Below Nidulanum futgens Opposite Aechmea fascists
A bromeliad i- a member of the plant family Bromeli-aceae, and there is a genus in this family called Brome/ia, after Olaf BromeL, a Swedish botanist of the seventeenth century. Many species were discovered and introduced in the i ¡iocs, but they were not much grown in homes before the 1910s.
\ bromeliad consists almost completely of a rosette of stiff, leathery, si rap shaped leaves, spraying out from a central crown at soil level. These leaves grow sheathed round one another to form a short vertical rube before thev begin to fan out, and this tube or funnel serves to collect rain Water which runs down the leaves into it. The funnel contains water throughout the plant's life and is indeed its main source of water; the roots, unlike those of ordinary plants, absorb very little, and are mainly needed to attach or anchor the plant.
Most bromeliads are epiphytes, that is, thev attach themselves to other plants, though thev do not absorb food from them in the wa\ that parasites do, Forest trees are the usual supports, and in South and (x-ntra! American jungles you will see bromeliads growing high above you, on tree branches, and in the forks of trunks anel branches, always at the point where rain water and rorting vegetation are liable to collect.
But some bromeliads can also be found growing on the ground, in rockv and desert-like places where there is very little water and where the temperature may be quite low at night. The South \merican Vndes are the home of many of these species and they also have the central tunnel for collecting rain, Thev tend to grow
Below Nidulanum futgens Opposite Aechmea fascists
Hat and close against the ground, looking like starfish, and the flower is insignificant and small, whereas the forest species are much more upright, with flowering stems 50 cm (11 in) or more tali.
All the hromeliads have.- handsome leaves, plain green, variegated yellow or handed m various colours such as red, silvery-grey or wine. Many have attractive and unusual flowerheads which last tor mam weeks. These flowerheads actually grow up through the water in the funnel, hut thev do not rot while doing this, as von might cvpect. Some, such as the Xidntarium species emerge from the water just before the flowers develop.
Once they have flowered, hromeliads do not do so again; they eventually die, but the leaves will continue to lie attractive for months before they start to wither, and in the meanwhile the plant will produce offsets, which can be used for increase.
You can grow hromeliads in standard pots, but pans, or any shallow container, are better because the plants do not have deep roots. An attractive alternative is to grow several hromeliads on a branch. Dead apple wood or driftwood from the beach is excellent.
Fill the hollows and forks where the side branches join with moist peaty compost and tuck the plants in. V ire the plants on inconspicuously and cover thewires with dampened -phagnum moss. If you get your support set up anil then spray or trickle water down it then the place-, where the water collects are the places to put the plants for a natural effect.
Opposite Ananas cotnosus Votififlatui' presides ove' a collection ot objets iidrt Inset Vnesva sfi/etxiens Below Close-up of the vase ot Neorrqeha concentric* drained to show the ti'.-.-e'-heart forming
Surprisingly, hromeliads are rather like cacti in that they gruw in places where thev receive little water, either because they are sheltered bv large trees or because the area where they grow has a tiny annual rainfall. So vou should keep the compost just moist, but maintain the water level in the central funnel, topping it up with rain-water at room temperature at intervals of two or three weeks in the growing season.
Compost can be very peaty, and the soil-less composts arc excellent, perhaps mixed with a little sphagnum moss antl coarse sand. Bromeliads do not live in 1001',, soil li\ any means. Insects and leaves that have fallen into the water in the funnel provide a bromeliad with most of its food. \ ou can give a weak liejuid feed at half strength instead of water once a month while the plant is growing and flowering.
Humidity is not very important; some will grow well in a dry atmosphere, others are better with some moisture in the atmosphere, as noted in the individual descriptions. Nor are they fussv about warmth, though one or two do need quite a lot. and of course it does help them to ripen and flower.
A good light, but practically never direct sunlight, is preferred; some will grow in a little shade, others need light to give them their best colouring. Pests and diseases realty do not seem to occur, though crown rotting is likely if you keep the compost too wet and the temperature low.
Increase is by detaching the offsets when about 11 cm (6 in tall and potting in similar compost in a small shallow container. Put in a warm shadv place until the offsets have rooted into the compost.
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