In 2002 Lynn Hudson sent me a plant that was being grown in Cairns as Neoregelia ‘Purple’ which I was trying to convince her was Neoregelia smithii. After 2 years it acclimatised to Adelaide conditions, became somewhat smaller, and flowered! I am now convinced it is the same as ‘Blue tristis from Kent’ which has been in Australia since the 1980’s.
In the 1960’s we had the true Neoregelia tristis in Australia and it was, as the name implies, a sad looking plant! But it did have a pedigree! It is strange that plant collectors get the urge to find a better clone for horticultural purposes but ignore taxonomic requirements. In the 1980’s many plants seemed to be coming out of Brazil to the USA and had all manner of names attached to them. This was the time when Lyman Smith was slowing up due to old age and Elton Leme was just starting up!
For example, we had Neoregelia tristis ‘Freckles’ which I was able to prove was not a tristis and became ‘Freckles’ only to have it re-found in the wild by Elton and named N. guttata! Then there was N. tristis ‘Oppenheimer’ which was another ’non-tristis’ and more aligned to N. smithii. It is now plain ‘Oppenheimer’ in the Cultivar Register.
What should we do with ‘Blue tristis from Kent’ which isn’t an N. tristis and neither is it really blue but has a more purplish-violet coloured centre when flowering? My sense of humour suggests ‘Kent’s Blue’ because I did not make the mistake. This will soon be in the Register with photo. You never know but this action might mean that Elton Leme re-finds this plant in the wild and gives it a proper identity!