Saturday, October 22, 2016

Random plant event: Aechmea 'Del Mar'

Here's something considerably more cheerful than the last post. About once a year, it seems like, some plant takes it upon itself to bloom when I'm not expecting it. The Hatiora salicornioides in 2009, Eucharis in 2010, Clivia and Epiphyllum in 2012, Phalaenopsis in 2014. In most of those cases, that's also the only time they've ever bloomed for me.1

The 2016 surprise bloom is Aechmea 'Del Mar,' a plant I have had since 2008. The original plant died, but it offset, and the offset survived years of frankly-not-great conditions and then decided to grow a flower spike.

This year's bloom looks different from 2008's (specifically: the colors seem a bit less intense), which I attribute to the lower light it's been getting here. It was already in bloom in 2008 when I bought it, so that inflorescence had formed in some tropical Floridian shadehouse, under basically ideal conditions; this one had to work with what light it could get from an east window.2 And not even the full exposure of an east window: it's so big that the only place I can keep it is up near the ceiling. Basically no overhead light at all.

Also shown: Neoregelia 'Ardie' (left), Philodendron 'Golden Emerald' (lower left), Anthurium 'Pandola' (right).

I'm honestly not sure why I was even keeping 'Del Mar' around. The leaves are plain green and of basically no ornamental value. The leaves are edged with marginal spines that are sharp enough to leave marks on me (which then usually itch for a couple hours3), and more often than not, after I move the plant for any reason, I wind up with a few of those spines broken off somewhere in my hands or arms and have to dig them out with tweezers. It was top-heavy and off-balance (at least partly from the side-lighting), and from time to time when I was putting it back on its shelf, it would fall over and dump water out on me. I had no expectation that a rebloom was possible, especially given how long I'd been waiting. In the final tally, I suppose it was just doing too well to throw out. I could justify discarding a plant that was obviously miserable, but aside from dropping the occasional leaf, which I expect all plants to do from time to time, 'Del Mar' never complained. Never really occurred to me that throwing it out was an option, even as I cursed the marginal spines.

It's almost like it knew that in October, we would all be sick of Anthuriums and desperate for anything else to look at.

Other sites allege that the inflorescence can hang around for 5 to 7 months; this seems about right. The 2008 bloom hung around for what seemed like a really, really long time; it could plausibly have been 5 months.

I don't always have the best luck getting bromeliad offsets to root for me, but I expect I'll try doing it again.

Final note: Aechmea 'Del Mar' is, according to its patent, a hybrid of Aechmea fendleri and Aechmea dichlamydea var. trinitensis. The general shape and coloration seems to be from A. dichlamydea, with A. fendleri contributing a smaller size, though 1) genetics doesn't really work like that exactly, and 2) this is speculation based on less than 10 minutes of online searches, so don't hang your hat on it.


1 The sole exception from those examples is the Eucharis, which has bloomed several times since 2009, though it doesn't do so on any kind of predictable schedule.
2 I'm not positive that the 2008 bloom received ideal conditions before I bought it; some on-line sites show much darker inflorescences than mine had then, with considerably less white, and a much darker pink. The patent-holder's website shows a 'Del Mar' that looks a lot more like my plant than those, and you'd think the patent holder could keep them straight if anybody could, so it's possible that the other sites have mistaken 'Blue Tango' for 'Del Mar.' Or maybe the cultivar is just that variable.
My plant's inflorescence has developed a heavier pink coloration as it's developed, with the photos from 16 October (last two in this post) showing a much lighter, yellower color than the photos from the 19th. I have no idea what colors it might bear when it fully matures, nor when this might happen. I'm keeping an eye out for the true flowers (the whole colorful show I've photographed so far are just the bracts, the brightly-colored bits meant to attract pollinators to the actual flowers), though I may or may not get pictures of them.
3 Also a problem with plants having similar defenses, like Neoregelia, Yucca, Dyckia, Agave, Pereskia, and Pandanus. I itch a lot on alternate Sundays, which are both Aechmea- and Pandanus-watering days. I've thought about long sleeves, but I think they'd cause more problems than they solve.


Paul said...

Lovely colored bracts on that one. Are the actual flowers white?

mr_subjunctive said...


I don't know, actually; I have been unable to find any photo of the true flowers on-line, and I don't think I ever saw them on the 2008 bloom.

Ivynettle said...

I've never gotten around to trying it, but we were taught in school that ethylene makes bromeliads bloom, so placing ripe fruit (which releases ethylene) is supposed to help. (Or, ideally, putting the plant in a transparent plastic bag with an apple or something.)

I do have some Aechmeas standing sad and forgotten in a corner somewhere, and I have some overripe apples, I should try it...