All About Bromeliad Plants

Bromeliads (broh-MEE-lee-ads) are in a family of approx 3,020 species that are native to North, Central and South America. The flower of a Bromeliad is actually a bract. They are found growing in the United States as far north as Georgia down to the southern tip of Argentina, in a wide range of climates and habitats at sea level, in rain and high cloud forests and on arid coastal deserts on the tops of mountains above the tree line, 12,000 feet up. There are approx. 5,900 hybrids and cultivars currently on record. The most common form is a stemless cluster of leaves that form a rosette of leaves which may be symmetrical or twisted and curled into bizarre shapes. The foliage ranges from shades of solid green to brightly colored, spotted and banded. The inflorescences (blooms) flaunt dazzling color combinations as well as fantastic forms. Did you know that the common pineapple (Ananas comosus) that you love to eat is a bromeliad? It is and so is Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides). More than half of the species are Epiphites (plants that grow on trees) the rest are terrestrials (plants that grow in the ground) or saxicoles (plants that grow on rocks). Epiphytic bromeliads are not parasites; they do no harm to the host tree but simply use it as a perch to gain access to sunlight. The root systems are normally small and serve mainly to anchor the plants to the tree branch or rock. Most of the water functions and nutrient absorption have been taken on by the leaves. The curved shape of the leaves form a reservoir that collects and holds water. Those that don't hold water usually come from seasonally dryer areas and are adapted to drought conditions. These are called xerophytic or atmospheric (epiphytes only) bromeliads. Bromeliads are perfectly at home on window sills or under fluorescent lights lend well to container growth. They are easy to grow, inexpensive and boast a wide variety of long-lasting colorful blooms and foliage. The most commonly grown cultivars are Aechmea, Billbergia, Cryptanthus, Guzmania, Neoregelia, Tillandsia and Vriesea.

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