|Aechmea bromeliifolia, ‘Brillig’, ‘Red Bands’ and allied hybrids
OR get to know your Aechmea maculata!
In 1986 Geoff Lawn attended the Bromeliad Conference in New Orleans. In Bromeletter 25(2):15. 1987 we read, “Depending on the source, another winner is variously labelled Ae. triangularis ‘Red Bands’ or Ae. maculata or Ae. triangularis x maculata, its crossbanding more pronounced towards the rosette base.”
We know that the plants that resemble Aechmea bromeliifolia or the Aechmea sub-genus Macrochordion are difficult to identify. One has only to read Harry Luther’s comments in J. Brom. Soc. 48(6): 244-5. 1998 to find out why!
Aechmea triangularis has blue flowers and Aechmea maculata has yellow flowers so why the various linking to ‘Red Bands’. Since 1986 we have had the Bromeliad Cultivar Register published and we find that Aechmea ‘Red Bands’ seems to be a Seaborn hybrid of maculata and triangularis. I quote from the Bromeliad Cultivar Registry 1998
“cv of maculata x triangularis – formula from verbal commentary and diagnosis by Harry Luther in 1996 – sometimes known as ‘Seaborn’s Red Bands’ – Medium upright rosette with sharply tapered pale grey green leaves distinctly marked on outer leaf surface with red maroon thin cross bands – originally thought to be a form of A. triangularis – Thelma O’Reilly attributes the cultivar to a sport of triangularis for Alice Quiros which was refined and given to Seaborn – the cultivar is listed in 1977 Kent as triangularis (banded leaves)and Belton in 1983 as triangularis (red bands) – Bromeliad Treasury 1983 said, “New hybrid adds a touch of color to triangularis – inflorescence is same as triangularis except flowers are blue-green.”
We know that a yellow petalled plant crossed with a blue petalled plant can give odd coloured petals in the progeny. In this case blue-green is quoted but in my experience the plants I have seen seem to vary between a dirty yellow to blue green to what I call a dirty grey. BUT never the bright yellow you associate with a true A. maculata.
In about the same period as the catalogues quoted above, namely 1984, I saw in California what I thought to be an “Aechmea bromeliifolia” but with beautiful cross banding. Paul Isley said he thought it was Aechmea maculata and this name remained on the tag until Harry Luther’s article in 1998 as above. The plant keys out to be an Aechmea bromeliifolia with its very short flowers – in fact the sepals are usually only 5mm long - except for the leaf markings. This sort of leaf markings is not mentioned in any of the descriptions of any of the species in this group! Even if we look at Aechmea maculata we find that only spots on the leaf sheath are mentioned! Because of its unique banding it should have a cultivar name and I’ll be calling it Aechmea ‘Crossbands’
Could this plant have been a parent to ‘Red Bands’ and supplied the leaf markings?
Now to the mid 1990’s in Australia when Peter Franklin and I discussed a plant we had each got at separate times from Bill Morris. It had A. maculata? on the label but Peter and I could not get past the greyish flowers. We were almost going to call the plant ‘The Old Grey Mare’ but we chanced upon Aechmea ‘Red Bands’. We wondered what colour of the petals were on the Aechmea ‘Red Bands’ in BirdRock Tropicals Catalogue in 2001 because ours were not really blue green. Pam Koide could not remember so we were not much more forward. No other similar hybrids had been reported with A. triangularis as a parent so we felt we must be looking at ‘Red Bands’. If there is anyone in California that has this plant we would like to hear more about it because of the confusion about its creation!
Now to another hybrid from this group namely ‘Brillig’ which seems to had a similar stormy past and similar identity problems. Peter Franklin got a plant (PAF1105) called ‘Brillig’ from Bill Morris and which luckily still had CJ 3/84 2/86 suggesting it came from Carol Johnson of Pineapple Place Florida. Reference to the Bromeliad Cultivar Register shows its parents to be maculata x bromeliifolia var albobracteata. On page 207 in the Journal of the Bromeliad Society Vol 33 No.5. 1983 we read
“ has strongly banded foliage which is apple green and red brown (in other words apple green foliage with red brown bands). The pink scape bracts are banded as on the foliage. The inflorescence is cylindrical and stands 20-25cm above the foliage. The yellow flowers turn black as they age.”
Alas, the scape bracts are not banded as expected. Peter also obtained an Aechmea maculata (PAF 1229) from another source in New South Wales and this turned out to be the same as the ‘Brillig’! But where do the leaf markings come from? We do know that Pineapple Place did grow an Aechmea bromeliifolia (Banded form). Could it be the case of foreign pollen?!
By the way, you do not identify A. maculata just by the spotting on the leaf sheath but rather on the bright yellow petals, the sepals at least 8mm long and the retuse floral bracts ( a ‘v’ cut at the tip). It is also interesting that on the very page in Bromeletter where Geoff Lawn was expounding the virtues of ‘Red Bands’in 1987 ‘Brillig’ was on offer in the Seed bank! ‘Brillig’ is an alleged F1 hybrid and its F2 generation would have produced a motley crew including throwbacks to A. maculata!! Is anyone still growing seedlings from 1987 that do NOT have banding?! Did they wonder if they were wrongly named?
Alas there are no original photographs in the Bromeliad Register for either ‘Red Bands’ where the detail was gleaned well after the event with conflicting information or ‘Brillig’ where the photo has been lost.
We know that A. maculata is in Australia because it was grown for years as A. lamarchei ‘Rubra’. Harry Luther’s article in 1998 prompted me to this. It may also be grown in its non-rubra form! Remember it has notched floral bracts not long papery ones (as in A. lamarchei) and has bright yellow petals.
We think that A ‘Red Bands’ is in Australia – just look for an odd coloured petal. If your plant has this then please change the name.
We surmise A. ‘Brillig’ is in Australia but there will also be seedlings around to cloud the issue.