Aechmea nudicaulis is a highly variable tough species native to Mexico, central America, West Indies and South America, as far south as southern Brazil. There are 8 described botanical varieties and 1 forma, mostly epiphytic but occasionally saxicolous and terrestrial. Some types have a wide geographical range whilst others are restricted, from sea level to 1800 metres altitude. Usually tubular and stiff-leaved, the mostly green, spiny rosettes are 30-70cms. tall in bloom. Distinctive in most clones are foliage “thumbnail” indents in mid-leaf. The inflorescence is typically an upright spike of vivid scarlet scape bracts and yellow petals, short-lived but eye-catching. Fertile berries formed are often orange but turn black when seed ripens.
Select named species cultivars include cross-banded and variegated clones. Listed in the Bromeliad Cultivar Register are ‘Big John’, ‘Dee Butt’, ‘Good Bands’, ‘La Tigra’, ‘Lightning’, ‘Mary Hyde’, ‘Parati’, ‘Silver Streaks Nudicaulis’, ‘White Lightning’ and ‘Xavante’. An Advanced Search of the Register on the BSI website http:// registry.bsi.org/ currently show 11 hybrids using Ae. nudicaulis as a seed or pollen parent.
A choice distinctive Ae. nudicaulis cultivar introduced into North American horticulture in recent years acquired several names such as “Brazil”, “Rafa” and “var. capitata”. The silver cross-banded and speckled foliage can turn bronze in strong light. This clone has been identified tentatively from photos by Harry Luther as a form of var. cuspidata . The recently-registered cultivar name ‘Rafa’ by Florida grower Eloise Beach honours its discoverer, the Brazilian nurseryman and plant explorer Rafael Oliveira who found it circa 2001 near Sao Fidelis in Rio de Janeiro State.
Published in BSI Journal, Jan-Feb. 2011.