The Florida East Coast Bromeliad Society

Next meeting Sunday, January 13 – 1:30a.m.

January 2008

Happy New Year- 2008!

President Bradley Rauch386/767-8937

Vice President – Nina Leggett - 386/673-0550

Secretary – Joan Campbell

Treasurer – Jim O’Shaughnessy - 386/253-0335

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This month’s meeting…

The New Year is usually thought of as a time to look over the past year’s highlights and to make resolutions (many of which you have no intention of keeping) for the upcoming year. The program this month is going to an open discussion on what you, the members would like to see accomplished in the next year – our own FECBS New Year’s resolutions. The vice president will be very interested in hearing what you would like to see in the way of programs for 2008. The incoming secretary will want to hear from the membership how you would like to see the minutes of the meeting handled – do you want them printed in the newsletter? Do you want them recorded on tape? How should they be archived? Our treasurer would like to know how you would like to see your money spent. Are dues adequate? Too high? Too low? Even the newsletter editor would like to hear your views on what you would like to see in the newsletter during the next 12 months…and don’t forget our library – the club librarian would be interested in your views on what books we should be purchasing. Do we want to establish a budget to be handled at the discretion of the librarian or would you rather the membership be contacted regarding each purchase? What resolutions should we make for the coming year and do we intend to keep them? Let’s hear from you, the members at this meeting and chart our course for 2008!

Thank you everyone who served as officers this past year and a special thanks to club president Brad Rauch! An organization can’t function very well without the dedicated efforts of the club officers and committee chairs. Our most heartfelt thanks to all of the outgoing officers. I’m sure that you will all gladly help out the new officers as they begin "learning the ropes" of their positions. You’ve all done a great job and the club is stronger for it.

At this month’s meeting we will be hearing from the nominating committee. They will present a slate of officers proposed for the upcoming year. Of course, nominations will also be open from the floor for any of the positions, but if past history is any indication…I don’t expect there to be any hotly contested officer positions.

Nina will be bringing a number of interesting pieces of driftwood for sale to members – just right for mounting small bromeliads.

Don’t forget Show and Tell! This is an important part of each meeting and provides a chance for members to show off and see both successes and failures in growing bromeliads. What do you have in bloom? Bring it and tell us about what you have done to produce the plant that we are seeing. What do you have that’s not doing so well? Bring it in and let’s see if someone can offer suggestions for improvement.

Last month’s meeting…

Once again the FECBS Christmas party was a big success. Lot’s of good food, good fellowship, and great fun with the holiday gift exchange. I think that enormous Aechmea ‘Blue Tango’ was the hit of the exchange based on all of the "oohs" and "aaahs" that I heard when it was unwrapped!

Louise discovers a beautiful T. ionantha ball

Calandra is ready for the next ticket to be drawn from the basket.

Time for leftovers!

Dues for the New Year

Yes, time does fly and once again it’s time to pay your annual dues – don’t make us come after you! One of the great bargains of our time, membership is still just $10 for an individual, $12.50 for a family. Please see our Treasurer either before or after the meeting to ensure that your membership stays current.

Back to Basics – "A" is for…

This month we’re going to begin our review of some of the Genera that are most commonly seen today in collections and what better way to review some of the basics than by looking at each group in alphabetical order, starting with the letter "A".

The Genus Aechmea has its name derived from the Greek word Aechme meaning spear-point (what…you don’t speak Greek? Take my word for it). Bromeliads in this group have the common characteristics of spiny leaves and fleshy fruits or berries containing seeds – and oftentimes the blooms are very spiny as well, making it risky to reach into one to remove ripe berries. The fruits are often brightly colored and may be the most interesting and colorful portion of the inflorescence. Are they edible? Absolutely – but whether you would want to eat them or not is another whole story. In fact, for you pet owners out there, the good news is that if your pet has been chewing on bromeliads: all bromeliads are non-poisonous and edible - so your pet’s life is not being threatened by this practice. The bad news of course is that these plants are non-poisonous and edible…and therefore your pet will continue to snack on them. His life may very well be threatened (by you, if the plant happens to be one of your favorites), but it won’t be due to bromeliad poisoning.

Interestingly enough, there are no Florida native Aechmeas. I know that there are clumps of Aechmea disticantha that have grown in some yards for many, many years and many people assume these plants to be native species, but they are not. For whatever reason, the Genus Aechmea never found its way into the United States.

There are several hundred species belonging to this group as well as many hybrid crosses which combine the desirable qualities of each of the parent plants used in the hybrid. Leaves on Aechmeas can be soft or stiff and may range in color from plain green to a vibrant red. Patterns of stripes or bars may be seen on one or both sides of the leaves and leaf color may not be the same on the top and bottom surfaces. The overall appearance of plants found in this group and even within an individual species is highly variable and may range from a low spreading rosette of leaves, to a more upright urn or vase shape (capable of holding large amounts of water) or even to a tubular form - more commonly associated with Billbergias. Size of the plants in this group also may vary widely from a few inches (as in Ae. brevicolis or Ae. aculeatosepala) to over nine feet in diameter(Ae. sphaerocephala)!

Some species are so cold-hardy that you can probably grow them outside in northern states (Ae. disticantha in all of its various varieties). At the other extreme are those members of this Genus that are quite cold sensitive (I have a variegated Ae. fulgens that develops a bad case of the measles whenever the temperature dips into the 40s) so you may want to research a specific variety through our library before considering planting them directly in the ground in our area.

Aechmeas are found in the wild from Argentina to Mexico and in the Caribbean islands. In their natural habitat they may be seen growing in trees(epiphytic), on rocks(saxicolus), or on the forest floor(terrestrial) and at altitudes ranging from sea-level (they’ll do just fine in Florida) to over 6,500 ft.(don’t even think about trying to grow them here!)

For those of you inclined to place things into nice, neat categories - 8 subgenus groups of Aechmea are recognized:

Aechmea (not found in the Amazon), Chevaliera (cone-head infl.), Lamprococcus (generally spineless), Macrochordian (cone-head, generally unbrached infl.), Ortgiesia (infl. resembles pinecone), Platyaechmea (flat floral branches), Podaechmea ( found in Central America), Pothuava (catch-all group, most wide spread and common).

If, after reading all of this it seems like members of this Genus don’t really share much in common other than having spines and producing berries, you’re right. Aechmea has been referred to as the wastebasket or garbage can of taxonomists – many plants that are classified under this title are there because they just don’t seem to fit into any other Genus. Given enough time, they may be reclassified to a different one. The wide diversity, however, is exactly what makes this such an interesting group. There is a tremendous range of variability from one species to the next.

What are some varieties of the Genus Aechmea to consider adding to your collection? My personal favorites include Ae. orlandiana (very attractive pattern and leaf color – sure to draw comments from visitors, but not much of a bloom), Ae. fosteriana (almost as attractive in leaf pattern, but also a very nice inflorescence), and Ae. ‘Bert’ (wonderful, robust hybrid combining the best features of the two parent plants – Ae. orlandiana and Ae. fosteriana). You want big? This group has big - Aechmea blanchettiana is a big, attractive foliage plant to consider with large, bronzy-orange leaves and a very large, fiery colored bloom that lasts for many months – it’s a little cold sensitive, so it may not make it through every winter without some protection (I’ve had one in my yard for 6 years now…but then, we haven’t had a serious cold spell since the Christmas freeze in the ‘80s). For an eye-catching bloom, it’s hard to top Ae. ‘Blue Tango’with its electric-blue inflorescence and, for a truly trouble-free cold-hardy, reliable bloomer it’s hard to find fault with Ae. disticantha var. schlumbergeri-unless of course you happen to back into one of those sharp spines…and that brings us back to the name of this Genus: Aechmea, as in the Greek word for spear-point. Check them out – they’re a very interesting group of bromeliads!

Ae. fosteriana – courtesy of FCBS website

Upcoming Events:

January 26th, 2008

Halifax Council of Garden Clubs annual yard sale at the Finney Memorial Garden Center (837 N. Oleander). Please consider donating any items that you think may sell at this event. Spare plants? These are always in demand. Proceeds go to the Council of Garden Clubs.

February 17th, 2008

Stay off the streets – traffic will be impossible: it’s the Daytona 500 and we’re expecting a crowd!

March 13-16, 2008

Everybody’s Flower Show in Daytona Beach, Ocean Center. Our group has volunteered to move properties for the show from the Garden Center to the Ocean Center on Tuesday, so please give us a hand on the 12th and again for their return on Sunday the 16ht

April 5th, 2008

Volusia Master Gardener’s Spring Plant Sale, Volusia County Fair Grounds in Deland. Morning only – this is a half day sale only. This will be the 5th consecutive year that we have participated in this event and it just keeps getting better!

April 19th and 20th, 2008

Two great shows and sales this weekend. Some day I’m going to try to catch both of them, but I’ll probably have to settle for either one or the other. If you are in the Miami area you won’t want to miss the annual Bromeliad Society of South Florida show and sale at Fairchild Tropical Gardens. Great show, great setting, great sale! If you are on the west coast of the state this same weekend, you must go to Selby Gardens for the Sarasota Society’s show and sale. Selby is the home of the Bromeliad Identification Center and the BSI world headquarters, so it’s no surprise that this is always one of the premier events in the bromeliad world. Which one should you pick? They’re both outstanding events – you decide.

June 24 - 29, 2008
18th World Bromeliad Conference
WBC 18 - "Bromeliads Down Under"

Cairns, Australia