Vriesea bituminosa x saundersii now known as Vriesea 'Highway Beauty'

This is a repeat cover photo, but there is an article about the plant

and its history inside the newsletter.

Photo by Jim Boynton

February 2003 Newsletter

Harry Luther will be the speaker at our meeting this month. Harry is the director of the Bromeliad Identification Center at Selby Gardens in Sarasota. Harry was a member of the FWCBS before moving to Sarasota. I believe that he is a past president of our society. He is one of the top bromeliad authorities in the world. We are looking forward to Harry's presentation.

This would be a good month for members to bring plants to sell.

Please do not forget that the meeting night has been moved to Tuesday, February 4th. That is the first Tuesday of the month, at the Hope Presbyterian Church, 1698 S. Belcher Rd., Clearwater. The doors to the hall open at 7:00 and the eating will begin soon after, hope to see you there.

Last Months Meeting

Last Fay O'Rourke and Bob Albanese presented a program on the evil weevil. They were able to bring us up to date on this menace to the native bromeliads in our state. Additional information on the weevil is available on the Florida Council of Bromeliad Society website http://fcbs.org


The Refreshment committee wants to thank the Boyntons, the O'Rourkes and everyone for bringing food to the meeting. Andy and Sharon Philyaw and Phyllis Steil will be bringing refreshments for the January meeting. Remember to stop by the front desk when you bring food to pick up your extra raffle ticket.

Electronic edition of the newsletter

Four more of our members have opted to receive the newsletter via e-mail Getting the newsletter online saves the club postage and printing costs, which amount to 57 cents a month now or $6.84 a year. Besides saving money the newsletter would arrive quicker. We are not going to force anyone to get the newsletter online, but if you would be willing to give it a try, be ready to sign up at the meeting.

Dues are due

It is that time of the year again to renew dues for 2003. As an incentive to get everyone to renew on time, and so that it will be easier to make up a club mailing list the offer that was made at last month's meeting will be extended to everyone who pays before or during the February meeting. That offer was a free set of the Grande magazines that were printed many years ago. They sold originally for $10.00, and that makes them worth making sure that your dues are paid on time. The dues for an individual are $15.00 and $20.00 for 2 people. If you cannot make it to the meeting you can mail the dues to Gary Lund at 904Oakwood Dr., Largo, FL 33770.

Cold spell

I hope that everyone's plants came through the cold spell okay. This was one of the worst cold spells that we have had in several years. If your bromeliads have been damaged by the cold, don't throw them away. Most of them will show some leaf damage, but will still make pups. You can trim off the damaged part if you wish. It will make the plant look better and give the parts that are remaining a better chance to get light. Very seldom is a bromeliad actually killed by the cold unless it was in the lower twenties of while. But they can sure look sad and you have lost one generation for all purposes. The only positive is that a damaged plant can sometimes produce more pups than normal. So hang in there with those damaged plants, and hope for the next generation.

The adventures of Helga Tarver, plant detective

I am responsible for launching Helga on her latest search for the truth. At a recent meeting I mentioned to her that Derek Butcher who is now in charge of the hybrid registration was looking for information on Vriesea bituminosa x saundersii. Someone in Australia was in the process of registering it under the name of 'Highway Beauty'.

In a letter to Derek on December 9, Helga wrote:

Here is what I have found so far:

In 1981, Tropiflora in his catalog No. 7 offered V. bituminosa x V. saundersii for $20. That was a lot of money at that time. I therefore think that the cross was quite new.

In August 1985, Tropiflora offered again the same cross, stating it was a deep maroon foliage vriesea. (I do not remember the price in 1985).

In February 1986, Ervin Wurthman gave a presentation at the Florida West Coast Bromeliad Society about his hybrids. He showed among many others his cross between Vriesea bituminosa and Vriesea saundersii. In June1986, Wurthman gave another program at our club, showed the same cross and stated it was cold-hardy.

In October 1984, the late Dr. Morris Dexter, an occasional contributer to the BSI Journal and a long-time member of our club, showed a V. saundersii x V. bituminosa, the albomarginated form and in October 1986, Dr. Dexter showed the variegated form of this cross.

Alton Lee, a good friend of Dr. Dexter, who grows the medio-picta form of the cross, believes that Dr. Dexter receieved the varigated form and he albomarginated form from Ervin Wurthman, with whom he constantly exchanged plants.

I have written a letter to Ervin Wurthman, asking him if takes credit for the medio-picta form of the cross as well as the variegated and the albomarginated form. He seemed very frail when I last saw him at the World Conference in May 2002. However, I do hope he will answer my letter.

Alton Lee has been growing the medio-picta form for 15 years. He says it is very low growing and has bloomed only twice during the 15 years. The inflorence is a washed out yellow according to Alton. He does not have a photo of the inflorescence. Neither does Fay, who grows the plant.

Don Beadle's Preliminary Listing records an unnamed saundersii x bituminosa and gives as a source the Kent catalog of 1979.

Alton Lee affirms, he has read an article on the medio-picta form of the cross somewhere but cannot remember where. Fay consulted the 50 year index of the BSI Journal: not even the simple cross is mentioned let alone the medio-picta, albomarginata or variegated form.

In volume 3:3 (1993)of the Cargo Report, Dennis Cathcart offered a Vriesea saundersii hybrid. He says: "probably with bituminosa. The plant os nothing short of spectacular. Broad and symmetric leaves each with an inch wide stripe of brilliant white up the center." The plant was sold for $25.

That's a description of a medio-picta Vriesea all right! Dennis cannot be asked right now. He is in Brazil.

Alton Lee pointed out that there is a photo of a medio-picta vriesea in the Baensch book Blooming Bromeliads on page 230: Vriesea bituminosa x V, platynema. On the same page is a photo of the same cross but its albomarginated form. I do hope this does not further complicate the situation.

Fay will ask Herb Hill, jr. what he knows about the vrieseas in question and we will ask Dennis Cathcart when he returns.

On the bottom of the letter that Helga sent to Ervin Wurthman, he added a short handwritten note and sent it back to her. I said: "Sorry, I cannot lay claim to making the hybrid. It is of European origin (who?). Dr. Dexter got both forms from me. As I recall the albomarginated was an offset sport from the variegated.

In a letter written to Derek butcher on December 15, 2002, Helga wrote:

"I got an answer from Ervin Wurthman which I enclose.

Fay talked to Herb Hill, jr. who shares Wurthman's opinion. He, too, thinks that the medio-picta form is of European origin. Moreover, Herb Hill stated that there have always been doubts about the parentage. Instead of Vriesea bituminosa x saundersii, the parents might well be Vriesea bituminosa x V. platynema. He also said that this particular plant was very popular in the 50ise and the 60ies. One possible origin might be the Deroose nursery in Belgium, Herb suggested. But he was not sure.

While Helga has not found the original hybridizer, she has shed some light on the history of this plant. The real answer may have already been lost in the past. This is why it is important to try to and record the origins of hybrids as soon as possible.

23rd Annual Sarasota Bromeliad Society Show & Sale

On April 11-13th, 2003 the 23rd Annual Sarasota Bromeliad Show and Sale, "Bromeliads On the Net" will be held at the world renowned Selby Botanic Gardens, 811 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota, Florida.
It will feature exhibits, sales, food and a rare plant auction. The hours will be for the show will be 10:00-4:00. The Rare Plant Auction will be Saturday evening.

For more information call Inez Dolatowski at 941-955-7531 or e-mail at ldolatow@tampabay.rr.com.or Rob Branch show chairman 941-358-4953. The Plant sale will be only on April 11th. The show and sale will be on12 & 13th. There will be reduced admission to Selby Gardens on Saturday and Sunday.


February 4 - FWCBS meeting

March 29-30 - Greenfest Plant Sale

April 12-13 - USF Spring Plant Sale

April 11-13 - Sarasota Bromeliad Show and Sale

May 6 - FWCBS Auction

October 11-12 - USF Fall Plant Sale

July 26 August 2, 2004 World Conference, Chicago, IL


James Boynton, newsletter editor

Florida West Coast Bromeliad Society

994 Willowood Lane

Dunedin, Fl 34698