Bromeliaceae includes approximately 56 genera of terrestrial to epipphytic herbs of mild temperate and tropical America, plus a single species of Picairnia from western Africa. The leaves are strap – or sword – shaped, commonly in basal whols, often guttered, with a water – collecting reservoir in the center, or sometimes in whols around a stem, or rarely distichous, the bases clasping the stem. They are sometimes strongly patterned or become brightly colored at maturity. The leaf margin is frequently sharply toothed, the tip spined. Flowers are usually small and short – lived, blue – violet, yellow, or white. Floral bracts, sepals, and sometimes the fruits are brightly colored and often long lasting. The fruit is a berry or capsule.
Individual bromeliad plants die after flowering after producing new plants from offsets. Remove offsets when they are a third the size of the parent. Poi in humus, bark, or chopped coconut fiber with grit for drainage. The roots of epiphytic species are primarily for attachment. Even terrestrial species may rot in wet soil. In warm areas many bromeliads thrive in humus under trees or attached to trees and palms. Mist when dry and keep reservoirs full or water. Bromeliads provide unique niches, moisture, nectar, and food for invertebrates, frogs, lizards, and birds. To deter mosquito larvae and scale insects, spray plants with a mixture of 1 teaspoon each of salad oil and kitchen detergent in a quart of water. Copper sprays are deadly to bromeliads. Most species are easy to grow, some do best in humid climates while others do well where dry.
Alcantarea includes approximately 17 species of monocarpic herbs from southeasterm. Brazil. Some species were formerly placed in closely related Vriesea. Alcantarea species can be distinguished by their long, linear petals. Leaves are in basal rosettes. The relatively large flowers open early in the morning and are fragrant.
Synonyms; Vriesea geniculata, Vriesea glaziouana. Brazil. Terrestrial herb to 3 ft, zones 10-11. Blooms spring, early summer. Regular moisture. Open, well drained soil. Bright filtered light. Flowers: creamy white, arranged on a slender red flower stalk to 6 ft, bracts purplish red. Leaves: sword shaped, lightly banded, in a spreading basal rosette. This species differs from A. imperialis by the narrow, lightly banded, erect leaves and by the more widely spaced bracts on the inflorescence stalk.
Giant alcantarea, giant vriesea
Synonyms: Vriesea imperialis. Brazil. Terrestrial herb, 3-4 ft, zones 10-11. Blooms spring, early summer. Regular moisture. Open, well drained soil. Bright filtered light. Flowers: petals strap shaped, creamy white, arranged on red stalk to 6 ft, bracts boat shaped, red dish, closely spaced along stalk. Leaves: broad, spreading, blue green, reddish below, in a large basal rosette. One of the largest bromeliads commonly cultivated, though far larger bromeliads are found in the genus Puya.