The Florida East Coast Bromeliad Society

Next regularly scheduled meeting Sunday, Sept.10 - 1:30p.m.

September, 2000

This Month’s Meeting:Picnic at the Central Fl. Zoo

President - Jay Thurrott - 904/761-4804

Vice President - Bud Martin - 407/321-0838

Secretary - Bob Roberts - 904/446-8626

Treasurer - Ted Nuse - 904/673-2648


Next Meeting: September 17th ‘Zoo-rama’The Central Florida Zoo (remembered by many as the ‘Sanford Zoo’) is looking for some help in planting bromeliads at locations around their property and has asked the Seminole and the Fl. East Coast Societies to help out. In return they will give free admission to club members(just one more reason to keep your dues up to date!). Please note that this is not our usual meeting date, so make plans accordingly! Both clubs will meet at the zoo entry area at 2p.m. Bring plants if you have some extra that will work well in the landscape -some of us will be there earlier, so come early if you can make it. We will eat at 2:30 – hot dogs and hamburgs will be provided by the Seminole folks, but I’m sure we can use some additional salads, chips or deserts if you are willing to bring them.

How do you get there? It couldn’t be easier – Take I-4 westbound toward Orlando and exit as soon as you cross over the Lake Monroe bridge (this is exit #52). Turn right at the end of the exit ramp onto Highway 17/92. Continue for ¼ mile and the zoo entrance will be on your right. You can’t miss it!

What’s Blooming-

Since I brought in my Hechtia guatamalensis for the July meeting, the bloom stalk has just gotten taller and taller and now the string of white flowers has opened. We’re talking 30" to 40" tall now! This plant seems to get larger and showier with each successive generation(could it be that I’m learning how to grow it properly?). Curious thing – no pollen in the flowers. I’m told that this is one of those plants that needs a male and female to produce seed. Although I don’t usually care much for the prickly bromeliads, something about this plant just appeals to me.

Aechmea fulgens x Ae. ramosa has put on a beautiful display this year. The small guzmanias (‘Amaranth’, ‘Vella’, ‘Empire’) are starting to bloom for me now also.

Miscellaneous –

Did’ya ever wonder?

Air layering

I know that it’s often said that bromeliads are ready to be separated from the parent plant and potted up when they are ½ to 2/3 the size of the parent. But what about those plants that are large enough to separate, but don’t seem to have much in the way of roots formed on them yet? Am I the only bromeliad nut who worries about whether this lack of roots somehow affects how quickly the plant matures and blooms? I often find this to be the case with the stoloniferous Aechmeas. Those stolons wind away from the parent and the pups can get to be pretty big, but still lack any noticeable roots. This was the case with an Aechmea tessmannii recently. Great plant, beautiful bloom! Now two large offsets had formed on opposite sides of the parent and neither had any roots formed on them. I had recently experimented with air layering a too-tall Vriesea ospinae, so it seemed reasonable to try the same technique on Ae. tessmannii. I wrapped the base of one pup (pup #1) with plastic wrap (an old newspaper bag, actually) filled it with a course potting mix, and tied it off tightly to prevent water from seeping into it. The second pup (pup #2) I left to it’s own devices. Three months later pup #2 still had no roots on it, although it was now much larger and clearly ready to be separated from the parent. After removing the plastic wrap from pup #1, I was pleased to see a nearly solid mass of roots extending into the potting mix. I have now separated and potted up both plants, but there is no doubt in my mind as to which of the two will adapt to its new surroundings and bloom quicker. The good root structure is bound to give a boost to pup #1. Of course a lot can happen between now and blooming time. I’ll let you know.

Bromeliads on Sanibel Island – Trouble in Paradise?

My family recently vacationed on Sanibel Island which, if you are not familiar with it, is the closest thing to a tropical paradise you’re likely to find without leaving the country. Actually this is one of two small islands, Sanibel and Captiva, linked by causeway to Fort Meyers, Fl. These islands are world- renowned for the variety and quantity of seashells that can be found on their beaches. Sanibel is also well known among bird watchers who flock (no pun intended) to the Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve to observe a truly remarkable variety of wildlife. Fishermen also are familiar with the tarpon tournaments hosted off Captiva at the Boca Grande pass and inshore fishing in San Carlos bay is nothing short of superb. An interesting place to visit!

Sanibel also has a wonderful network of bicycle paths criss-crossing the Island (can you believe that drinking fountains are provided every few miles?) and it was while exploring some of these trails that I began to notice large numbers of native Tillandsias in the trees. I decided to see how many different species I could identify on the Island. Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish Moss) and Tillandsia recurvata (Ball Moss) were well represented, as you might expect, but it was only after scanning the trees for signs of other bromeliads that I began to notice areas where fallen Tillandsia utriculatas littered the ground – fallen prey to the weevil metamasius calzone? Inspection of a fallen plant showed damage to the bases of the leaves resembling short knife slashes. When I peeled away a number of lower leaves, there was the tell-tale cocoon formed from plant debris– identical to that pictured in articles about the weevil in the BSI Journal. This was my first encounter with damage inflicted by weevils and it was a certainly a sobering sight. Numbers of fallen plants ranged from several per tree to easily a dozen or more. In some areas trees could be seen with either dead Tillandsias still on the branches or dead plants on the ground and nothing but roots and a few lower leaves in the tree itself. The devastation was not complete however, for there were also very healthy communities in other areas – often as close as opposite sides of the street from trees that were obviously heavily infected. Large numbers of small seedlings could be found virtually everywhere on the Island, although I had to wonder whether this ensured a future healthy population of T. utriculata or, instead a ready source of food for the weevils. Time will tell.

On some parts of the Island I found groups of Tillandsia flexuosa, clinging to what seemed impossibly small twigs in shrubs and small trees. Didn’t they realize that these twigs could easily break away and send the plant to an early end? Some of these were in bloom at the time and many seedlings of various sizes could be seen close by. Often small branches contained a mix of mature plants, seedlings and seed recently released, just beginning to show the green of the first leaves – an encouraging sight after viewing so many dead T. utriculatas. I had to wonder why these plants didn’t appear to be attacked like the T. utriculatas. Perhaps the weevil favors the larger food source available in the T. utriculata and will move on to T. flexuosa after it exhausts the population of its first choice in food.

Another bicycle trip took me through a relatively small wildlife preserve named for one of the pioneer settlers on Sanibel. Now that I was in the habit of looking for bromeliads in the trees, it wasn’t long before I noted a small colony of Tillandsia paucifolia in a large oak tree overhanging a drainage canal. In the same tree was a very large Tillandsia fasciculata in bloom - the only plant of this species that I was to see during my stay on the Island. The "Don’t feed the alligators" signs posted on the edge of the canal discouraged me from getting any closer to see if other trees in the area held more plants.

Continuing on my bicycle tour I spotted a colony of Tillandsia balbisiana rather high in the trees just off the walkways meandering through the Ding Darling Park. One of these had put up quite an impressive bloom spike and others appeared to be nearly mature plants. No fallen plants were visible around the trees, so I am hopefully that the weevils hadn’t decided to dine on these…at least yet.

Quite new to the Island is a commercial native plant nursery where plants are propagated and can be purchased for landscaping around homes and businesses. Walkways around this nursery led to observation areas where wetland vegetation was identified, a butterfly garden was tended and a small group of native bromeliads was mounted on a display board with identification tags(some more correct than others), but even here some plants appeared to have been attacked by weevils. Large trees surrounding the display bore the remains of dead plants and plants that looked to be in severe decline. Dead plants would probably have been seen on the ground if the grass hadn’t been recently mowed.

Unfortunately, our week’s vacation passed all too quickly and we were on our way back to Port Orange. Along the way we saw some truly impressive colonies of Tillandsia fasciculata in trees overhanging secondary roads around the town of LaBelle. Healthy clumps of these plants totally covered every tree limb reaching out over the road and, although it’s hard to say with any certainty when you are driving by at 55mph, weevils did not appear to have staged their attack…yet. Soon we were back on the interstates with our shells collected from the beaches, pictures to be developed in the camera and memories etched in our minds of a tropical paradise. But along with these pleasant memories there is a certain uneasiness – how much longer will visitors to Sanibel Island be able to enjoy the sight of Florida’s bromeliads in their native habitat?