This saga starts in 1894 when Mez named this plant because it had one large appendage per petal instead of the normal two appendages so that in all there are 3 ligules.(one per petal!)
Finding this plant in the wild was quite a challenge because we read in Smith and Downs Flora Neotropica 14 (2) 1977, page 1108, that the plant was only known from the original collection. So it was "lost" for over 83 years.
In 1985 Alvin Seidel sent a plant ‘Seidel 981’ collected in Castelo, Espirito Santo to Selby Gardens where it was provisionally identified as Vriesea triligulata.
In 1986 Elton Leme wrote an article in the B.S.I. Journal pages 19 & 20 whereby he announced the rediscovery of Vriesea triligulata which had occurred in 1982 No reference was made to ‘Seidel 981’.
In 1995 Andrea Costa in the Brazilian Journal Vo1 2. #4 pointed out that the Leme decision was in error and that his plant was really Vriesea fradensis. Andrea had found the correct one and gave reasoned argument as to why it was so.
Let us return to 1985 where our ‘Seidel 981’ flourished in Florida and in time went to Ervin Wurthmann and then Carol Johnson of Pineapple Place. There could be others. ‘Seidel 981’ is in Australia having come from any of these three sources. Plants could have been distributed from the Olive Branch and Pinegrove Bromeliads and it may be wide-spread because it is a cheerful little Vriesea.
In March 1997 I was reading the latest Bromeliana which is the newsletter of the New York Society and noticed a photograph of an alleged Vriesea triligulata. In my own helpful way I wrote to Herb Plever telling him about the past problems with this name. He agreed with my comments but pointed out he thought his plant was different again! He had got his plant from Carol Johnson who had got it from Ervin Wurthmann. Are bells ringing'?
The next step in this saga was when I managed to obtain a Vriesea triligulata in Queensland and I was like a dog with two tails. On getting home I realised that this plant did not correspond with the latest description especially in its leaf structure. A photograph was sent to Herb Plever who confirmed it was "his" plant and a photograph was sent to Ervin Wurthmann who confirmed he had got his plant from Selby Gardens.
Harry Luther has just written to me advising that Selby Gardens Vriesea triligulata Hort ‘Seidel 981’ is probably a new species.
To the non-technical person a Vriesea triligulata should have a V. Triligulata inflorescence with stamens inserted and a plant something like a V. Rodigasiana. Our plant alias ‘Seidel 981’ has a V. Triligulata inflorescence with stamens exserted and a plant like V. bleheri.
If you do have this plant with dark leaves please change its name to ‘Seidel 981’ because I am sure it will be years before its true identity is known. Perhaps Margaret Paterson of Gympie could play with it to ascertain if it acts like a species.
Just one other thing..... While in Brisbane I was not offered a Vriesea haematina and thus feel sure it is not in Australia! Why do I say this'? Well, if we had a true Vriesea haematina we would have a true Vriesea triligulata and I'd be as happy as Larry!!