Neoregelia fosteriana or 'Purple Haze' ?
Click thumbnails for full size, scaled to a new window.

Neoregelia fosteriana L. B. Smith, Arq. Bot. S. Paulo 11.2: 120, pl. 50. 1950.
Desc. from S&D
Plant stemless.
Leaves rather numerous, rosulate, to 3 dm long, wholly red except for a few green spots, appressed-pale-lepidote, obscurely banded beneath;
Sheaths ca. 9 cm long;
Blades ligulate, slightly narrowed toward base, rounded and apiculate, 4 cm wide, laxly serrate with spines 1 mm long.
Scape short.
Inflorescence compound, rather many-flowered, ca. 4 cm in diameter, red;
Bracts about equaling the sepals, serrulate, chartaceous when dry, appressed-pale-lepidote, the outer broadly ovate, the floral narrowly lanceolate;
Pedicels slender, to 5 mm long.
Sepals lanceolate, asymmetric, acuminate, 15 mm long, connate for 2 mm, glabrous outside, flocculose inside;
Petals naked, acuminate, 19 mm long, red;
Stamens included;
Ovary ellipsoid, 9 mm long, the epigynous tube broadly funnelform; placentae subapical; ovules apiculate.
Type. Foster 123 (holotype, GH; isotype, US), Itatiaia, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1939.
Distribution. Epiphytic, 900 m alt, known only from the type area.

BRAZIL. Rio de Janeiro: Itatiaia, 21 Feb 1936, Brade 15047 (B); 30 Jun 1939, Foster 119 (GH); 122 in part (GH, R); 3 Feb 1967, Pontual 67-449 (IPA).

Neoregelia fosteriana by Harry Luther in Bromelia June 1995 p5
In June 1939, Mulford and Racine Foster collected several unusual neoregelias in the vicinity of Itatiaia ("Itatiaya"), Brazil. A set of dried specimens of this material was deposited at the Gray Herbarium, Harvard University (GH) and at least one living plant was brought back to cultivation. I have recently examined these preserved specimens and living plants purported to be Neoregelia fosteriana L. B. Smith. As there are some problems with these collections, I will treat each individually. Foster 119, although identified as N. fosteriana by Lyman Smith, differs conspicuously from the specimens by leaf shape and size; inflorescence shape, size and indumentum; and sepal length. The label also indicates that the living plant was "green" with "long suckers". Foster 119 is N. marceloi E. Pereira & Moutinho. This collection predates Marcelo Correia de Araujo's by more than forty years. Both Foster 122 (although I have not seen the specimen, Foster 122 at R it is supposed to be a mixed collection consisting mostly of Nidularium itatiaiae L B Smith) and 123 field collections at GH are nearly identical differing mostly in foliage color (122: "green - underneath purple”: 123: "dark magenta -with occasional light green spots"). Foster apparently recognized the compound nature of the inflorescence in 122 ("not all in one section") but not in 123 ("in one cluster deep in center"). Careful examination of the inflorescence of the specimens reveals both are compound. The label on each of these specimens indicates that there is a photo but apparently they were photographed together; the photo is attached to the Foster 123 specimen. The plants are not distinguished in the photograph and appear to be nearly identical.

Foster was able to introduce a living plant of his 123 to cultivation in Orlando, Florida, and flowered it two years later. A specimen was prepared during May and June, 1941, and was given the same number (123) as the original field collection. This second 123 was designated as the holotype of N. fosteriana by Lyman Smith (no date for the annotation). Unfortunately the protologue and later treatments make no mention that two type numbers exist. The actual holotype is the later, cultivated specimen. The earlier field collection must be treated as a clonotype.

There has been expressed some suspicion that because the type was prepared several years after the original collection was made that a mistake or mix-up may have occurred (in other words, the type specimen represents a different species from the original collec¬tion, or is even a horticultural hybrid) and that N. fosteriana is not a "real" species. This is not the case; Foster 122, 123 (field collection) and 123 (cultivated collection) at GH all represent the same taxon and the two 123s very likely represent the same clone.

Living plants identified as N. fosteriana have persisted in cultivation but have never achieved wide distribution. I have examined several of these plants, from two Florida hobbyists, said to have originated from Foster's garden. They are basically identical and match closely the Foster 123 specimens. They are very likely clonotypes, direct descendants of the type collection. The colour photograph and line drawing represent one of these plants. A prepared specimen and living material of N. fosteriana have been returned to Brazil, completing a round trip begun over 55 years ago.

Does N. fosteriana still exist in the wild? A fairly recent (Feb. 1967) collection at IPA is cited by Smith (1979) I haven't examined it. Might I suggest that certain members of the SBBr investigate this species' present day status and distribution? Also, any collector possessing living plants should take special care of them in case they represent the last of their kind.

Personal note from HEL 11/96 – It has been suggested by Elton Leme and agreed by Harry that this is a hybrid between N. lacteal and N. chlorosticta. Both are sympatric.

Neoregelia ‘Purple Haze’ alias fosteriana - Uncle Derek says.
This is a medium to large plant, say 60 cm diameter, with leaves 8-9 cm wide, maintaining a purplish colour (#39 in Isley’s chart) with a hazy covering. There is a hint of a reddish tip that is rounded and apiculate. The scape is 5 cm long and 1.5 cm wide, greenish white bracts, the uppermost becoming red lined. The pedicels are about 1 cm long . The inflorescence is simple. The floral bracts are similar to the upper scape bracts but narrower. The sepals are green with red lines, 3 cm long, slightly asymmetric but with a very long acuminate tip. This is sometimes bent and sometimes hooked. The petals are white with a pale violet platte.

Why have I gone to the trouble to measure and detail parts of a hybrid? In the 1970’s this plant got to Australia as Neoregelia fosteriana and was used to produce hybrids such as ‘Fost Prince’. (See photo) However, when Smith and Downs (1979) was printed Olwen Ferris (A BSI Trustee here in Australia) realised that this plant did not have a compound inflorescence and could not be the TRUE Neoregelia fosteriana and called the plant ‘Purple Haze’.

This plant has been known in the USA as Neoregelia fosteriana since at least 1973 because it was accurately described by Victoria Padilla in her book “Bromeliads” page 52. I quote “An attractive, dense rosette, 11/2 to 2 feet in diameter, with broad coppery leaves that are lightly dusted with gray. The tips of the leaves are burgundy red; underneath, the leaves are purple and marked with gray lines. Pale blue-petalled flowers are sunk deep in the heart of the rosette” This must have been the plant that Foster used to produce ‘Morris Henry Hobbs’, Fosperior’, Dexter’s Pride’, Foster’s Giant Red’, etc. What is strange is that Foster was not aware what his own Neoregelia fosteriana was because he did not use it in at least these hybrids.

Neoregelia fosteriana has been shrouded in mystery for many years and an excellent article by Harry Luther appeared in the Brazilian Journal “Bromelia” in June 1995 page 5. The photo is from that article. In correspondence with Harry Luther it appears that Elton Leme cannot find living specimens in the area of Foster’s original collection but did find Neoregelia chlorosticta and the newly described Neoregelia lacteal (Compound inflorescence, hooked sepals - see Bromelia June 1995 page 8) growing in close proximity. Could Neoregelia fosteriana have been a natural hybrid between the two?
This does not solve our problem because we have a totally different looking plant which could be a hybrid that occurred in Foster’s garden without him being aware of it, or was an F2 of Neoregelia fosteriana. We know that the TRUE N. fosteriana is surviving in Florida in at least two collections in Florida. In 1996 I was at the World Conference in Orlando and after a series of phone calls I felt I had traced at least one source of this true N. fosteriana. "Yes, I have the true species" was the reply. Later I was shown said plant but things didn't seem right and in a lull in my photographing the plant, I was able to quickly check the spent inflorescence and clearly it was simple. No one noticed that I had dropped my urgent plea for purchase! Harry has since pointed out that the flower may not necessarily be compound, so I may have missed out. So, although I think I now know what a N. fosteriana looks like, I haven't got one and as far as I am concerned, it has never been in Australia.

Its hybrid status could easily be confirmed by self set seed raising but I do not know who these lucky owners are OR if they are aware of the treasures they hold.

Is the ‘imposter foster’ the next generation from this true Neoregelia fosteriana or does it have yet another father, albeit accidentally? I feel sure that the Padilla ‘Fosteriana’ is still alive in California – somewhere. In 1999 when Pam Koide attended the Bromeliad Conference in Cairns, Qld, AU she saw a Neoregelia ‘Purple Haze’ but with N. fosteriana on the label. She had never seen the plant before and took one back to California to investigate further. I feel sure this plant is alive in Florida - somewhere!

If you are the curious type would you please check around and let us know whether hooked sepals are present on any of the plants you have that are mentioned in this article. By the way, I have given up trying to link this plant with a natural species!

Updated 20/03/14