Sunday, 28 March 2010

Red (and Purple) Surprise



A short note, and an excuse to include this overly vivid picture I took of the bromeliad Billbergia pyramidalis growing in my home garden a few years ago.

What attracted my attention this year was the sudden mass flowering. Last Sunday I saw a single red bud inside one of the bromeliad 'tanks'. By next weekend (today), I thought, they'll all be popping up.

Not only did they all pop up, but by Tuesday, two days later, the bright red flowering structures were all sitting up above the leaves and the flowers ready to open. It was literally two days from the hint of red in one, to more than half of the 100 or so individuals sporting a fully protruding floral arrangement.

I think all our 'plants' have spread from a single original planting (or two) so genetically I'm sure they are pretty much the same. It's just curious, and fun, that they respond so consistently to the flowering trigger, even when they are now growing in separate clumbs (and some in pots).

Billbergia is notorious for its short-lived flowers, so I expect that by next weekend it will all be over.

Another curious, or not, thing is the purple tip to the style. It's not unlike the tip of the flower of another bromeliad, Aechmea gamosepala, which I used to illustrate a blog about weird life (although my camera is not up to getting the colours exactly right in either picture...). Obviously there is a shared palete in their evolutionary history, and presumably this colour is attractive to their potential pollinators.

9 comments:

The Rainforest Gardener said...

I have several varieties of these too, and would like to make a hybrid if only I could get two types to bloom at the same time! Aechmea gamosepala and Billbergia pyramidalis are both from southern Brazil, so they probably do or did have the same pollinators at some time.

Tim Entwisle said...

Hmmm, that would be a fascinating cross. Unfortunately they do seem to flower almost as far apart from each other as possible!

Olaf Rutgrink said...

Hi Tim, a very stunning flower indeed. I have a query that is not quite related but was hoping you may be able to shed some light on being a freshwater algae specialist. Are you aware of any ways to restrict the flow of algae such as blue-green from a reservoir into a river system? Apart from chemical treatment are there other methods that could be used to control or prevent the flow of surface water algae? ie. gauze curtains etc

Tim Entwisle said...

I would doubt it's possible to do this. Blue-green algae spread through spores and cells floating around and there will never be a shortage of innoculum. That is, you should assume algal cells of all kinds will get from one water body to another and the only way to control blooms is to create conditions that don't favour them - e.g. keeping nutrient levels low, keeping water moving and keeping it relatively cool (or at least not layering with warm water above). An expert in blue-green algal blooms might bea ble to give you more advice. Filtering or removing the visible bloom will certainly reduce cell numbers which might help with initial water quality but if you want to stop blooms further down stream it's tough.

Olaf said...

Thanks Tim, it appears that blue-green algae is quite difficult to control once it has formed. Would you know of any other experts in the field that I could talk to?

Tim Entwisle said...

No bright ideas but worth contacting local water authority who usually have some expertise in this area. My contacts are more to do with taxonomy than management I'm afraid.

Tim Entwisle said...

Fellow Sydneysider Rick Kemp told me yesterday his billbergias had a second flush of flowering (his first corresponded with mine). I had noticed one new flower on mine but a careful check revealed there were more - a smattering of new flowering stems. Far less than the first flush on 28 March but a definite second flowering three weeks later. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

I know of two other similar, bigger-than-usual, first flushes of flowering of this species in Clovelly and Kensington, followed by a much smaller flush occurring about now (24-28 April 2010). I was wondering if the heavy rain in the first week of February 2010 (and some in the second week) had something to do with it. I've never had such a crop of flowers in 13 years! Jane T.

Tim Entwisle said...

Thanks for that Jane - interesting that the phenomenon was so widespread and consistent. Yes could be due to rains. I'm becoming more intrigued by what triggers flowering - I know it's often a mix of photoperiod initiating the bud then things like cold periods (dormancy), rain or warm temperatures that trigger the final flower development. But there are so many variations!!