Fascicularia bicolor

We have a new author today. Tamara Bonnemaison joins us as one of two Botany Photo of the Day Work-Learn students from now until the end of April. For her first entry, Tamara writes:

Thank you to Christopher Young (aka c.young@Flickr), who shared this beautiful photo of Fascicularia bicolor via the Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool.

Fascicularia bicolor, or sun bromeliad, is a bromeliad endemic to Chile. Its genus name, Fascicularia, means “clustered together in bundles”. This aptly describes the growth habit of this species, which forms mounds of rosettes growing to about 60cm tall. Zizka and Nelson (1997) report that the plant produces edible fruit, but I could not find a description of the fruit or its flavour.

Sun bromeliad is a good example to illustrate the morphological and ecological plasticity of the Bromeliaceae. There are two subspecies of Fascicularia bicolor, with each evolved for very different conditions found on Chile’s interior rainforests and coast. Subspecies canaliculata usually grows as an epiphyte in Chile’s Valdivian temperate rainforests. This subspecies has leaves with channeled adaxial (upper) surfaces and non-succulent bases, presumably to remove excess water quickly with no need for additional water storage. The other subspecies, bicolor, is saxicolous, meaning it grows in rocky ground. It is generally found in open habitat along Chile’s coast. Fascicularia bicolor subsp. bicolor has leaves with a succulent base (to store water) and a flat surface.

I have walked past plants of this species many times at UBC Botanical Garden, and it wasn’t until this September that it captured my attention. In the autumn, the inner leaves of Fascicularia bicolor become deep red and a rosette of contrasting blue flowers is revealed. Each rosette will flower only once; although the flowers are short-lived, the fiery leaves add a splash of colour to the garden all winter long. It is no surprise that a previous BPotD entry featuring this species in brief also had a photo taken over the fall/winter. The unusual coloring of Fascicularia bicolor, along with its relative ease of growth, make it popular with gardeners. Fascicularia bicolor subsp. bicolor may well be the hardiest bromeliad in the world, and will grow in full sun to part shade, provided that it is grown in a coarse, well-drained soil.

Despite its beauty, gardeners should beware! The leaves have hooked teeth that make short work of all but the hardiest of work gloves, and it is well worth the forethought to ensure that Fascicularia bicolor is planted in a location where it will need the least amount of handling possible; avoid planting under trees, as pulling fallen leaves out of sun bromeliad’s rosette is a dangerous proposition. Needless to say, these hooked teeth are useful in protecting the plant from llamas in its native habitat.

Botany resource link (added by Daniel): New mushroom species discovered in London grocery store (CBC) is an article sent along by a UBC colleague, Dr. David Brownstein (thanks!). The story shows how DNA barcoding has helped mycologists from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew discover scientificlly unknown porcini mushroom species in commercially-sold products. See the journal article as well: What’s for dinner? Undescribed species of porcini in a commercial packet.

Fascicularia bicolor

8 responses to “Fascicularia bicolor”

  1. Larry Green

    The leaves of this terrestrial bromeliad subspecies saxicolous seem to have physical characteristics not unlike that of Hechtia texensis profiled in an earlier BotD.

  2. justinem2013

    If I have one suggestion for the botany photo of the day, it is that there be other photos posted in the body of the description to give more insight into and depth to the featured botany photo. The photo of the day becomes the thing that draws us in, but ultimately it’s the plant itself that makes the entry interesting. The beauty of the internet is that it’s easy to add media.
    I much prefer receiving a daily posting that introduces me to a plant rather than a new word! (My smartphone sends me a “word of the day”, too).

  3. Wendy Cutler

    Welcome, Tamara. Great first article. It’s nice to have you here.

  4. Pat

    Not much on the edible fruit. Though I did find that it is a triangular berry with a concave side. It is fleshy, sweet, refreshing and sucks (is sucked?) like the fruit of Cai, Greigia sphacelata, another edible bromeliad.
    The fruit of Cai is white, fleshy, aromatic, sweet and recalling the flavour of pineapple. Agreeable and much appreciated, by the Mapuche among others. The dried fruit is toasted and powdered.
    Especies botánicas consumidas por los chilenos prehispánicos by Oriana Pardo and Jose Luis Pizarro (2005).
    The fruit is of 8cm length and tastes sweet. The plant is also called poe, chupalla and puñeñe.
    The fruit is gathered for immediate consumption.
    The Mapuche name for the plant is Huenu-dēcho, other names in Chile include poe, chupalla and chuponcillo, though these may be used of other bromeliads as well. The fruit looks similar to that of the chupon, Greigia sphacelata.
    The Google Books result for Botánica indígena de Chile by Ernesto Wilhelm de Moesbac (Andres Bello, 1999).

  5. Pat

    That first reference also has the young buds and roots cooked as an imitation of palm hearts.

  6. lhmorrison

    welcome new worklearn student, great entry. thank you bpotd always plenty to learn and abundant links to photos and articles.

  7. Florida Plantsman

    Welcome Tamara,
    Bromeliads have always been a favorite of mine. Thanks for the posting.

  8. Daniel Mosquin

    Justine, we do this through links, though it is good to be reminded to try harder. We often don’t have the luxury of additional photographs, especially for submitted images or anything I’ve photographed without trying to be comprehensive with images of various parts of the plant / entire plant (which is fairly often, I must admit).

Leave a Reply