They usually chose names from three broad options:
• Another person e.g. a distinguished botanist or naturalist, or a financial or political supporter of botanical endeavours;
• A botanical feature of the genus. Usually these are a combination of Greek or Latin terms, but sometimes the language of the region’s native people is used;
• A physical feature near where, or the geographic region in which, the genus was first found.
The first category is by far the most commonly used, while the last category is the least common.
The origin of a bromeliad genus’ name is usually listed when the genus is first botanically described. However, in some cases this was not done for genera first described prior to the early 20th century e.g. Portea,Quesnelia. In these cases, we simply have to make an informed guess as to how the name was derived. In other cases, the description is rather cryptic and we are also left guessing as to why the name was chosen e.g. Puya.
The genera currently (as at 27/09/2020) recognised by Gouda and Butcher are listed below. The main documents used to ascertain the origin of the genera’s names are: Grant and Zijlstra (1998) and Padilla (1973).
In a number of cases e.g. Portea and Quesnelia, Padilla (1973) and Grant and Zijlstra (1998) differ as to the origins of a genus’ name. Padilla’s (1973) interpretations are reflected in most bromeliad articles. However, this outcome may be due more to the earlier, and ready, availability of her book compared with Grant and Zijlstra’s article; than the intrinsic merits of their respective interpretations.
The sub-family to which each genus belongs is listed after the genus’ name. The sub-family abbreviations are: (Broc): Brochinioideae, (Brom): Bromelioideaea, (Hech): Hechtioideae, (Lind): Lindmanioideae, (Navi): Navioideae, (Pitc): Pitcairnioideae, (Puyo): Puyoideae, (Till): Tillandsioideae.
Where genera names are derived from Greek or Latin terms, then there is often (but not always!) agreement amongst botanists as to their pronunciation. However, in other cases, agreement can be difficult to obtain as there may be uncertainty as to the pronunciation of the word(s) from which the genus’ name is derived.
The main sources for the pronunciations listed below are: Maywald (2019-2020), and Padilla (1973).
Acanthostachys (Brom) (Pronunciation: a-cantho-steak’is) From the Greek akanthos (meaning a prickly plant) and stachys (a flower spike).
Aechmea (Brom) (eek-me’a) From the Greek aechme (a spear) refers to the points on the plant’s perianth (the sum of petals and sepals).
Alcantarea (Till) (al-can-tare’ee-ah) For Dom Pedro d’Alcantarea, second Emperor of Brazil.
Ananas (Brom) (anay’nas, also ananas pronounced like the word: bananas) From the Guarani Indian (Brazil/Paraguay) name for the pineapple.
Androlepis (Brom) (androll’epis) From the Greek andros (man) and lepis (scale). Refers to the pair of scales on each stamen.
Araeococcus (Brom) (a-ree-o-cock’-us)Padilla (1973) stated the name was derived from the Greek araeo (few) and kokkos (seed). Grant and Zijlstra (1998) considered it came from the Greek araios (thin) or araeo (few), and the Latin coccum (berry). Both derivations refer to the plants’ small fruit which produce only a few seeds.
Bakerantha (Hech) (baker-anth’a) For John G Baker, English botanist.
Barfussia (Till) (bar-fuss’ea) For Michael Barfuss, Austrian botanist.
Billbergia (Brom) (bill-berj’ea, also bill-berg’-ea) For Gustaf Johann Billberg, Swedish botanist and zoologist.
Brewcaria (Navi) (broo-kay’-ree-uh) For Charles Brewer-Carias, Venezuelan explorer and botanist.
Brocchinia (Broc) (brock-in’ea, also brock-kin’-ea) For Giovanni Battista Brocchi, Italian naturalist.
Bromelia (Brom) (broh-meel’ea) For Olof Ole Bromell, Swedish medical doctor and explorer.
Canistropsis (Brom) (can-is-tropsis) From the genus Canistrum and the Greek opsis (sight or appearance) i.e. the plants resemble canistrums.
Canistrum (Brom) (can-is’trum) Padilla (1973) stated it came from the Greek kanos (basket). Grant and Zijlstra (1998) considered it was derived from the Greek kanistron, a type of basket carried on a person’s head. Both interpretations refer to the inflorescence, which resembles a basket of flowers.
Catopsis (Till) (catop’sis) Padilla (1973) stated the name was derived from the Greek word “view”, probably referring to its habit of growing in trees. Grant and Zijlstra (1998) considered it was derived from the Greek kata (hanging down) and opsis (sight or appearance), referring to the position of the plants’ seeds.
Cipuropsis (Till) (sip-u-rop-sis) For their resemblance (Greek opsis — sight or appearance) to members of the genus Cipura Aubl. (Iridaceae).
Connellia (Lind) (con-nel’lee-a) Padilla (1973) stated it was named for Frederick McConnell, English ornithologist and biologist. Grant and Zijlstra (1998) considered it was named for the Englishman V. V. McConnell who, with J.J. Quelch, collected the type species (C. augustae) of the genus.
Cottendorfia (Navi) (cot’-en-dorf’ea) For Johann Georg Cotta von Cottendorf, German patron of the sciences.
Cryptanthus (Brom) (cript-anth’us) From the Greek krypto (hide) or Latin crypt (hidden), and Greek anthos (flower). Refers to the plants’ usually inconspicuous inflorescence.
Deinacanthon (Brom) (day-ina-can-thon) From the Greek deinos (terrible) and anthos (flower). Likely referring to its heavily spined leaves.
Deuterocohnia (Pitc) (dooteroco’yna) For Ferdinand Julius Cohn, German botanist. (The Greek prefix deuerios second was necessary as there was already a genus Cohnia in the Liliaceae).
Disteganthus (Brom) (dis-teg-anthus) From the Greek dis (two), stego (cover or sheathed), and anthos (flower).
Dyckia (Pitc) (dick’ea) For Josef Ignatz, Prince and Earl of Salm Reifferscheid-Dyck; German botanist, botanical artist and horticulturalist.
Edmundoa (Brom) (ed-mund-doh’a) For Edmundo Pereira, Brazilian botanist.
Eduandrea (Brom) (ed’-you-an-dree’a) For Edouard Andre, French bromeliad collector and explorer. This name replaces the invalid genus name: Andrea.
Encholirium (Pitc) (enko-leer’um) From the Greek enchos (spear), and leiron (lily).
Fasicularia (Brom) (fasick-u-lar’ea) Grant and Zijlstra (1998) considered it was derived from the Latin fasiculus (fascicle). Padilla (1973) stated it came from the Latin fascis (bundle) and area (pertaining to). Both interpretations refer to the plants’ flowers, which grow in bundles.
Fernseea (Brom) (fern-see’a) For Baron Wawra von Fernsee, German botanist and plant collector.
Forzzaea (Brom) (for-zz-a’ea) For Rafaela Campostrini Forzza, Brazilian botanist.
Fosterella (Pitc) (fos-ter-ell’a) For Mulford B Foster, American bromeliad horticulturalist.
Glomeropitcairnia (Till) (glomero-pittcair’ne-a) From the Latin glomus (ball), and the genera name Pitcairnia. Refers to the plants’ general similarity to pitcairnias, but having compactly clustered flowers.
Goudaea (Till) (goud’ea) For Eric Gouda, Dutch taxonomist.
Gregbrownia (Till) (greg-brown’ea) For Gregory Brown, American botanist.
Greigia (Brom) (grayg’ea, also grayj’ea) For General Samuel Alexeevich Greig, Russian horticulturalist.
Guzmania (Till) (guz-may’nya, also guz-mah’nya) For Anastasio Guzman, Spanish naturalist and pharmacist.
Hechtia (Hech) (heck’-tya) For Julius Hecht, German Government Privy Councillor.
Hohenbergia (Brom) (hoe-en-berj’ea, also hoe-en-berg’ea) For Prince Hohenberg, German patron of botany.
Hohenbergiopsis (Brom) (hoe-en-ber-gee-opsis) For its resemblance (Greek opsis, sight or appearance) to the genus Hohenbergia.
Hoplocryptanthus (Brom) (hoplo-cript-anth’us) Possibly from the Greek hoplon (armour) combined with the genus Cryptanthus.
Jagrantia (Till) (jag-rant’ea) For Jason Grant, American bromeliad taxonomist.
Josemania (Till) (ho-zay-man’ia) For Jose Manzanares Vilaplana, Ecuadorian bromeliad botanist.
Karawata (Brom) (kar-a-wata) From the Tupi (native Indian) language for these bromeliads (Karawata or Karrawata).
Lapanthus (Brom) (lap-an-thus) For Maria das Gracas Lapa Wanderley, Brazilian botanist (The genus name also references lapa, a Portugese word meaning “rocky shelters” thereby describing the plants’ habitat).
Lemeltonia (Till) (lem-el-ton’ea) For Elton Leme, Brazilian botanist.
Lindmania (Lind) (lind-may’na) For Carl Axel Magnus Lindman, Swedish botanist.
Lutheria (Till) (luth-er’ea) For Harry Luther, American botanist.
Lymania (Brom) (lie-may’nya) For Lyman B Smith, American botanist and bromeliad taxonomist.
Mesoamerantha (Hech) (meso-a’mer-anth’a) To acknowledge that the genus is restricted to the Mesoamerica (South America) region.
Mezobromelia (Till) (mez-o-bro-meel’ee-a) For Carl Christian Mez, German botanist and bromeliad taxonomist.
Navia (Navi) (nay’vea) For Bernard Sebastian von Nau, German supporter of natural history and physics.
Neoglaziovia (Brom) (ne’o-gla-zee-o’vee-a) For Francois Glaziou, French architect and botanist. (As the invalid genus name Glaziova already existed, the new genus name was formed by placing the Greek word neo (new) in front of Glaziova).
Neoregelia (Brom) (nee-o-ree-jeel-y’a) For Eduard August von Regel, German botanist. (As the invalid genus Regelia already existed, the new genus name was formed by placing the Greek word neo (new) in front of Regelia).
Nidularium (Brom) (nid-u-lair’ium) From the Greek nidus (nest), or possibly the Latin nidulus (little nest) as these plants look like certain types of birds’ nests.
Ochagavia (Brom) (och-a-gah’vi-a) For Sylvestris Ochagavia, Chiliean Minister for Education.
Orthophytum (Brom) (or-yho-fy’tum) From the Greek orthos (straight), and phyton (plant) (Refers to the plants’ erect infloresence).
Pitcairnia (Pitc) (pit-cair’-nea) For William Pitcairn, English physician and botanical garden owner.
Portea (Brom) (por’tea) There are several possibilities. Padilla (1973) stated it was named for Marius Porte, French horticulturalist who introduced the genus into cultivation. Grant and Zijlstra considered it could have been named for Pietro Port, Italian botanist; or derived from the Latin word porta (gate or door).
Pseudaechmea (Brom) (soo-do-eek-me’a) From the Greek pseudo (false) and the genus Aechmea.
Pseudaraeococcus (Brom) (soo-do- a-ree-o-cock’-us) From the Greek pseudo (false) and the genus Araeococcus.
Pseudalcantarea (Till) (soo-do-al-can-tare’ee-a) From the Greek pseudo (false) and the genus Alcantarea.
Puya (Puyo) (pew’-ya) Derived from the native language of the indigenous Chileans. The native word could be either their common name for these plants or a reference to the leaves’ sharp points.
Quesnelia (Brom) (kwes-nail’ea) Padilla (1973) stated it was named for M. Quesnel, French Consul at Cayenne, French Guiana. Grant and Zijlstra (1998) considered it was possibly named for Francois Alexandre Quesne, French author.
Racinaea (Till) (ray-seen-ay-uh) For Racine Foster, American and co-founder of the Bromeliad Society International.
Rokautskyia (Brom) (rock-aut-sk’ea) For Roberto Anslemo Kautsky, Brazilian naturalist.
Ronnbergia (Brom) (ron-ber’jee-a) For Auguste Ronnberg, Director of Agriculture and Horticulture, Ministry of the Interior, Belgium.
Sequencia (Navi) (see-quen-see’a) The genus was created based on DNA Sequence details—hence its name.
Sincoraea (Brom) (sinc-or-a’ea) After the mountain Serra de Sincora, Brazil.
Steyerbromelia (Navi) (stayer-brom-eel’ya) For Julian A Steyermark, American botanist.
Stigmatodon (Till) (stig-mat-o-don) From the Greek words stigmatis (stigmata) and odon (tooth). Refers to the “toothed” stigma lobe margins.
Tillandsia (Till) (till-and’sia) For Elias Erici Tillandz, Swedish physician and botanist.
Ursulaea (Brom) (ues-ul-ee-a) For Ursula Baensch, German plant breeder and co-author of a bromeliad book.
Vriesea (Till) (vree’zea) For Willem Hendrik de Vriese, Dutch botanist and physician.
Wallisia (Till) (wall-iss-ee’a) For Gustave Wallis, German gardener and explorer in Central and South America.
Waltillia (Till) (wal-till’ea) For Walter Till, Austrian botanist.
Werauhia (Till) (wher-ow’he-a) For Werner Rauh, German botanist.
Wittmackia (Brom) (witt-mack-ee’a) For Marx Carl Ludwig Wittmack, German botanist.
Wittrockia (Brom) (witt-rock’ea-a) For Veit Brecher Wittrock, Swedish botanist.
X Guzlandsia (Till) (x-guz-land’sia) Combination of the genera Guzmania and Tillandsia.
X Hohenmea (Brom) (x-hohen-me’a) Combination of the genera Hohenbergia and Aechmea.
Zizkaea (Till) (ziz-kay’ea) For Georg Zizka, German botanist.
Acknowledgement: I would like to thank Derek Butcher, Barbara and Rob Murray, and Derek Maywald for their help in preparing this article.
Gouda, E and Butcher, D (cont. updated) The New Bromeliad Taxon List (http://bromeliad.nl/taxonList1) University Botanic Gardens Utrecht (accessed 27-09-2020).
Grant, J R and Zijlstra, G (1998) An Annotated Catalogue of the Generic Names of the Bromeliaceae Selbyana (Journal of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens). v. 19 (1) 91-121.
Maywald, D (2019-2020) Bromeliaceae: A Layman’s Guide. Published in 10 Parts in the Far North Coast Bromeliad Study Group –August 2019 to June 2020 Newsletters.
Padilla, V (1973) Bromeliads Crown Publishers: New York.