The Florida East Coast Bromeliad Society

Next meeting Sunday, August 10th – 1:30 p.m.

August 2008

Bromeliads DownUnder –

The 2008 BSI World Conference

President Nina Leggett - 386/673-0550

Vice President – Joan Campbell – 672-7382

Secretary – Calandra Thurrott – 761-4804

Treasurer – Evelyn Santus615-1138


This month’s meeting

This year’s World Conference was a ‘first’ for BSI and definitely a ‘first’ for me – the first BSI World Conference held outside of the United States and also the first time Calandra and I have visited the ‘Land Down Under’. It was a great conference. Lynn Hudson and her co-horts did a wonderful job in organizing this event and we had great visit. This month we’ll be sharing some of our photos from the conference in the form of a Powerpoint presentation (slide show) including pictures from some outstanding botanical gardens that we were fortunate enough to be able to visit during our trip. We took so many pictures, it’s going to be a challenge to pick the best ones and keep the program to under 8hrs. long!

Culture tip of the month

Usually culture advice involves suggestions passed on to the reader in the form of "do this". This month’s tip is more of a "don’t do this!" Recently, I had a conversation with a long-time admirer of Tillandsias who had built an impressive collection of many hundreds of Tillandsias spanning a collecting period of several decades. She noticed that her plants were being attacked by scale insects and, after waging a losing battle by going after the scale with Q-tips and alcohol, decided to step up her defense by treating her plants with malathion. She mixed up a batch of diluted malathion in a large plastic container, soaked all of her plants in the solution for a short time and then removed them to dry. Within a few days the Tillandsias began to show ill effects from this treatment and over the course of several weeks she watched helplessly as a large portion of her collection died or developed severe damage. I seem to recall a similar story that was documented in the BSI Journal some time ago involving aerial spraying of malathion for mosquito control in South Florida.and the effects of over-spray that had drifted onto a bromeliad collection. The obvious lesson to be learned from this heart-breaking incident is to not use malathion for scale control on bromeliads. The less obvious lesson is this: whenever you make any cultural changes in your bromeliad collection, - and this includes using different potting mixes, fertilizers, pesticides and even watering techniques- start with only a few plants and then closely observe the effects before applying the change any further. This will take a little longer and if your proposed culture change is a positive one, you will be itching to apply the change to the rest of your collection. You must be patient though. It’s also possible that the result will not be favorable and you can avoid much grief by proceeding in a more cautious manner. It’s far better to lose a few plants than an entire collection! Incidentally, you may have noticed that many bromeliad enthusiasts don’t kill plants. Instead, they lose plants (as in "I used to grow Aechmea ‘Samurai’, but I lost it"). Somehow that sounds a little kinder and gentler to them. I think I prefer to call it as it is. I’ve killed my share of bromeliads through inexperience, inattentiveness, and downright neglect. I’ve also lost plants (in the hurricanes of 2004 some Tillandsias just disappeared – I have no idea where they went, but they may very well be still alive). I like to distinguish between the two terms.

FECBS is now well represented on the Board of Directors of the Bromeliad Society International

Our own Steve Provost was recently nominated to the Board of Directors of the BSI and at the annual meeting in June was unanimously accepted as a new director representing the Florida region. Congratulations Steve! Jay Thurrott was elected Vice-President of BSI at last year’s meeting – so we now have two club members serving on the board. Don’t know what BSI is? Everyone who is interested in bromeliads should be a member of this organization. For your annual membership fee you receive that excellent publication, the BSI Journal delivered to your house, a discount on World Conference registrations (2010 isn’t that far away and New Orleans is close enough that everyone should plan on registering and attending), access to all of the past issues of the Journal as well as discounts on books and access to one of my favorites – the BSI seed fund! See Steve or Jay at the next meeting and they will be glad to provide further information on the BSI and will even help you with your membership application.

Presidents Corner

The rainy season has finally arrived and oh how the "brommies" love it. The dust and dirt have been washed away and the colors are beautiful. Almost every day I am finding a plant that I hadn’t really noticed before, all of a sudden they are popping out and shouting "Look at me, look at me". It doesn’t matter how much I water them during the dry spells the colors just don’t shine, but when it rains it really does something to them and their true colors shine through. I hope you have all been inspired to get out and separate some of your pups, bring them to the meeting and we can have another great raffle this month. Also don’t forget about "show and tell’ for any of your plants that have been shouting "Look at me".

See you all there.


Back to Basics – "G" is for Guzmania – the Designer Bromeliad

There are a few bromeliad groups beginning with the letters "E" and "F" but they’re not widely grown, so this month we’ll move on to the "Gs", where we again find some obscure groups but we also encounter the genus Guzmania. This group of plants is named in honor of the Spanish pharmacist and naturalist Anastasio Guzman. Surprisingly, little information is available regarding Guzman and, in many ways it is difficult to understand why his name was selected for this very colorful group of bromeliads. Jørgensen’s History of Collecting notes that Guzman, a native of Seville, traveled to Ecuador at his own expense in the late 1700’s to study chemistry and study nature (I can understand ‘the study of nature’ part, but Ecuador in the 1700’s is probably the last place that I would consider visiting to study chemistry!). More puzzling is the report of his death while searching for lost Inca gold. This sounds like Guzman was more of an "Indiana Jones" type – why did we name this Genus for him? In any event, the term is with us today, but take note that Guzmania is a relatively new designation. Older publications have this group listed as Caraguata, Devillea, Massangea, Schlumbergeria, Sodiroa, and Theocophyllum. Confusing? Of course it is. Hopefully the name will not be changing again any time soon. You may recall that we often break the family Bromeliacea into three subfamilies: the Bromelioideae, the Pitcairnioideae, and the Tillandsioideae. Guzmanias fall under the Tillandsioideae subfamily and all of the members of this group share certain common features The first notable one is that their leaves are spineless. This really is a nice feature since you brush up against these plants without a lot blood-letting. A second identifiable feature is that all of the members of the Tillandsioidea family produce seed pods that, when ripe, release seeds attached to tiny parachutes rather than the berries that Aechmeas, Billbergias and other Bromelioidea plants produce. Often plants in the Guzmania group are confused with the Vrieseas. This is understandable, particularly when they are not in bloom. Guzmania leaves are usually soft, smooth-edged and often have thin reddish lines (described as ‘pencil lines) running longitudinally (from the leaf base to the tip). Vriesea leaves are also soft and smooth-edged but they lack the thin pencil lines and their leaf tips frequently appear pinched and turn downward. In the wild Guzmanias are found in shaded, humid environments ranging from Southern Florida (yes, we have two forms of a native Guzmania in Florida – G. monostachia and G. monostachia variegata) through Central America, and as far south as Panama (they have a G. monostachia also, but the bloom is much brighter than ours-probably to attract a different pollinator). The Guzmanias’ long-lasting inflorescence, often described as a stacked arrangement of bracts, is an extremely vivid combination of bright colors surrounding yellow or white flowers. Guzmanias have been extensively hybridized to accentuate desirable features found in the species plants, with the end result that we can now choose from a bewildering assortment of Guzmania hybrids with blooms ranging in color from white to pink, red, purple, yellow, orange, and nearly every shade in between. Not surprisingly, with such an easily accessible variety of colors and long lasting inflorescences, these plants have found favor with interior designers and are often seen in magazine layouts, hotel lobbies, shopping malls and airports. If you look closely, Guzmanias are often seen in the backgrounds of movies and television shows and realtors suggest that a few strategically placed Guzmanias in bloom give a very favorable impression to prospective home buyers. Appropriate culture conditions for Guzmanias also favor the ‘designer’ reputation of these plants. They can tolerate the low light conditions found in the home better than most bromeliads and groupings of similar or even contrasting blooms can provide a dramatic accent of color to any room. Many Guzmania varieties do very well outdoors in our area, although they may require some protection during our winters. If you are looking for a cheerful plant that can be grown to bloom under all manner of neglect, consider Guzmania lingulata var. minor. I’ve grown this plant in my yard for many years with little trouble other than damage to the soft leaves by browsing insects.

Guzmania lingulata minor

If you are not partial to the orange to red bloom of the species plant, there are small G. lingulata hybrids readily available in many different bloom colors that have been produced from this species and they all share the same cold hardiness (as well as heat tolerance) that make this plant a true prize winner. For those of you partial to variegated plants G. ‘Ice Cream’ has been a favorite for many years and was once described in a Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies newsletter as possibly one of the finest variegated bromeliads available. Many of the larger hybrids are derived from G. lingulata var. major and can be found in an even greater variety of colors. Prefer a little variety in the style of the bloom? Try selecting G. wittmackii with it’s very tall bloom spike and showy bracts arranged in ladder-like fashion in red, pink, or lilac. …and if you like reeeaallly big plants, try G. ‘Fleur D’anjou’ – with its 6" wide leaves and 3’ tall bloom! Are you looking for more of a challenge in bromeliads? Try growing some of the higher altitude varieties that require cool growing conditions. G. musaica, G. vittata, and G. lindenii are beautiful foliage plants, but they seem to suffer in the Florida summers and will decline rapidly under less than perfect culture. The rewards are worth the effort though and a well grown specimen of any of these varieties is sure to find a place at the head table of judged shows.

If you haven’t already, add a few Guzmanias to your collection. For an easy to care for plant with an exceptional long lasting bloom, Guzmanias are hard to beat…but wait, that describes most bromeliads doesn’t’ it?

Upcoming Events:

Aug. 16-17, 2008 - Seminole Bromeliad & Tropical Plant Society Fall Plant Sale Saturday & Sunday

9AM to 4PM (both days)

Huge selection of Bromeliads. Many genera - specie and hybrids plus orchids, aroids, plumeria, gingers, heliconia, and other tropical plants. Bromeliad gift baskets, hand-crafted slatted baskets, and bromeliad literature.  Indoor Sale - Rain or Shine. Plant shop in air-conditioned comfort! Free admission, Free parking - Garden Club of Sanford located at 17-92 & 200 Fairmont Drive, in Sanford, FL, one block south of Lake Mary Boulevard.  This location is about one mile from the SR 417 (Greenway) exit onto Lake Mary Blvd. Signs will be posted near the Garden Club.

August 30th-Bromeliad Rainforest Fantasy 2008 Extravaganza, hosted by the Bromeliad Guild of Tampa Bay. SHERATON SUITES TAMPA AIRPORT 4400 W. Cypress Street

Tampa, FL 33607

(813) 873-8675 Toll Free: 1-800-325-3535

Fax (813) 879-7196

Make your reservations now! The hotel’s deadline has been extended, but don’t wait any longer. Why not plan on arriving early to attend the reception on Friday, Aug.29th. Then stay late for the bus tours on Aug.31st. You don’t have to work on Monday, it’s Labor Day! What a great way to spend Labor Day weekend!


October 11 - 12, 2008
Bromeliad Guild of Tampa Bay
Florida West Coast Bromeliad Society
University of South Florida Fall Sale
4202 East Fowler Ave., Tampa, FL