Bromeliads and bromeliad-like plants
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The Bromeliads comprise a very large family of some 52 genera and 2,500 recognized
species, a number that is constantly growing through hybridization. All but a
single species, Bromelia pitcairnia, which comes from Senegal, are native to tropical
South America and the Caribbean, are found in locations that range from desert
to rain forest and are both terrestrial and epiphytic in growth. The family name
is derived from Bromelia, one of the largest genera.
Christopher Columbus is supposed to have discovered the first cultivated Bromeliad when he landed on Guadaloupe on his second voyage to the New World. This proved to be the famous pineapple, Ananas comosus, which on sampling he found to be "delicious and freshing to the taste". Samples were brought back to Europe and eventually spread as a commercial crop to most parts of the tropical world in hybrid forms. Although pineapples are generally seen in plantations rather than gardens, one cultivar, A. comosus 'Variegata', has handsome striped leaves with red spines along the margins and is often used as an ornamental.
Most Bromeliads are epiphytic, growing on trees, fallen branches, and rocks without soil. One of the largest and most colorful groups is Aechmea, which has broad, fleshy leaves in a rosette and striking inflorescences that rise from the centre of the plant. The best-known member of this genus is Aechmea fasciata, often grown as a potted specimen in green-houses. Other widely cultivated genera are Billbergia, Bromelia, and Neoregelia, most of which have colored leaves or prominent flower stalks. The genus Tillsandia is found from the southern United States to northern Argentina and Chile; the leaves are usually grey and spineless, the inflorescences often in startlingly brilliant colors. (One unusual Tillsandia is the so-called Spanish Moss which hangs profusely from so many trees in the American South.) The majority of Bromeliads are propagated by offshoots that develop from the base of the parent plant after flowering.
In Hawaii, Florida, and many parts of Central and South America, Bromeliads are used effectively in gardens, either grown on trees or rocks or in massed plantings. They are less common in Southeast Asian gardens, especially those at lower altitudes, though they are often seen as potted specimens. They are also popular as house plants in temperate countries.
BROMELIADS - CULTURAL DIRECTIONS
Find a well-lit location but not in direct sun. Most bromeliads perform satisfactorily if given 2,000 foot-candles of light for 12 hours per day. However, they will do better with 3,000 - 4,000 foot-candles (high humidity is necessary at this higher light level). For top performance night temperatures between 50 - 65 F and day temperatures between 70 - 90 F. A day / night differential of at least 10F is also desirable. Relative humidity should ideally be 50% to 75%. Rainwater or de-ionized water is best for bromeliads, ideally acidic water with a pH 6.5. Any mix is acceptable as long as it is acidic and holds moisture yet drains quickly. Pot size is important. Stand above bromeliad, if you can see pot extending beyond plant, pot is too big. Overpotted plants tend to stay too wet.
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