Monday, May 13, 2013

Huge Bromeliad Blooms!

Alcanterea imperialis is blooming at Rare Plant Research. This is one of the world's largest bromeliads outside of the genus Puya. It is native to the hills near Rio de Janiero and grows 4-6 feet wide and the bloom stalk grows up to ten feet high. It grows on rocky cliffs and the roots attach to the rock face which holds the rosette up-right. The roots do not absorb nutrients like most plants, but serve simply to anchor the plants. Water and nutrients fill the cupped leaves and can hold many gallons of water. Mosquito larva hatch in the water and frogs inhabit the plant and eat the larva. If there are no frogs, mosquitoes can be a problem. It takes about 20 years for the plant to mature and flower and after flowering, it dies. The blooming process lasts 3-4 months before the plant finally dies. It is spectacular for many months and if pollinated, produces large quantities of seed.     

This plant is very rare in the USA and is rare in Southern California, but is slightly more common in Southern Florida. It is most common in Hawaii, where it is used in the landscape, yet it is still not often encountered. A number of years ago, plants began to be collected from the wild for the tropical landscape industry. Large areas were stripped  and now it is less plentiful in habitat and most plants that remain grow on steep inaccessible cliffs. There are several nurseries in Hawaii and Florida that propagate the plant, including Rare Plant Research, but plants can be expensive because they take so long to reach a large size. The plant can be viewed at Rare Plant Research during our annual open nursery and garden May 18th and 19th.   

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