Friday, 20 April 2012

Burle Marx bromeliad blooms, cryptically



Tropical Nursery horticulturist Marcelo Sellaro tells us this bromeliad was painted by Margaret Mee and named after her great Brazilian friend, the painter, botanist and landscape architect, Roberto Burle Marx. It's apparently quite rare in cultivation, with Kew possibly the only botanic garden in Europe to hold it. It's also the Entwisle 'house plant' for this week.

It's Neoregelia burlemarxii from Sao Paulo Brazil. Kew only it acquired in 2006, donated by Elton Leme. Our licence agreement stipulates that we can use this material for 'the common good' in areas of education and public display and for scientific study, but also distribute to other botanic gardens under similar terms. So we have  sent duplicates to Tresco Abbey Garden in the Isles of Scilly; Mainau Island in Germany; and the very first botanic garden in the world, Orto Botanico Padova (in Padua, near Venice). 


At first I was a little disappointed. I like bromeliads but this one was rather plain. I mean it wasn't even in flower! Well, that's what I thought. The red centre turned violet under the flash of my camera, so that was already pretty exciting. But what was that blue reflection in the pool of water within the bromeliad centre?


Of course a flower. I couldn't see this at all in the gloomy light of our porch but you can see the three petalled flower clearly in this last picture.

As for Burle Marx, seems he has quite a following in Brazil. In the 1920s he studied painting in Berlin, spending much of his time in greenhouses of the Dahlem Botanic Garden. This was where he discovered the beauty of tropical plants and the Brazilian flora.

In 1949 he moved to Brazil, just out of Rio de Janeiro, growing plants and designing landscapes. His 365,000 square metre estate in Barra de Guaratiba, with its collection of plants, was donated to the Brazilian Government in 1985, nine years before his death at the age of 84. This is one of his famous designs, in a photo reproduced regularly in the internet. It's a terrace garden in a former government building in Rio de Janeiro.


So not only can I now enjoy the small blue flower and the colourful pink-purple flange, but I can reflect on the art and landscapes of Senhor Burle Marx.

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