Agaves, aloes, echeverias, sempervivums, sedums, crassulas, kalanchoes: These are names most gardeners are familiar with, succulent lovers or not. Terrestrial bromeliads are a different thing. The ground-dwelling members of the pineapple family—dyckias, hechtias and puyas, to name a few—are mostly ignored by the gardening public. Maybe it’s because they’re not widely available in the nursery trade, or maybe it’s because many of them have vicious barbs. But I love spines and such and jump at the opportunity to expand my collection of plants that can maim you.
Dyckias are probably the best known terrestrial bromeliads (aside from the edible pineapple, Ananas comosus, which is strictly tropical). I’ve had a dyckia in the ground for about three years and it’s begun to form a small clump about 8 inches across. Yes, the barbs are wicked and you don’t want to get entangled in them.
|Unidentified dyckia (I either lost the tag or never had one)|
Last week I found a couple more dyckias at Green Acres nursery in Sacramento. They had about a dozen of the variety on the left (fully armed) and only one of the variety on the right (virtually no teeth).
Much to my surprise, both were labeled Dyckia ‘Burgundy Ice’. The description definitely applies to the spiny variety, not so much to the smooth-edged one. But barbs aside, the coloration is the same. I wonder if the unarmed one is a mutation? I wasn’t able to find any information online.
‘Burgundy Ice’ appears to be a relatively new hybrid although I don’t know of which dyckia species. With its stunning color combination—dark purple, almost black on the outside and vivid green in the center—it’s bound to become a hit, at least with gardeners who like to live dangerously. To me it looks like the evil step sister of the impossibly refined Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’.
Coloration aside, in terms of growth habit and general physique this dyckia looks a lot like my Puya venusta, another terrestrial bromeliad.
The biggest difference are the flowers. While many puyas have flowers so fantastical they look unreal…
|Puya alpestris in flower at Annie’s Annuals (July 2011)|
…dyckia flowers are far less intricate, resembling aloe flowers.
|Flowering dyckias at Worth’s Paradise in Mill Valley, CA|
My new ‘Burgundy Ice’ will live in pots near the front door where I can enjoy their barbed (or not so barbed) perfection every day.