the largest bromeliad, Puya raymondii




pronounced: bro-mee-lee-AY-see-eye

the bromeliad family


All members of the family have a spiral arrangement of leaves known as a rosette. The angle between successive leaves varies from species to species, with a few even having a 180º separation causing the plant to have its leaves lined up in a single plane. The bases of the leaves may overlap tightly to form a water reservoir, which also collects whatever leaf litter and insects that happen to land in it, to provide nourishment for the plant. There are also terrestrial bromeliads that do not have this water storage facility, and rely primarily on their roots for water and nutrients. In some species, the leaf bases form small chambers as they overlap, often home to ants, who supply the plant with extra fertilizer. Bromeliad inflorescences are very diverse, ranging from flower spikes 10 m tall to tiny ones only a couple of millimetres across. In some species the flower remains unseen, growing deep in the base of the plant. Root systems vary according to whether the plant is epiphytic or lithophytic, when the roots are hard and wiry to attach themselves to trees and rocks, or terrestrial, when the root system is underground and complex.


Photograph by Pepe Roque, via Wikimedia Commons