A common ornamental houseplant, Aechmea fasciata is native to the rainforests of Brazil. Also known as urn plant or silver vase plant, it does best under filtered lighting which emulates the rainforest canopy.
Urn plants can be epiphytic, although they may also grow on the ground instead of on trees. When epiphytic, they grow on the surface of trunks and branches by anchoring their roots to the bark of the tree. However, they do not seem to affect the tree in any substantial way. The arrangement of the strap-like leaves creates a cup shape in the centre of the plant. This cup collects water and decaying debris, supplying the plant with a bank of water as well as nutrients. Occasionally, various insects such as mosquitoes will use the pool of water for parts of their life cycle.
Aechmea fasciata can reach heights of 30–90 cm (12–35 in). Plants are relatively slow-growing, taking three to four years to fully mature and generate an inflorescence. Consisting of vibrant pink bracts arranged in a rosette pattern, this inflorescence can last up to six months. The flowers of Aechmea fasciata are small and purple, emerging from between the pink bracts. Each stalk of silver vase will only bloom once before dying, but numerous vegetative offsets at the base of many plants keep the genetic individual alive.
Aechmea is derived from the Greek word aichme, meaning point; this refers to the sharp spines that line the outer edge of their leaves. The spines can cause skin irritation, hence the appearance of Aechmea fasciata on the FDA Poisonous Plant Database for dermatological poisons.