Plant Saxicolous, caulescent, 2-3.7 m high, propagating by basal shoots.
Rosette infundibuliform, storing a large amount of water, ca. 1.5 x 1.6 m.
Leaves numerous, suberect, nearly straight;
Sheaths elliptic to widely ovate, 30-43 x 15-21 cm, pale brown with brown spots and pale brown inclined lines abaxially, white along the insertion becoming pale brown adaxially when fresh, dark brown becoming pale brown abaxially, concolor pale brown adaxially when dry, densely brown lepidote on both faces, coriaceous, margins membranaceous, inconspicuously wine-red spotted when fresh, strongly involute when dry;
Blades ligulate to ligulate-lanceolate, (0.9-)1-1.2 m x 9-10 cm, concolor green, with transversal white wax bands on both faces, densely brown lepidote abaxially, glabrescent adaxially, plane to slightly canaliculate, suberect, coriaceous, distinctly nerved with some prominent veins, margins green, weakly revolute when dry; blade apex acute, green, twisted, rigid, discretely apiculate for ca. 5 mm.
Scape erect, straight, stout, 80-130 x 2.6-4 cm, terete to slightly sulcate, brownish green to purplish green, glabrous, distinctly nerved, internodes 3.5-6.5 cm;
scape bracts: the proximal ones, subfoliaceous, green, the middle and distal ones, ovate, apex acute, apiculus twisted, 15-35 x 4-6 cm, red at base passing to pale green, covered by white wax and densely brown lepidote abaxially, wine-red spotted and sparsely lepidote adaxially, imbricate up to 1/3 of the length, curved and spreading toward the apex, distinctly nerved, coriaceous, margins revolute when dry.
Inflorescence compound, heterothetic double raceme, ellipsoidal, 45-100 x 25-50 cm, main axis with 2-5 x 1-3 cm internodes;
primary bract ovate, apex acute, discretely apiculate, twisted, 4-13.5 x 2.8-5.5 cm, yellowish green to yellow along the base passing to waxy white abaxially, wine-red adaxially, densely brown lepidote on both faces, involute, curved, shorter than the lateral peduncles, distinctly nerved, coriaceous;
inflorescence branches 20-27,11-26(-32) flowered, suberect to erect;
lateral peduncles terete, (4-)12-22 x 0.7-0.9 cm, green, glabrous, finely nerved;
sterile bracts 2-4(-6), elliptic to oblong, apex acuminate, discretely apiculate, 3-3.8 x 1.5-2 cm, yellow, apiculus wine-red, glabrescent abaxiaily, densely brown lepidote adaxially, adpressed to the lateral peduncle, remote or nearly so, finely nerved, carinate near the apex, coriaceous, margins membranaceous; rachis weakly geniculate to straight, nearly quadrangular in cross section, 25-50 cm, green, glabrous, internodes (20-)30 x 7-8 mm;
floral bract suborbicular, apex obtuse, 3.5-4 x 4.5-5.3 cm, yellow, glabrous abaxially, brown lepidote adaxially, involving the calyx, smooth and carnose in the central portion, nerved along the laterals and margins, ecarinate but weakly thickened in upper 5 mm below the apiculus, margins membranaceous, yellowish hyaline in the fresh material.
Flowers with a weak sweet scent, distichous, patent to suberect at anthesis;
Pedicels nearly circular, 4 x 6 mm, green, sulcate;
Sepals obovate, apex obtuse, symmetric or nearly so, 3.2-3.7 x 2.3-2.7 cm, exceeding the floral bracts in 10-15 mm, yellowish green on base, completely yellow toward the apex, glabrescent abaxially, brown lepidote adaxially, carnose, ecarinate, margins membranaceous and yellowish hyaline in the dry material;
Petals ligulate, constricted around the apex of the sepals, apex rounded, 85-90 x 9-10 mm, yellow, inconspicuously white spotted, turned backward and weakly spiraled at anthesis;
petal appendages 2, ligulate, ca. 34 x 2 mm, longitudinally adnate to the petal for 29 mm, carnose and protuberant, apex acute, asymmetrical; stamens not spreading;
filament terete, weakly complanate in the 1/2-inferior portion, 70-74 x 1.7 mm, white; anther linear, ca. 16-18 x 1.4 mm, yellow, dorsifixed near the base; style trigonous-rounded in cross section, ca. 85 x 2 mm, white; stigma lobes convolute-patent, 2.5-3 mm, white;
ovary weakly hexagonal in cross section, with inconspicuous ribs, ca. 15 x 3-4 mm, green, hypanthium ca. 6 mm; ovules numerous, ca. 3 mm.
Capsule and seeds unknown.
Additional material examined: BRAZIL. EPIRITO SANTO: Jeronimo Monteiro, Vila Cruzeiro, cultivated along the road BR-482, 20°48'04.8"S, 41'22'04.1 "W 131 m.s.m., 18-I-2007 [fl.], L.M. Versieux 364, A.M. Calvente & T. Trindade (SP).
Alcantarea patriae stands out among other species of the genus due to its great dimensions, particularly those of the leaf sheath, blade, rosette and the ample inflorescence. This new taxon resembles A. odorata that also has sweet scent flowers, but it can be separated from the latter by its shorter primary bracts, by the larger number and more spaced flowers, and by the straight to weakly geniculate rachis. Furthermore the flowering branches in A. patriae are usually longer, and suberect to erect (vs. patent to pendulous). The white wax cross bands along the blades or on the abaxial face of the scape bracts, and the rachis, which is almost straight or diverging up to 5° for each side (Figure 2C, E), are also very conspicuous characters that are useful to distinguish A. patriae.
Geographical distribution and conservation: Alcantarea patriae is helyophyte and grows over rocks between 120-400 m.s.m. at Jeronimo Monteiro County, Espirito Santo, Brazil. Individuals grow isolated or in dense groups frequently associated to Coleocephalocereus pluricostatus Buining & Brederoo (Cactaceae). Based on the IUCN criteria (IUCN, 2001), Alcantarea patriae can be considered Near Threatened (NT) due to its restricted occurrence area that is not within any protected area. Although the populations are usually large, with hundreds of individuals that are on inaccessible steep slopes, A. patriae is locally exploited for the ornamental trade. Also, granite mining threatens its substrate.
Phenology: Blooming in January
Etymology: Alcantarea patriae (i.e., belonging to the native land) was named after the bright colors observed in the inflorescence branches. The green of the lateral peduncles, and rachis, together with the yellow bracts, sepals and petals remind the colors of the Brazilian flag.