Guzmania lingulata by Derek Butcher, Bromeliaceae 44(3): 1-13. 2010

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Guzmania lingulata by Derek Butcher, Bromeliaceae 44(3): 1-13. 2010.

While we may be swamped by Guzmania hybrids these days, there are some who grow the species and this latest change is directed to you. Some may shudder at name changes but I find them interesting if I know the reason for the change.
These days it may be hard to realise that the first Bromeliads that Europeans were introduced to, came from the Caribbean Islands. Guzmania lingulata was but one that started in this fashion. In fact its first name was Viscum caryophylloides maximum, capitulis in summitate conglomeratis! See Lectotype from 1707. In those days botany was in its infancy and perhaps more was missed than recorded and what was recorded would have been insufficient according to modern-day standards. To track these misconceptions of the past is fascinating. In Monocots and Gymnosperms of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, in Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Volume 52: 1-415. 2005 on page 209 Proctor and Cedeno-Maldonado make interesting comments about the type species which does not have concolorous leaves!
I quote “Several varieties have been attributed to Guzmania lingulata (L.) Mez, mostly based on the size and color patterns of the leaves and the color of the bracts of the inflorescences (see L. B. Smith, Fl. Neotrop. Monogr. 14(2): 1349. 1977.). The variety with wide and concolorous leaves, which occurs in Puerto Rico, has been erroneously attributed to G. lingulata var. lingulata. This variety does not occur in Jamaica, where Sloane collected the type specimen for G. lingulata. On the other hand, only one of the varieties has been recognized to occur in Jamaica. Instead of being considered the typical variety, the Jamaican taxon was erroneously attributed to G. lingulata var. splendens (Planch.) Mez. Thus, to correct the situation, var. splendens, with purplish striped leaves, must be considered a synonym of var. lingulata. In addition, a new name is hereby provided for the taxon previously referred to as var. lingulata.
This means that the variety splendens with its leaves with red/purple longitudinal stripes mentioned by L B Smith, Fl. Neotrop. Monogr.14(2): 1349. 1977 must be treated as synonymous with the type species Guzmania lingulata var. lingulata. What has happened to the plant with concolorous leaves? This becomes G. lingulata var concolor.

Guzmania lingulata var. concolor Proctor & Cedeno-Mald., Mono Gymno Puerto Rico Virgin Isl. US Nat Herb 52: 209. 2005

Type: Puerto Rico; Sierra de Luquillo, Loma La Mina, J A. Shafer 3279 (holotype: US).

Fig. 41. A-C

Folia numerosa in rosula densa, 25--50 cm larga, interiora breviora, integra. viridia concolora; vaginae plerumque distinctae, ovatae, punctulato-lepidotae; laminae lineari-attenuatae, ca. 4 cm latae, acutae vel acuminutae. Bracteae florales virides vel rubrae, erectae, lanceolatae vel lineari-attenuatae, acuminuto-acutae, cucullatae, sepalis multo longiores.
Butcher’s comments – But if Proctor and Cedeno-Maldonado had referred to Caraguata splendens Planchon 1856 - see photo - they would have seen that this species was described as having concolorous leaves confirmed by the illustration and that it was Mez who decided it had red stripes to the leaves. Both Planchon and Dietrich did not mention the red lines in the leaves but Beer did. Confused, well I am! If Proctor and Cedeno-Maldonado had accepted this then they could have amended the description of var lingulata to red lines and var. splendens to concolorous!

The presence or absence of red lines seems to have been overstressed as a taxonomic diagnosis. Baker 1889 who was known more of a lumper than a splitter, does indicate that Caraguata lingulata can have both concolorous or red lined leaves and we should leave it at that without defining unnecessary varieties ( A view expressed by Gouda 1987) meaning this variety should be treated as a synonym of var. lingulata.

I referred this to Dr Walter Till and got a different slant to the problem. I ask you to look carefully at the 1856 painting where I see leaves with ridges or longitudinal veins. The only time I see red veining is in what I interpret as peduncle bracts. This is what Walter had to say:

“If you look carefully at plate 3 in Allg. Gartenzeitung you can see red longitudinal lines. 

Mez was the first to make a distinction at variety level between concolorous and red lined leaves and attributed names to both types. In this way he interpreted the illustration (= Linnean type!) made from the specimen in Sloane’s Hortus siccus (in BM) and you may accept this as an amendment. This means, as a consequence, that a variety concolor is superfluous from a nomenclature point of view.”

Don’t get too confused here, because Walter refers to the painting in the German publication in 1856 which is identical to the painting used by the Frenchman, Planchon earlier in the same year!

Gouda in Flora of the Guianas 1987 did express the view that there were so many intermediates in nature that it was impossible to maintain the varieties splendens and minor but this was not generally accepted.

If we follow the LB Smith concept a current key to the species is as follows

1. Leaf-blades more than 25 mm wide; plants large; floral bracts strongly cucullate;

flowers numerous.

2. Outer (involucral) bracts of the inflorescence erect, red or pink. Leaves

concolorous or marked with red-purple longitudinal stripes. var.lingulata

2. Outer (involucral) bracts of the inflorescence spreading, bright scarlet.

var cardinalis.

1. Leaf-blades usually not more than 25 mm wide; plants small; floral bracts weakly

cucullate; flowers few.

3. Leaf-sheaths concolorous with the blades; outer (involucral) bracts of the

inflorescence red. var minor.

3. Leaf-sheaths castaneous; outer (involucral) bracts of the inflorescence bright

scarlet. var flammea.

As Eric Gouda points out ( pers comm) if you used this key in the Guianas , you could easily end up with all varieties within one population area! This is despite the view that var. flammea and var. cardinalis are supposedly Andean, but such are the problems of evolution! The size of this species is very variable as you find, for example, in Aechmea mertensii and the number of flowers varies with the size of the plant, also striping is not always clear! The intensity of striping was also of concern to Matthias Asmuss. From herbarium material it will be very difficult to identify these varieties, because most of the differentiation is in the colour and direction of the bracts. For example, all the Guianan material have orange coloured bracts (not red) and little differentiation in colouration within the inflorescence. Also some identified as var. minor from Central America have red involucral bracts and white tipped floral-bracts. There are also very different looking G. lingulata forms (in size and coloration) from Central America including some that have been given cultivar names such as ‘Fortuna’ and a red leaved form ‘Hoja Roja’, although the latter has yet to be registered. ‘Fortuna’ has had this name, and been linked to G. lingulata since 1990 and I understand it will be described as Guzmania speciosa by H Luther & K Norton in the near future. It has taken 19 years for this decision to be made. Such are the problems of identity and associated time delays.

As the retired Cultivar registrar I am reluctant to trespass too far into the area of the academic taxonomist, but I feel the so called varieties of this species should be looked at carefully. Things are not too rosy in the Cultivar side of things either because we have some 34 cultivars said to be different and said to have arisen from hybridising within this species with no involvement of pollen from other species. I won’t list these here but when we had the Cultivar Register on line under the old system, the entering of Lingulata as a Cultivar Group in the Search machine for the Cultivar Register on would have given the answer. Alas, this facility was taken away from us in July 2009. Unreported intra-specific hybrids would, no doubt, increase this number because it is a very attractive species with long lasting inflorescence.

It was refreshing to me when I found that Matthias Asmuss, of Venezuela was actually growing species Guzmania. Thanks to his collection we were able to work through the new key to show you photographs of what we feel could be interpreted as examples of the varieties.

I would like to thank Eric Gouda, Leo Dijkgraaf, Walter Till and Harry Luther for advice and access to ancient publications


Dietrich A in Otto & Dietrich, Allg. Gartenzeit. 24: 96, pl. 3. 1856.

Gouda E J , Flora of the Guianas ser. A, 3 (189), 1987

Planchon, Fl. Serres II: 31. pl. 1091. 1856;

Proctor and Cedeno-Maldonado, Monocots and Gymnosperms of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, in Contributions from the United States National Herbarium Volume 52: 1-415. 2005

Smith L B , Fl. Neotrop. Monogr.14(2): 1349. 1977

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