Saturday, March 17, 2018

Bromeliads with blooms and barbs, and other oddities in my garden

Cacti, agaves, yuccas and their kinfolk may have been around the longest in our garden, but they're not the only spiky residents. More recently, they've been joined by members of a different family: bromeliads. These aren't succulents, but they're just as alluring.

While some bromeliads have armaments as fierce as those of cacti or agaves, others are very user-friendly—especially tillandsias, the much-beloved air plants that have conquered by the world by storm in recent years. My first tillandsia experience about 10 years ago didn't have a happy ending, but I learned a valuable lesson: air plants can't live off air alone; they do need water. My current crop of tillandsias, acquired in January, lives outside in metal wall planters, and I mist them once a week (or rather, I try to). Whatever I'm doing must agree with them, because to my shock and surprise, one of them is actually flowering!

Tillandsia ionantha

This may not be a big deal to people who have more experience with tillandsias than I do, but I still think it's a minor miracle.

I'm not at a stage yet where I can ID tillandsia species, but according to my records, this is Tillandsia ionantha. I read somewhere that it's the most common air plant in cultivation. Maybe the fact that it's so easy to take care of has something to do with it.

Tillandsia ionantha

Tillandsia ionantha

Here's a photo of one of the three metal wall planters I have. They resemble the City Planters by Potted, but they're knock-offs I bought on eBay at a 10th of the cost. I'll have a more detailed post on these planters (and the plants in them) soon.


Most tillandsias are epiphytic bromeliads, meaning they spend their lives attached to other plants (usually trees). Their roots are merely anchors that prevent the plants from falling off. Water and nutrients are absorbed through the leaves.

Other bromeliads are terrestrial, i.e. they grow in the ground like "traditional" plants. Some of them—like dyckias, hechtias, puyas and deuterocohnias—come from arid regions and can be treated like succulents in cultivation. That's probably the reason they're often collected by people who are into spiky succulents like agaves or cacti. It's certainly true in my case: I love the textured leaves, the barbed teeth (often formidable), and the coloration.

Here are some of the terrestrial bromeliads in the front yard. All of them are hardy in our climate and spend the entire year outside.

×Dyckcohnia 'July'
(Dyckia marnier-lapostollei × Deuterocohnia lorentziana)

×Dyckcohnia 'July'

×Dyckcohnia 'Conrad Morton'
(Dyckia macedoi × Deuterocohnia meziana)

×Dyckcohnia 'Conrad Morton'

×Dyckcohnia 'Conrad Morton'

×Dyckcohnia 'Zebra' F2
(unknown parentage, but a hybrid between a Dyckia and a Deuterocohnia)

Deuterocohnia lorentziana

Deuterocohnia lorentziana

Dyckia pulquinensis

Dyckia pulquinensis

Dyckia choristaminea

Dyckia 'Tarzan' F2

Dyckia 'Arizona' × 'Brittlestar' F2

Dyckia 'Tibor'

Hechtia glauca

Hechtia 'Silver Star'
(Hechtia argentea × Hechtia marnier-lapostollei)

Hechtia 'Silver Star'

Hechtia texensis

Hechtia texensis

I'm about to add some less commonly seen terrestrial bromeliads: Bromelia, Orthophytum, SincoraeaFascicularia, and ×Puckia (intergeneric hybrid between Puya and Dyckia). Update to follow.

The next plant I want to show you is neither a bromeliad nor a succulent. And it isn't armed in any way. In fact, it's as non-threatening as they come. But it has a beauty all its own.

Bukiniczia cabulica

Its name is Bukiniczia cabulica, the only species in this genus. It's native to Pakistan and Afghanistan (hence the species name cabulica, after Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan). A biennial, it forms a basal rosette in the first year and flowers in the second (or third). The only source I know of is Annie's Annuals—what would lovers of oddities do without Annie's!

I have two Bukiniczia cabulica growing close to each other. The one above is in full sun; it's larger but it looks like it won't flower this year. The one below is in partial shade; it's smaller, and it's sending up an inflorescence. The mother plant will die after flowering, and but the seeds supposedly germinate quite readily. We shall see.

Bukiniczia cabulica

Speaking of plants that die after flowering, here's another one:

Agave utahensis var. eborispina

Yes, my Agave utahensis var. eborispina is getting ready for its final performance. It'll be a few months before the real flowering begins, but after that, it's lights out. This is a solitary species, so there won't be pups. But I have a small Agave utahensis var. eborispina waiting in the wings. I'll be sure to you keep updated.

11 comments:

  1. So cool! Are you going to try for seeds or something with the flowering agave?

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    1. I'm going to send pollen from the flowering agave to Hans Hansen at Walters Gardens so he can use it for his mangave hybridization work.

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  2. I wonder about horticulturalists in Afghanistan ..are they considered fringe ? Are the desperately trying to save plants that are threatened by the environmental ravages of a war zone? Or are plants an afterthought, and the plant people few and far between. But I digress, this was not your topic --and I really wanted to comment on the Hechtias which I saw in a few places in Socal, mostly at Lotusland. If I ever get through the 1500 photos I took I might find these.

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    1. Looking forward to seeing your hechtia photos from Lotusland. I don't remember noticing them when I was there.

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  3. I've never even heard of intergeneric Dyckia hybrids! Those didn't come from Annie's. Where are you shopping for your bromeliads? Really, my head was still spinning over your Mangave collection...

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    1. It's a whole new world for me as well. Apparently bromeliads readily interbreed. There are LOTS of intergeneric hybrids. Go to the Bromeliad Cultivar Register and scroll down to "x" in the list on the left. Everything preceded by an x is intergeneric. The names are mindboggling:

      xAECHBERGIOPSIS
      xAECHOPSIS
      xANAGELIA
      xANAMEA
      xANANANANAS
      xANDROLAECHMEA
      xBARVRIESEA
      xBILLMEA
      xBILLNELIA
      xBILLYA
      xBILTANTHUS
      xCANEGELIA
      xCANMEA
      xCRYPTANANAS
      xCRYPTBERGIA
      xCRYPTMEA
      xDEUTEROCAIRNIA
      xDYCKCOHNIA
      xDYCKTIA
      xENCHOTIA
      xFORZZANTHUS
      xGUZGOUDAEA
      xGUZLANDSIA
      xGUZLUTHERIA
      xGUZVRIESEA
      xHECHCOHNIA
      xHOHENELIA
      xHOHENMEA
      xHOHENQUESMEA
      xHOHENTEA
      xLUTHANDSIA
      xNEOBERGIA
      xNEOBERGIOPSIS
      xNEOMEA
      xNEOPHYTUM
      xNEOROCKIA
      xNEOSTROPSIS
      xNEOTANTHUS
      xNIDBERGIA
      xNIDULISTRUM
      xNIDUMEA
      xNIDUREGELIA
      xNIDUSINCORAEA
      xORTHOCOHNIA
      xORTHOGLAZIOVIA
      xORTHOLARIUM
      xORTHOMEA
      xORTHOTANTHUS
      xPITINIA
      xPITKIA
      xPORTEMEA
      xPSEUDANAMEA
      xPUCKIA
      xPUCOHNIA
      xPULIRIUM
      xQUESISTRUM
      xQUESMEA
      xQUESREGELIA
      xRACINDSIA
      xROKAUTANTHUS
      xROKAUTSINCORAEA
      xSINCORAECHMEA
      xSINCOREGELIA
      xSINCORGLAZIOVIA
      xSINCORPHYTUM
      xSINCORTANTHUS
      xURSULEPIS
      xURSUMEA
      xVRIECANTAREA
      xVRIERAUHIA
      xVRIESGOUDAEA
      xVRIESLANDSIA
      xVRIESLUTHERIA
      xWALLANDSIA
      xWALLFUSSIA
      xWITTMEA
      xZIZKAGOUDAEA

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  4. What a fabulous collection of ankle-shredders! I never knew there were Dyckia crosses either. They are so colorful and beautiful.

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    1. I love them for those reasons. And they're really easy in cultivation.

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  5. I had no idea you've got so many Dyckia! I look forward to seeing the progress of your Agave utahensis bloom, sad as it will be. Also, my remaining Bukiniczia cabulica kicked the bucket. Winter wasn't horrid but it didn't agree with it either way.

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    1. I've always had some dyckias but have been been adding to the collection recently.

      Sorry to hear about your Bukiniczia. If I get any seedlings, I'll send you some. Unfortunately, Annie's didn't have any the last time I was there.

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  6. The Bukiniczia is so cute! Never heard of this one!

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