Bromeliad facts for kids
|Pineapple, one member of the Bromeliaceae family|
Bromeliads are a family of tropical plants which includes the pineapple and several colourful houseplants. They are nearly all from Latin America and the Caribbean islands, except for Spanish moss from the southern United States, and a single kind from Africa.
Well-known kinds of bromeliad
Pineapples (Latin name: Ananas). See Pineapple.
Air plants (Latin name: Tillandsia) are very curious because they do not need any roots to stay alive. Instead they soak up moisture from the air around them through tiny, silvery scales on their leaves. They have so many of these scales that the whole plant can look grey. In the wild they grow on tree banches in rainy and misty areas. In the Caribbean there is a kind that grows on telephone wires!
Urn plants (Latin name: Aechmea) are easy to keep. They grow to about 60 cm across, but because the stiff, green-and-grey leaves have spiny edges, they need to be out of the way. Urn plants got their name because they have a hole in the middle made by the ring-shaped arrangement of their leaves. This central urn fills up with rainwater in the wild and is often home to insects and frogs. Its flowers are held high on a single stem, and protected by a globe of small, pink leaves which lasts for several months.
Vriesias (Latin names: Vriesia and Guzmania) are like urn plants, but they have no spines and their leaves are softer. They are often sold in flower shops (and sometimes in supermarkets) and are very easy to look after. Their flowers grow on a single stem, protected by flattened, colourful leaves. It is better not to fill the central space with water, as these soft-leaved plants might rot. instead their soil should be watered.
Spanish moss (Latin name: Tillandsia usneoides) is a grey plant found hanging from trees in the swamps of the southern United States, especially in Louisiana but as far east as coastal Virginia. To the south it spreads as far as Chile and Argentina. It gained its current name from Spanish and French colonisers in the Gulf of Mexico. The French called it Barbe Espagnole ("Spanish beard") to insult their rivals, and the Spanish in turn called it Cabello francés ("French hair"). Today "Spanish moss" survives as a mild version of the French taunt, although some call the plant "Graybeard".
Other kinds of bromeliads
Bromelia, the plant which gives its name to the family, is the only other bromeliad with edible fruit. Its berries taste a bit like pineapple, but are less tasty, and there are not very many on each plant.
Fascicularia is the only bromeliad that can be grown in frosty areas. It is not killed by frost if it is kept dry in the winter.
Pitcairnia is the only wild bromeliad outside the Americas. One species, Pitcairnia feliciana, was discoved living in West Africa. It is probably descended from seeds carried by migrating birds.
Puya is the largest bromeliad. It can grow up to nine metres tall. It lives in the Andes mountains, and is sometimes eaten by bears for its nectar. In Chile the young leaves of some puyas are eaten in salads.
Images for kids
Bromeliads growing on telephone lines in Bolivia
Bromeliad Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.