Field of Science

Damn big bromeliad

Bromeliads are members of the pineapple family; here in the tropics many are epiphytes, others are terrestrial. This particular bromeliad (Aechmea magdalenae) is one of the larger terrestrial ones. It has no discernable stem but the leaves can be 2 m tall. Many whorls of such leaves form dense patches, probably a clone, and with the sharp spiny margins on their leaves they make nearly impenetrable thickets. TPP has been walking by this one big patch for years never noticing anything special, but this time there was an inflorescence that couldn't be missed because it was as big as your head and bright red. Amazing since nothing in that patch had ever been seen to flower before. TPP seems to remember someone saying that this bromeliad was used for fiber which would be no surprise because many monocot leaves produce long parallel structural fibers (vascular bundles like Manila hemp from Musa textilis). So this plant could have been moved around with people quite a bit so no idea how "native" this plant is.

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