The Florida East Coast Bromeliad Society

Next meeting Sunday, September 11, 2005

September, 2005

Preparing for Cold Weather

President Linda Stagnol386/760-6842

Vice President – Jay Thurrott – 386/761-4804

Secretary – Calandra Thurrott - 386/761-4804

Treasurer - Ted Nuse - 386/673-2648


This Month’s Meeting: Preparing for Cold Weather!

Now doesn’t this seem like wishful thinking? It’s 95 degrees in the shade, it hasn’t rained for so long that much of the landscaping simply wilts during the day and tries to recover each evening…and here we are talking about the approach of cold weather. The truth of the matter is that this really is the time of year to begin your preparations for Winter. Let it go until the last minute and you are liable to suffer the loss of or at least severe damage to many of your bromeliads. What should you do? What can you do? Come to this month’s meeting and we will discuss the many aspects of preparing for those sudden cold snaps that we so long for during the Summer and then dread once Winter finally arrives.

Did you have the opportunity to attend Seminole Bromeliad Society’s recent sale? They had a very nice variety of bromeliads for sale at very reasonable prices – including a good assortment of cold resistant varieties. For those interested in terrestrials, I can’t remember the last time that I saw such a large number of Dyckias and Porteas for sale. Missed the sale? Mark your calendars for next year – they’ll be having another at around the same time.

2005 Bromeliad Extravaganza- Hosted by the Sarasota Bromeliad Society

That’s right! It’s almost here and we strongly encourage everyone to plan on attending this event on Saturday, October 22nd – The plant sale will be at the Sarasota Garden Club on Route 41in downtown Sarasota. This is one block east of the Hyatt and two blocks north of the Quay. Admission will be free and food and beverages will be available on site. Master Card and Visa will be accepted in the sales area. The banquet and rare plant auction will be at a different location: the Helmsley Sandcastle – 1540 Ben Franklin Dr., Lido Beach, Sarasota. You’ll want to stay over at least one night here and a special rate of $79-$99 is available as long as you make your reservations by Sept. 21st to take advantage of these rates. The banquet Saturday night will be a Caribbean Luau. Reservations for the banquet should be made by Oct. 8th- so don’t delay in making your reservations! The price is $22/person and reservations are being handled by Dorothy Berg. Send your check or money order to her at 5146 Northridge Rd. #107

Sarasota, Fl. 34238

Call 941/924-0060 or email


Tales from the Web:

I realize that not all of our members have computers and/or access to the internet – in fact, many who do often experience computer breakdowns or other problems resulting in no access to the web. For those folks, this is an infrequent column where we pass along articles, email exchanges and information gleaned from the Internet that seems particularly interesting to bromeliad enthusiasts. This months’ article is from a communication from the BSI’s cultivar registrar in Australia who has asked the intrigueing question: where did the term ‘pup’ for a bromeliad offset come from?

Lexicologists all
Just where and when did we start using the word pups for offsets? It isn't in the common Dictionary! It may even have started with Cactus where you can get cuttings and pups too. Was it an Aussie invention or was it the Americans or even the Brits? Why do we use the same word? Some anatomical US slang words are different to Aussie ones causing embarrassment at times. We know the Hawaiians are different with their keikis.
Could it be that mother was a bitch to grow? So comments please. I am intrigued.
> Uncle Derek

…and here is the first response that was posted…

Derek Hi,

Interesting question. The name "pup" or "pups" has been around for some time. Some 50 years ago when Margaret and I were first introduced to bromeliads by some very lovely people who were very good friends of
Muriel Waterman, the new plants were referred to pups then and not offshoots. However if we check out some of the early books etc like Padilla and Foster, we see that they refer to the new plants as "offshoots" no where do they mention "pups" also Kramer refers to the new plants as "offshoots" or "sucker(s)". Clive Innes book "Cacti Succulents and Bromeliads 1995, also talks about "offshoots". However "Growing Bromeliads" by the Bromeliad Society of Australia on page 44, talks about 'offsets' or 'pups' . It willbe interesting to hear what other have to say.

Regards, Gerry.

…and then, we get the final word from Derek Butcher: Pups – a bit of lexicography by D Butcher

Just where did this expression start in Bromeliads? It means the offsets that occur at the base of the plant. After questioning Brom-L and Round Robin participants on the Internet in August 2005, Geoff Lawn of Perth suggested the answer could well lie in Brom Soc Bull.1952 where Mulford Foster, the then Editor wrote about Muriel Waterman. Anyone who has read about Muriel from her fellow Kiwis will realize she was a one eyed Bromeliad grower and rather eccentric too! Her diaries could well have been destined for the rubbish tip but for the action of Andrew Flower who saved them from a shed in a local Botanical Garden. These make interesting reading and suggest her main contacts were in England or the USA. She had very little contact with Aussies.

…and he goes on to include an amusing story about Muriel Waterman – which would probably be of interest for those of you who grow Billbergia ‘Muriel Waterman’, but, that will be for another day. Thank you Derek for your investigation into a very interesting topic!

Bromeliads from A toZ…the final chapter

We’ve finally come to the end of the line in this series of discussions on the more commonly grown bromeliad genera. …and what more fitting group to end with than the genus Vriesea-one of my favorites!

The name "Vriesea" was coined in 1824 in honor of a Dutch professor of botany– a Willem Hendik (depending on the source, this is listed as either ‘Hendik’, ‘Hendrik’or ‘Hedrick’) de Vriese. Vrieseas have been in hobbyists’ collections for quite a long time from the introduction of V. psittacina in 1827 followed closely by V. splendens in 1840. In fact, by the late 1800’s virtually all of the 250 species plants noted in the Padilla books of the ‘70s were already known to horticulturists – chiefly in Europe, where they quickly became a favorite with the gentry.

Vrieseas come in all sizes from small to huge (although a couple of the ‘huge’ plants have been reclassified into the genus Alcantarea). Leaf color ranges from gray to green to exotically patterned and colored … . but most texts divide this group into the soft-leaved Vrieseas and those that have thin, gray recurved leaves that are heavily coated in silvery scales like Tillandsias. In fact, all Vrieseas are very closely related to the Tillandsias - in some cases differing by only slight botanical details. A good example of this is V. espinosae. It looks like a Tillandsia, you take care of it like a Tillandsia, and it even blooms like a Tillandsia, but it has the slight botanical difference of possessing petal scales – and that is the primary feature differentiating these two groups! Incidentally, we don’t see a lot of representatives of this gray leaved group grown in Florida since a lot of them are from high altitude areas of South America. If we set the gray leaved Vrieseas aside, that leaves a large group of plants that are usually divided into the very attractive foliage plants with unattractive blooms and the unassuming green leaved Vrieseas with beautiful blooms. Only rarely does a plant have both! The foliage plants like V. fenestralis or V. gigantea ‘Green Nova’ may have an attractive pattern of lines known as "tesselations" but the blooms in these plants are often disappointing - frequently appearing as a thick tall spike w/large bell-shaped flowers that open at night - sometimes releasing a sulfury odor. I once had a call from a local women who proceeded to complain that her V. ‘Green Nova’ which had won an array of ribbons in flower shows was blooming and wanted to know what could she do to stop it- she thought the bloom was totally offensive! If you are not familiar with this plant, let’s just say that the bracts are not usually brightly colored, the flowers are an off-white color or yellowish white…and it smells funny! Many of these flowers are pollinated by bats in the wild. Clearly, the foliage is the desirable feature of these plants. In contrast, the green leaved Vrieseas are often difficult if not impossible to identify before the plant begins its bloom. The rosette of green leaves may be anywhere from several inches to several feet across but the inflorescence is often very brightly colored in reds, yellows, oranges, and purples. As you might expect, hybridizers strive to combine the nice foliage features with colorful inflorescences. The Europeans started Vriesea hybridizing programs in the 1800’s that produced many beautiful cultivars still enjoyed today. A prime example is V. ‘Marieae a cross made from V. barilletii x V. psittacina var. brachystachys by Albert Truffaut first reported in 1889. This is often called the ‘Painted Feather’ bromeliad and was named by Edward Andre in remembrance of Albert’s wife - Marie. Another hybrid commonly seen is V. ‘Gloriosa’ by Duval (1894 – V. barilettii x V. incurvata). Then there is V. ‘Intermedia’ an 1884 hybrid by Marachal- nice foliage, pretty infl. and tough as nails! (There is currently some controversy as to the parentage of this plant – probably because Morobe also made a hybrid by this name.). The European infatuation with hybrids suffered a setback during the war years (WWI, WWII) when many greenhouses and associated hybridizing records were lost forever. But it wasn’t long before newer and even better hybrids were developed in brighter colors, with branched blooms and in marketable sizes. Today you can find some outstanding hybrids developed by Florida’s own Herb Hill in Lithia and then there are those wonderful (and pricey!) Hawaiian hybrids by David Shiigii that combine beautifully patterned and colored leaves with richly colored inflorescences. Incidentally, Vriesea inflorescences tend to be "distichous" meaning that they can be divided into two rows or mirror image halves. This is in contrast to the typical Guzmania inflorescence – which is polystichous, or able to be divided equally in many planes.

What’s the best way to grow them? First of all, Vriesea culture is not very different from other members of the Tillandsioideae. Some like strong light and need this to develop their best colors, but the general rule is 60-65% shade. For pot culture you should have a well drained potting mix - the roots of these plants will not be able to take in much moisture, particularly as the plant matures. Light should be strong, but filtered. But even here, if the plant is started in brighter light when it is young, it can handle a surprising amount of sun. As with many bromeliads, plants grown in bright light may look very different from those raised in lower light conditions. Tessellation patterns will show up in some of the plain green plants and rose to red colors will appear in others.

Secondly, dry conditions are tolerated better than wet. Why is that? Many of the Vrieseas are referred to as "tank forms" meaning that they hold a significant amount of water in their rosettes. And take a look at the roots – they look like crow’s feet and certainly don’t absorb much moisture. This means that a Vriesea in a wet potting mix will be subject to rot. Some of the more difficult to grow Vrieseas may do well when grown in an empty pot for just this reason. Like many bromeliads, Vrieseas like surrounding air to be moist and cool. Here in Florida we’ve got the moist part down real well, but the cool? Well…. Have problems with your Vrieseas in pots? Try mounting them on a substrate such as driftwood, cork, tree fern fiber. Many of these plants will be quite content on wood and lend to a very nice display.

What about fertilizing? Vrieseas respond well to fertilizers and will mature more quickly and produce brighter blooms when they have been provided extra nutrients. In fact, many of the spectacular hybrids that you see in shows will not produce the same coloration or branching of the inflorescence without fertilization. Fertilizing of this genus is most effective as a foliar feed – liquid fertilizer should be applied to the leaf surface. Fertilize from the months of March through October with your favorite fertilizer (foliar feed) and you shouldn’t have any problems. Generally it is recommended that you use a diluted strength fertilizer (ie. half strength). If you are familiar with the problems that Nitrogen in fertilizers can cause for Neoregelias and Billbergias – you don’t have to worry about that with Vrieseas! Vrieseas reproduce by forming offsets like many other bromeliads. Offsets of course are "clones" and should be genetically identical to the parent with the exception of the occasional mutation that can result in a new cultivar. Vrieseas also often set seed after flowering by producing a seed capsule (similar to Tillandsias) that may take anywhere from several months to one year to fully mature. When it is time, the seed capsule splits open to release ‘parachute’ type seeds that can be carried considerable distances in the wind. If you have a good deal of patience you may decide to try growing Vrieseas from seed. This can a long process although quite rewarding. If you decide to try this you will notice the close link to Tillandsias in their growth habits. In particular, the seeds are often quite slow to germinate in both families. Growth is extremely slow for the first several years in both and then accelerates rapidly as the plant approaches maturity.

If you want to see a Vriesea in the wild, your best bet is to plan a visit to eastern Brazil, where the greatest numbers of species have been found. There is no need to limit your travels to this one country however, since they also can seen growing in habitat from sea level to elevations over 10,000ft. above sea level in parts of Mexico, Central America and the West Indies to Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Northern Argentina – which makes this about the widest range found for any of the bromeliad genera except the Tillandsias, which have extended their range as far north as Virginia. Surprisingly, there are no Florida native Vrieseas – a fact that seems especially curious since we have over a dozen varieties of Tillandsia plus representatives of the Catopsis and Guzmania gorups. You may note that these are all members of the same sub-family Tillandsioidiae…and all generally acknowledged as having moved into Florida thousands of years ago from Central or even South America. What happened to the Vrieseas? Why were they left behind when the other groups moved northward?

Vriesea gigantea

If you want to improve your chances of success with growing Vrieseas (and, really – any bromeliads), start by using a little discretion (and maybe a little restraint) in picking the specific plants you want to grow. If a particular plant is found growing in the wild where the temperature never gets below 80 degrees and you don’t have a greenhouse, you will have difficulty keeping this plant alive. If the native habitat includes temperatures that never get above 80 degrees, you may have a problem also! …which brings up what I consider a real pearl of wisdom from Carol Johnson of Pineapple Place: if you are wondering how well a particular plant will do in your yard, go to your club’s library and see where the plant comes from in the wild. Those from eastern and central Brazil come from an area where the climate very nearly matches our own – these plants will do fine here. Make use of your club’s library. Spend some time with the reference books and find out where the plant comes from in the wild. If it is found in Central or eastern Brazil, chances are it will do very well in Florida since the climates are very similar. If, on the other hand, the plant comes from the Amazon basin area – you’ll have to work to keep that plant healthy.

While you are researching your plant’s origins you should also pay attention to altitudes at which plants are found. In case you haven’t noticed, we don’t have much in the way of altitude in Florida. (Attitude- maybe, but altitude- no). Plants collected thousands of feet above sea level tend to do poorly around here. And, like I said earlier, many of the high altitude Vrieseas are gray-leaved varieties, which is why you don’t often

see gray-leaved Vrieseas outside of V. espinosae in this area.

In summary, if you haven’t already added some representatives of this genus to your collection, give Vrieseas a try – you will be rewarded with a plant that is easy to care for and tolerant of neglect, yet will reward you with a spectacular, long-lasting bloom and…best of all… no spines! (incidentally, take another look at our club’s logo – it’s a stylized Vriesea, showing the characteristic "feather" style inflorescence!)


Looking ahead:

October 14 -17, 2005 Out of the country? Check out Bromeliads XIII - Australasian Conference. Hosted by The Bromeliad Society of Queensland Inc. in Brisbane in. The Conference will be held over four days from Friday 14th October, to Monday 17th October, 2005, inclusive.

October 14-16 A little closer to home…Caloosahatchee Bromeliad Society 2005 Standard BSI Show & Sale
Terry Park, 3410 Palm Beach Blvd., Ft. Myers, Fl
Saturday, October 15, 2005 - open to public 9:00am to 5:00pm
Sunday, October 16, 2005 - open to public 10:00am to 4:00pm
For further show and sale information please contact Diane Molnar at (239) 549-3404 or and Brian Weber at (941) 355-2847 or respectively.

October 22 – Bromeliad Extravaganza, hosted by the Sarasota Bromeliad Society. More on this elsewhere in this issue.

…and looking ahead to next summer -

June 6-11, 2006 17th World Bromeliad Conference San Diego, California. To be held at the Town and Country Resort & Convention Center, 500 Hotel Circle North in Mission Valley, San Diego, Ca. Register through the BSI website: