seed, good-looking sibling.

1. Shimizu, Hideo, and Takizawa, Hiroyuki (1998) In: New Tillandsia Handbook, Japan Cactus Planning Co Press
2. The Bromeliad Society of South Australia Inc.—Bromeliad Gazette, Sept/October 2006, Vol. 30(05). Did you realise that Tillandsia guatemalensis was known as Tillandsia cyanea for some 100 years before Lyman Smith in 1949 saw difference and corrected it
3. Merry Christmas Tillandsia – Bromeliad Forum – GardenWeb This 2 foot tall Christmas tree is actually the bloom spike from Tillandsia guatemalensis that has been very lightly spray-painted green with a touch of
4. Castro, Hernandez, J.C., Wolf, J.H.D. et al. (1999) The influence of humidity, nutrients and light on the establishment of the epiphytic bromeliad Tillandsia guatemalensis in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, Revista de Biologia Tropical Vol. 47(4).

By Virginia Guess and Robert Guess in J. Brom. Soc. 48(2): 69-73. 1998

The awesome sight of thousands of bromeliads in full flower that greets a first time visitor to a tropical forest translates into an everyday experience for those who make their home in such enchanting places. In highland Chiapas, Mexico, indigenous inhabitants pass daily under majestic trees laden with epiphytes, many species of which need further botanical descriptions. While local Maya Indians may collect colourful inflorescences to sell for a mere pittance in the markets of nearby towns, they otherwise ignore these plants except for the few they incorporate into their traditional rituals. The use of bromeliads for seasonal decoration is occasionally mentioned in the literature, but little attention has been given to their cultural aspects or the relationship that native dwellers have with their plant world. In this article, we focus on the role that one species of Bromeliaceae plays in what we call ‘ritual adornment’. The term describes those plants that indigenous people gather from their natural habitats and incorporate according to prescribed rules into their religious ceremonies.

Every twenty days, a select group of Maya Indians leave their remote villages to search the nearby mountains for a certain plant. In their Tzotzil language, they hold the ceremonial title of cuch nichim, those with a given task (cuch) to gather flowers (nichim). Appointed for one year by a martoma (a steward of ritual knowledge or a religious official), they must supply the floral arrangements required in the performance of centuries-old rituals. These men are seeking a plant they know as tsajal ech, a bromeliad growing in the forests that surround their communal lands in the Municipio of San Juan Chamula.

In the Tzotzil language, ech’ is a generic expression referring to epiphytes, bromeliads as well as orchids. Only selective plants that factor into their cultural practices receive a more descriptive term differentiating them according to colour, shape, or function. These Maya Indians award barely a handful of the numerous species of tillandsia that flourish in their environs with a more specific designation. In this case, they add the modifying word tsajal to distinguish the red leaves of a bromeliad they use almost exclusively to decorate the arches that delineate ceremonial sites. In contrast, other Tzotzil-speaking Maya in the nearby Municipio of Zinacantan also utilize the inflorescence of this same species to adorn their house crosses (krus) and other shrines. They call it krus ech’to to denote the use rather than the plant’s distinctive leaf colour.

Tillandsia guatemalensis L.B. Smith is the botanical name for tsajal ech’ or krus ech’. T.guatemalensis, a prolific epiphytic species found in oak-pine forests of southern Mexico and throughout Central America, is one of the more common tillandsias of the Chiapas Highlands. This moderately large plant with twenty-five to thirty strap-like leaves, 30 to 40 cm long and 3 to 4 cm wide, thrives in the moist habitats of cloud forests located between 1100 and 3000 m.

The leaves form a dense crateriform rosette and change colour from green, in low-light situations, to bright red or maroon when exposed to critical levels of sunlight. The tall, erect scape supports a multi-tiered inflorescence that often reaches over a meter in height. At maturity the bracts turn a startling bright red, and the branches of the inflorescence each bear from ten to twenty-five purple flowers. In spite of the striking inflorescence and colored leaves, however, the species has minimal horticultural value. Its method of reproduction, long developmental cycle, size at maturity, and the complex environmental conditions required for growth negate the plant’s practicality in most commercial ventures.

T. guatemalensis is purported to be monocarpic—that is, it blooms once, develops, scatters seeds, and then dies without producing offsets. Field experience with these plants, however, suggests variations in this reproductive cycle, an observation that offers long-term study opportunities for students of this species. We have noted that in addition to producing seeds, many specimens of T. guatemalensis exhibit multiple axillary offsets as well as tiny offshoots or “grass” around their bases. Because of its abundance and accessibility in Chiapas, it is one of the primary bromeliads chosen for adornment by the Maya of San Juan Chamula. Established rules determine when they collect the plants, how they prepare the leaves, and when and where to use them. They often casually discard the dramatic inflorescence in deference to the leaves.

Just as the ancient Maya employed natural foliage to delineate a sacred locale, their descendants follow a similar custom. For example, the external appearances of the houses where the martomas of San Juan Chamula live are no different from other houses in the community: a simple one or two-room adobe structure with a tiled roof . What sets a house apart as a ceremonial site is a leaf-covered arch erected near the main doorway, and a room designated as a shrine to accommodate several statues of santos (saints). Inside, similar arches, only smaller in scale than the entry arch, surround the more important images. The cuch nichim construct these arches by binding several defoliated tree branches, 3 to 4 cm thick, shaped into a large arch by burying the ends 10 to 15 cm in the earth. Based on the Maya calendar that numbers the days according to a cycle of religious events, these arches must be refreshed with new foliage from T. guatemalensis every twenty days.

The cuch nichim set off at dawn, often in groups of two to four, equipped with machetes, rope, tump-lines, and hemp bags to collect the fifty to one hundred plants needed to completely cover each arch. Once they reach the forests where large numbers of the plants grow, they climb the trees to the upper limbs to select those exposed to sunlight. They choose only the plants whose leaves have attained the proper dark red hue, and sever them at the base to free the holdfast from the tree. The plants fall to the ground below to be sorted, cleaned and gathered later. When the men have harvested the necessary number, they cut away the inflorescences, remove the dead or dried leaves, and bundle only the choicest plants into bags. They then transport their load via tump-line to the martoma’s house for storage until the designated day to refresh the arches.

At the appointed time, the cuch nichim converge to complete their task. They first strip the arches of the withered leaves of T. guatemalensis and deposit them in a designated place where the dead foliage accumulates to be composted later. They then dismantle the freshly collected plants and wash the leaves in the presence of the martoma who chants to the accompaniment of music played on traditionally made drums, harp, and violins. They meticulously select only the finest and most colourful leaves, usually those that grow near the centre. These are then reassembled one-by-one on the arch by securing each leaf with hemp cord starting at the centre of the arch and working to the base. When finished, the interlocking leaves resemble the original leafy structure of T. guatemalensis.

The men repeat this process until the required number of arches are adorned, often from seven to nine. Incense and explosions from homemade rockets herald the completion of each arch. When all are ready, they are arranged in a row before the martoma for the final chants, incense, and fireworks before they are ceremoniously installed. Only the largest arch covered with the leaves of T. guatemalensis is visible in front of the martoma’s house. The smaller ones are hidden from public view in the sacrosanct place maintained for the santos. At the end of the annual ceremonial cycle, all leaves used on the arches during the year are returned to the earth when the cornfields are prepared for the next planting.

Since these rites are performed in private, the process in which bromeliads are incorporated as adornment is rarely recorded. Often when non-indigenous plant collectors venture into these areas, they see only the completed arches covered with leaves without recognizing the significance behind the display. Contextual information when describing species provides clues to the availability and abundance of those plants prized for ceremonial use. In addition, familiarity with regional plant names facilitates communication with the Indians who frequently provide the knowledge and labour required to locate and gather desired specimens.

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Updated 24/03/12