Aechmea pimenti-velosoi var. variegata by Derek Butcher in Bromeletter 34(1):13. 1996
Yes, there is an Aechmea pimenti-velosoi var. variegata being grown in Australia and it seems very close to the description and botanical drawing. It is not an inspiring plant but grows well --- well, at least in Adelaide. The variegations are very weak. The petals are yellow but have a violetish tip.
Yes, there is an Aechmea pimenti-velosoi var. variegata being grown in Australia which wins prizes on the show bench. It is strongly variegated, its leaves are rounded at the tip and the inflorescence well exceeds the leaf rosette. The petals are wholly yellow. So it is not Aechmea pimenti-velosoi let alone a variegated form. It seems much closer to a dwarf Aechmea comata but is probably of hybrid origin.
I'm not the only one who shudders at this name, as those who attended the Adelaide Conference will vouch. Peter Franklin of Raymond Terrace is probably the most knowledgeable of us on the subgenus of Aechmea, Ortgiesia to which these names belong and it was he who made rude noises at the Conference.
However, it is difficult to write a label "NOT AECHMEA PIMENTI VELOSOI VAR. VARIEGATA" and it takes a long time too, & thus is forgotten. To show my interest in cryptic crosswords or odd sense of humour I believe we should call this imposter 'PIE IN THE SKY'.
This will clear the way for the true Aechmea pimenti-velosoi to win prizes on the show bench, although I doubt it!
Aechmea 'PIE IN THE SKY' by Peter Franklin in Bromeletter 37(5): 10. 1999
It may seem repetitious since Derek Butcher wrote a similar article to this in January/February 1996 but it seems there is still sufficient confusion in Australian growing circles to warrant another 'Pie in the Sky' article.
Aechmea 'Pie in the Sky' is a name that has been coined to identify a variegated plant that is commonly grown as Aechmea pimenti-velosoi variegata. The name Ae. pimenti-velosoi variegata is in widespread use around Australasia. I suspect this name is used world-wide. The reason that a new name was needed was that the plant has very little in common with any description or botanical drawing of the real Ae. pimenti-velosoi. Aechmea pimenti-velosoi was first described by Raulino Reitz in 1952 from a plant collected in 1951 in the State of Santa Catarina, Brazil. This type plant was supported by another three collections later in 1951 and then by a further two. They were eventually named Ae. pimenti-velosoi var. glabra. The plants were placed in subgenus Ortgiesia in Smith's 1979 monograph. This is the subgenus that includes Ae. recurvata, Ae. gamosepala, Ae. caudata and so on.
I have been able to find only three illustration of Ae. pimenti-velosoi in the literature. A colour drawing is in Reitz (1983). Another is a line drawing in Smith and Downs ( 1979) which seems to have been a copy of the painting in Reitz. Descriptions appear in both these publications. Baensch (1994) has a photograph of an Ae. pimenti-velosoi var . glabra (but in reality this seems to be a non-variegated 'Pie in the Sky'. There have been
mentions of Ae. pimenti-velosoi from time to time in the BSI Journal but no description or illustration has ever been included.
The distinguishing feature of Ae. pimenti-velosoi, as compared with 'Pie in the Sky' is the scape that is 'wholly covered by the leaf sheaths'. This is the characteristic that is used in Smith's key to Ortgiesia and is evident in the illustrations of Reitz and Smith. Therefore, the real Ae. pimenti-velosoi looks rather like a slightly larger Ae. recurvata var . benrathii in terms of overall plant shape and conformance, i.e., with the flowering part pushed down in the throat of the plant. The leaves are relatively narrow. The petals are pale yellow with a reddish-violet tip.
On the other hand, Ae. 'Pie in the Sky' in cultivation has a scape that greatly exceeds not only the leaf sheaths but also the leaf blades. The leaves are relatively broad. The petals are yellow with no extra colour at the tip. There is a strong similarity between Ae. 'Pie in the Sky' and Ae comata except that 'Pie in the Sky' is about half the size of even the smallest cultivated Ae. comata. I believe that there are plants of the real Ae. pimenti-velosoi in cultivation (in NSW at least), almost all of which are simply labelled Aechmea unknown, Aechmea ? or Aechmea recurvata hybrid? They match the drawings and descriptions of Ae. pimenti-velosoi perfectly. Unfortunately no one seems to know where these unnamed Aechmeas came from).
Ae. 'Pie in the Sky' is a nice little plant worthy of a spot in any collection. It may be a species or a hybrid - we may never know - but whatever the case, we shouldn't use the Ae. pimenti-velosoi name for it particularly when the real Ae. pimenti-velosoi exists in collections.
Notes added 9/2007 by Butcher
What I find intriguing is that this plant continues to be sold by Seidel nursery and other Brazilian nurseries as A. pimenti-velosoi and variegata. Nobody in Brazil seems prepared to look at this anomaly in description but if you do have the non-varigated form it is captured in the Cultivar Register as ‘Aechmea ‘Pie’!