The Florida East Coast Bromeliad Society

Next meeting Sunday, May 11th – 1:30 p.m.

May 2008

Happy Mothers Day 2008!

President Nina Leggett - 386/673-0550

Vice President – Joan Campbell – 672-7382

Secretary – Calandra Thurrott – 761-4804

Treasurer – Evelyn Santus615-1138


The Master Gardeners Sale

at the Volusia County fairgrounds once again was a big success. FECBS had a wonderful selection of plants for sale and they sold very well indeed! Many thanks to George and Irene Aldrich for being there and for setting up their tables and canopies in addition to bringing some beautiful plants for sale. Sudi brought a very nice selection of bare root plants for customers to pick through and Alan Bennett had a great variety of plants for the landscape. Sales are usually a lot of work, but this one is always a lot of fun and the best part – it’s over by noon! This year we went with a 80/20 split with those selling plants for the first time. You may recall that we decided to evaluate the effect this has on our treasury before deciding if we want to continue with this sales split next year.

Last Month’s meeting…

went better than expected. My fear was that once we turned everyone loose with driftwood, Tillandsias, and glue we were going to have fingers glued to tabletops, splinters where splinters shouldn’t be and some sorry-looking centerpieces. Instead, the centerpieces that were created to donate to the Council of Garden Clubs look just great and I think everyone had a good time making them. Who knew that we had such a talented bunch of artists among us?

By the way, at last month’s meeting we asked if anyone would like to volunteer to staff a table for the Earth Day event at Washington Oaks. Newcomer Chris Burdette volunteered and not only represented the club at this event, she sold a number of books and distributed fliers to prospective new members. Thanks Chris for a job well done!

Presidents Corner

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome our new members, I look forward to getting to know each of you, if you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to call me.

I’m sure you have all discovered what a great group of generous and enthusiastic "brommie" growers we all are.

This months’ meeting will be a great opportunity to learn more about our favorite plants with guest speaker Tom Wolfe, and just incase you need to add to your collection he will also be bringing some of his favorites to sell.

See you all there


This Month’s meeting

Tom Wolfe is the owner of a landscape firm in Lutz, Fl. and specializes in the use of bromeliads in the landscape. He has been active in the Bromeliad Guild of Tampa Bay, the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies and the Bromeliad Society International – in fact, he has been a past president of each of these organizations…more than once! He will be talking to us this month about bromeliads (what else) and will be bringing some of his plants for sale. You won’t want to miss this meeting, so come early - we seem to be filling all of the seats in the house up lately.

Back to Basics – "C" is for…

One thing that you notice about bromeliad people after a while is that everyone seems to have a Genus that they are especially fond of. Many favor the Neoregelias for their kaleidoscope leaf colors while others develop huge collections of Tillandsias. Still others find themselves attracted to the prickly terrestrial Genera like Dyckias, Hechtias and Puyas. The Genus Cryptanthus has had a cult following for quite some time, developing to the point of the formation of a Cryptanthus Society (see the link to this organization at the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies’ website) and its own journal – a slick, high quality publication to warm the heart of any Cryptanthus fancier. The Society even has an International Cryptanthus Society Show (to be hosted by the Baton Rouge Society in 2009) complete with plant sales, scientific seminars and a rare plant auction.

What is the attraction to this group of mostly small, rippley-leaved bromeliads? For one thing, they are generally small (many automatically interpret that as ‘charming’) and therefore ideal choices for those who have very limited growing space.

Secondly, despite the caustic comments of some anti-Cryptanthus bromeliad lovers, they are bromeliads and therefore respond very well to a minimum of care. Having said that, certain varieties can be quite challenging to grow well – a feature that intrigues some hobbyists and triggers the competitive urge in others.

I have often read that the name Cryptanthus is a compound word from the Latin crypt , meaning "hidden" and the Greek anthos or "flower". Other references suggest that both words are Greek. Not being familiar with either of these languages, I leave further investigations up to the reader. Very few bromeliads have nicknames that are recognized world-wide, but in this case the term "Earth Stars" is widely used and is very appropriate due to the star - shaped pattern formed by their leaves. Strictly terrestrial, these plants make poor subjects for mounting and are unusual among bromeliads in having fibrous root systems. A few varieties are saxicolous, growing in soil pockets among rocks, but none have ever been observed growing as epiphytes – so don’t be mounting these on driftwood!

Cryptanthus should be potted up using a loose, porous mixture. Use any of the commercial potting soils, African Violet mix, or a mixture of peat and sand with perlite, but never allowed the mix to totally dry out. Consider seating your potted Cryptanthus in a saucer or tray of water.  This is one group of bromeliads that should not be under-potted. It is important that you allow the root system plenty of room to develop. 

A quick check of the BSI culture manual shows that this Genus is made up of something in the neighborhood of 50 species, although this number is increasing each year as new discoveries are made and described. Native to Brazil, Cryptanthus can be found in the wild growing in a wide variety of conditions: sunny, shady, moist, dry, in forests, and at the edge of the sea. The plants are quite variable in leaf pattern and color, but overall it is quite easy to recognize an unidentified plant as being a Cryptanthus. The rosettes are usually low and spreading, with leaves often arranged in an oval rather than circular pattern when viewed from above. The leaves may be plain or have distinctive zig-zag patterns created by the uneven distribution of trichomes on the upper leaf surface. Flowers (white) are generally described as being inconspicuous and hidden in the leaf axils however, some varieties will flatten out at maturity to reveal a bouquet of delicate flowers while others simply display one flower at a time.

Like any other bromeliad, lighting is important for optimum color development in these plants. Too much light causes bleaching, sunburn, or gives a leathery stressed look to the plants and too little light will result in dull uniform color rather than the bright blend of colors and shades that develop under better growing conditions. A good bit of advice from the Cryptanthus Society is to acclimate your plants to grow in as much light as possible. The light source may be natural (in the greenhouse, outside with strong, but filtered light, in a windows garden ) or artificial ( "grow lights" or plant carts ). Cryptanthus grow equally well with either. The colors often intensify under fluorescent light-making Cryptanthus an excellent choice for interior decorating, whether in the home or in the office.

Relatively cold hardy, this Genus has a marked preference for tropical temperatures but, like other bromeliads will thrive in less than optimum conditions. Most Cryptanthus can withstand temperatures to near-freezing and some varieties will survive even lower temperatures if they are heavily mulched and the root zone does not freeze. For those of you who grow in the landscape, these plants should be treated like your other bromeliads and "hardened off" in the Fall by reducing the amount of water they receive. Cryptanthus can be very tolerant of high temperatures in the Summer months as long as there is adequate humidity (not usually a problem in Florida in the Summer) and the potting mix is not allowed to dry out(again, probably not a problem during the warmer months).

For those of you who can’t help yourselves, go ahead and fertilize your Crypts. But this is not necessary for the plants to show off their dazzling colors. A slow release. balanced fertilizer is probably your best bet, although other types such as african violet, orchid or organic mixes used in a diluted form will work equally well.

Cryptanthus form pups or offsets like most other bromeliads and these may be left on the mother plant for a multiple display or removed to begin a new plant. Usually a slight tug is all it takes to detach the offset form its parent plant. Some varieties are even known for a tendency to release their own offsets when they are sufficiently mature so you shouldn’t always blame the family pet when a detached pup is found on the floor near your potted Crypt. In their natural habitat the offset would likely roll to a new location or take root in the decaying humus around the mother plant.  Pups will root easily in potting medium but can be somewhat of a challenge when the developing leaves curl under and lift the offset away from the potting mix. To overcome this, make a small depression, insert the pup's stem and press the mixture firmly around it. Pot no deeper than the base of the first leaf. Stake the plant if necessary to keep it from rocking back and forth. It is essential for the plant to be secure for an extra fast start and good growth. Place the newly potted plant in a favorable location, keep the mix slightly moist and you will soon be rewarded with a very nice Cryptanthus. 



Upcoming Events:


May 3rd and 4th

Brevard County Orchid Society’s 15th annual Spring Orchid Fair – Azan Shrine Center, 1591 W. Eau Gallie Pkwy., Melbourne ( 3.8 miles east of I-955 exit 183) $4 admission

May 9-11

Mothers Day Show and Sale hosted by the Bromeliad Society of Central Florida at the Orlando Fashion Square Mall, 3201 E. Colonial Dr. (S.R. 50)

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

Cairns, Australia

August 16-17

Seminole Bromeliad and Tropical Plant Society Fall Plant Sale at the Sanford Garden Club

9am to 4pm one block south of Lake Mary Blvd. on 17-92 at Fairimont Dr.


August 30, 2008
FCBS Bromeliad Extravaganza
Bromeliad Rainforest Fantasy
Sheraton Suites Tampa Airpoirt
4400 W. Cypress Street, Tampa, FL 33607
(813) 873-8675/ Toll free (800) 325-3535

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