History of the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies

By Karen Andreas

The first organizational meeting of the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies was held in the Longwood home of Carol Johnson on Sunday, June 17, 1977. In attendance were:

Rita Roehr - Sarasota Bromeliad Society
Carol Johnson, Bud Martin, Eloise Beach - Bromeliad Society of Central Florida
Georgia Martin, William and Maureen Frazel - Bromeliad Society of Broward County
Ervin Wurthmann, Carl Perryn - Bromeliad Guild of Tampa Bay
Bob Puterbaugh, Jody Speer, Charles and Bernice Collbaugh - Imperial Polk Bromeliad Society
Morris and Helen Dexter, Patrick and Joyce Logue - Florida West Coast Bromeliad Society

In addition to those in attendance at the first meeting, the following organizations were also original member societies:
Bromeliad Society of South Florida
Caloosahatchee Bromeliad Society
Jacksonville Gainesville Bromeliad Society
Seminole Bromeliad Society
Click here for a list of the current member societies.

Nat DeLeon, of the Bromeliad Society of South Florida and one of the original organizers of the Council could not attend but was recognized for his support.

Meetings of the Council have proceeded on a quarterly basis ever since, generally meeting on the second Saturday of January, April, July, and October, and hosted by member societies at different locations throughout the state. The Florida Council was incorporated as a not for profit organization in May 1978 in the state of Florida and received its tax-exempt status from the IRS in April 1983.

The Council's first publication was a magazine titled Grande; its co-editors were James Elmore of the Sarasota Bromeliad Society and Bob Puterbaugh of Imperial Polk Bromeliad Society. Vicky Chirnside was managing editor after Bob Puterbaugh's short tenure. The magazine had color pictures of bromeliads and articles about bromeliad collections and collectors. Because of the expense involved, only four issues of Grande were published. Its successor was the FCBS Quarterly Newsletter, first published in 1981 with Carol Johnson as its editor until her death. Her son, Geoff Johnson, succeeded her as editor until his death in 2000. The current editor is Karen Andreas.

The first statewide bromeliad show sponsored by the Council was held in Miami in 1978 and was a three-day event. Prior to that show, only one or two Florida bromeliad societies had ever held a show. The first statewide show served as a catalyst for local societies and soon shows were part of many societies' annual events. In the early to mid 1980s, Chuck Tait and the Seminole Bromeliad Society started the Extravaganza in Deland. Seminole continued to hold the Extravaganza for several years then invited the Florida Council to become involved with the event. Since then, the Council has sponsored the Extravaganza, the location of which moves around the state each year and is hosted by a different society. This yearly event provides an opportunity for bromeliad enthusiasts to gather together, buy plants and support the Council through its Rare Plant Auction, always the highlight of the Extravaganza. In addition to shows, the Council sponsored and provided instruction for the training and certification of Florida's first forty-nine bromeliad judges. The training was coordinated by Ervin Wurthman and given by Valerie Steckler.

The Council also has taken on the responsibility of funding and supporting the efforts to fight the invasive 'Mexican Bromeliad (Evil) Weevil' that threatens both Florida's native bromeliads and the collections of hobbyists alike. Through member societies' donations, individual donations and the proceeds raised at the Extravaganza's Rare Plant Auction, bromeliad enthusiasts in Florida have provided virtually all the funding for this project to eradicate the evil weevil and support field research by Dr. Howard Frank and Dr. Barbra Larson in South America as well as their work in Gainesville. Information about the weevil can be found here. In addition, in 2000, the Council secured a state grant to assist with the re-introduction of native bromeliads to areas in Florida decimated by the weevil.

In 1996, following the success of the Orlandiana World Bromeliad Conference web site, the Council decided to create its own web site to promote bromeliads, bromeliad research and bromeliad interest throughout the world. The result of that decision is the Florida Council's Bromeliad Encyclopedia at http://fcbs.org. Michael Andreas, webmaster of the original Orlandiana site, is also the webmaster of the Council's site. In addition to cultural information, links to member societies as well other resources, and discussions of bromeliad issues, this site maintains the largest collection of bromeliad photographs on the Internet.

In issue IV, Vol. II of the Council's Quarterly Newsletter, editor Carol Johnson wrote: "The purposes of FCBS are for the most part parallel to the aims of the individual societies which make up its membership - to promote bromeliads by growing, showing and research." Today, the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies remains true to its founding goals.