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:
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.