I feel bad that I didn’t hit the publish button on this post yesterday, but these things happen at times. I will get another post up before the end of the day, so I guess this makes this one my third catchup for the month.
This is my pretty pink Bromeliad and (obviously) it’s perfect for my next entry in Becky’s ‘In the Pink’ Square in September photo challenge.
As you can see from the photo, there’s more than one Bromeliad in the pot. Although all of them are pups from the original plant potted more than a year ago, now there are approx. seven or eight clustered there. Those edges are rather sharp and can be nasty. I’ve sported many scratches up and down my arms from Bromeliads, so I’ve left these ones alone. They do seem to be happy all huddled together.
I wasn’t all that happy with the quality of my photo, so I ventured out again yesterday while this Bromeliad was in full sun to see if I could get a better photo. They weren’t much of an improvement on the first ones as I’m still learning my new camera – however – I did manage to catch something.
Not what I’d thought I’d see in the ‘cup’ of this Bromeliad. Together with the ant, you can also see leave matter and the bud of a flower.
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The Bromeliad doesn’t belong to a plant family, it is a plant family, specifically Bromeliaceae and contains almost 3,500 species including varieties that rely on other plants for support, not nourishment (epiphytes), some that can grow on or in rocks (lithophytes), and others that grow in the ground (terrestrials).
Beyond this spectacular variety I have with its striking pink new growth, I also have several other Bromeliads in my garden thanks to the generosity of my family and friends. I’m not sure if I have a lithophyte variety, I may have. But I do have a small piece of Spanish Moss which is an epiphyte and the smallest variety of Bromeliad, and I’m also growing a Pineapple in my front garden which is terrestrial, and the most significant Bromeliad variety there is when it comes to economic value.
I’m rather proud of my pineapple and can hardly wait for it to flower and bear fruit. It’s been planted for a little over 18 months, so I should expect it to flower in about six months time. The fruit the top came from was wonderfully sweet, so I hope I’ve managed to grow myself something just as delicious.
Native mainly to the tropical Americas, Bromeliads have adapted to wide variety of climates and environmental conditions due to the vast array of adaptations they have developed. They use crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) photosynthesis to create sugars. This means the pores (stoma) in their leaves remain shut throughout the day and only open at night. This ability reduces water loss and is a vitally important adaptation for survival in arid climes.
But Bromeliads have another adaptation that sees them storing their own water supply; a central cup or cone of leaves that collects and stores water as you’ve seen in my photo. It’s like their own little water reservoir and, at the base of this cup, other leaves of the Bromeliad open outward with their stems shaped to collect water there as well creating a multitude of little cascading reservoirs of water. I was surprised to discover that the biggest Bromeliads can hold as much as two litres of water (just over two quarts). Wow! One study in a forest in the American tropics found 175,000 bromeliads per hectare* (2.5 acres). Just imagine the volume of water collected in all those plants.
And then, within these little water reservoirs, myriad creatures live, mainly insect larvae, each benefitting from the other. The insects receiving a secure habitat, the Bromeliad receiving a boost of nitrogen from the insects. Isn’t Mother Nature clever? Another study of 209 plants from the Ecuadorian lowlands identified 11,219 animals, representing more than 300 distinct species, many of which are found only on bromeliads.* I enjoyed reading Olivia Judson article ‘Pineapple Dreams’, featured in The Opinion Pages of The New York Times in 2008. (You’ll find a link below.)
I know in my garden I’ve had a little frog live in one Bromeliad, though he/she was very camera shy. That ant wasn’t, but I think he fell in 🙂 – poor little ant 😦
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Generally speaking, Bromeliads are very easy to grow, require very little care.
They must, however, reach maturity before they develop a bloom. This can take a year, or in the case of pineapples, two years. Other varieties take longer and many things affect the plants’ ability to flower including climate, hours of daylight as well as how much, or how little water they receive. Their flowers can start out looking relatively insignificant and then, as if by magic, they put on a stately display, transforming the seemingly inconsequential into a magnificent show.
These showy flowers can remain viable for months before they begin to wither and fade, but sadly, Bromeliads can only produce one flower. (Though there are a few rare exceptions.)
Bromeliads put so much energy into producing their flower that they stop producing leaves and, once this happens, they will not start producing leaves again and will begin to die. In doing so, the Bromeliad will then produce a new plant called a ‘pup’. This pup then feeds off the ‘mother’ plant until it is large enough to survive on its own. Sometimes the mother plant will survive for two generations before dying off completely.
Pups are normally produced at the base of the mother plant, held protectively within the sheath of a leaf, but sometimes they are produced at the top of the flower spike. That green leafy top of a pineapple is, in fact, a pup that can be removed and planted to produce a new plant.
And that’s exactly what I did, and, rest assured, I will be wearing out my camera when it starts flowering.