On the trail of aechmea roberto-seidelii by Derek Butcher in Bromeletter 24(6): 1986

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ON THE TRAIL OF AECHMEA ROBERTO-SEIDELII by Derek Butcher in Bromeletter 24(6): 9. 1986
In 1981, three of us in South Australia obtained seed from Diane Pippin, then the seed officer for the Bromeliad Society Incorporated, in the United States. None of us knew what we were ordering or even what Aechmea roberto- seidelii was supposed to look like.

We all had good germination and whereas Josie Tonkin and myself had all maroon-red leaved survivors, Maureen Hick had green leaved specimens as well, one we called Aechmea ‘Hiccup’. This, with an alleged species, which should have produced a more stable grex!

All the plants had a similarity in shape to Aechmea 'Foster's Favorite', but with slightly wider leaves. When my plants produced a flower similar to Aechmea racinae, then it seemed I should really try to trace a description of Aechmea roberto-seidelii. The Bromelioideae tome of Smith and Downs indicated that Aechmea roberto-seideliii was reduced to Synonymy under Aechmea pineliana. As we all know, this is a plant with stiff leaves and an erect inflorescence. Here in South Australia, Aechmea pineliana is always the plant that gets Florel or Carbide treatment to force it into flower. It is only the variety 'minima' that flowers without artificial aid.

It was clear that our plants had the wrong name. When Maureen Hick's green leaved efforts produced pendant flowers, but of a different colour combination, the coincidence was too great. We must surely be looking at Aechmea 'Foster's Favorite' F2. That is, the seedlings should show some affinity to either the original parents, namely Aechmea victoriana and Aechmea racinae or, of course, the original hybrid.

Alas, this saga does not finish here because there is an Aechmea seideliana var. purpurea which was imported from U.S.A. I have recently acquired a plant from Olwen Ferris (I have this plant as Aechmea seideliana 'Rubrafolia', Olwen Ferris) and on first glance it seems to be similar to our afore-mentioned seedlings! Regrettably, many of us in Australia feel imported plants from America must be correctly named and must be better than its seed raised counterpart!

I have been unable to trace any botanical description of Aechmea seideliana and cannot believe it has any relationship to the old Aechmea seidelii. This was eventually a nidularium and named by Smith and Reitz in 1963. This plant has a flowerhead in the fashion of Nidularium billbergioides but more impressive with much stronger bracts. Alas, it seems to grow easily in Brisbane, but we do have problems with it here in Adelaide.

I digress for a moment because I have already referred to roberto-seidelii, seidelii, and seideliana. I know I am always telling our hybridists to give it a name or ­ "PUTITINTHEBIN, but botanists are not averse to causing naming problems. Why do they use people's names when they could use descriptive names? It seems to be a case of botanlsts joining the bandwagon for fear of being accused of ignoring the merit of one individual. Thus we have the many species bearing Foster's name. Surely the more times a name is used, the less impressive it becomes and thus tends to become common. I may be complain­ing about the over-use of Foster's name but I believe that Alvimi and Seideli will soon be in the ascendancy. I realise that Alvim Seidel has done much collecting in his area of Brazil and has found many new species, but surely his name has been used enough already.

In conclusion, my problem may have been more easily solved with different sounding species names, but alas, it still remains. Can some reader paint me a description that I can align to my plants? At the moment it is on the cards as 'FAVORITE HICCUP'

Aechmea ALIAS roberto-seidelii by Derek Butcher ,in Bromeletter 31(3): 4-6. 1993
In the Nov/Dec 1986 issue of Bromeletter I introduced you to the problem of Aechmea roberto-seidelii and Aechmea seideliana. We laid to rest A. seideliana in 1990 when we showed a line drawing of what it should look like and found it was already in Australia thanks to the assistance of Ruby Ryde and Peter Franklin. A. seideliana v. purpurea although not an accepted variety by Luther is in Australia too, thanks to Bill Morris and Marj McNamara even though it came into Australia under the wrong name.

But what about that plant that looks like A.warasii but isn't.

At the Sydney Conference 1991 I showed slides of what I believed to be the correct situation. We had three look alikes - A. warasii, A. roberto-seidelii and A.seideliana v. rubrafolia. All flowers were sessile - that is, there was no stem between the flower and the main flower stalk, and petals violet with white edges.

A species named A. roberto-seidelii had been reduced to synonymy under A. pineliana and was NOT our plant; but WHAT was our plant - was it hybrid or species?

Remember, the B.S.I. seed bank in the U.S.A. in 1981 offered Aechmea roberto-seidelii and we in Sth. Australia noted some odd happenings. We didn't keep all the seedlings but some were maroon leaved and some green leaved. The maroon leaved ones seemed to equate with the many forms of A. 'Fosters Favorite' which has virtually sessile flowers and the green leaved with A. racinae even to the pedicels and petals bluish with yellow top portion. An interesting point is that when Foster took out a patent on A. 'Fosters

Favorite' he went to great lengths to describe the leaves but only said the inflorescence differed from both parents. How it differed we do not know although a photograph in the March/April 1988 B.S.I. Journal indicates an almost sessile flower. Note that A.victoriana (the other parent) has sessile flowers and this seems to have shortened the length of the pedicel.

Because BSI seed bank seed produces weird results in lots of instances (for that matter

so too does the B.S.A. seed bank) we do have to watch carefully the progeny obtained.

This is good exercise for the beginner because it teaches us to really look at our plants .Growing from seed is exciting but you can never guarantee the name on the packet ESPECIALLY for a hybrid because the name is always wrong!

Geoff Lawn of Western Australia believed he had the 'true' Aechmea 'Roberto Seidel' , obtained from Bob Hudson in Cairns , and sent me self-set seed and an offset. Guess what! I have maroon leaved and green leaved progeny. So the plant in Australia (and presumably in the U.S.A. ) under the name of A. 'Roberto Seidel' or roberto-seidelii with a pendant flower is acting like a hybrid. Alvim Seidel did confirm with me by letter in 1990 that HIS A. roberto-seidelii had pendant flowers like A. racinae which contradicts the original description because THAT one became an A. pineliana and so, he too is confused .

I was recently reading back issues of the B.S. I. Journal and came across an article that prompted this article. In the Mar/Apr 1979 issue, Luis Carlos and Sergio Gurken wrote: -
Aechmea racinae var. racinae

This interesting variety occurs in the rainy mountains of Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, a municipality in the state of Espirito Santo, which is situated just north of the state of Rio de Janeiro bordering the coast. It was initially collected by Mulford B. Foster in the village of Guiomar near the small city of Vargem Alta. Foster named this attractive small aechmea after his wife, Racine.

We found this variety alongside the road that connects Vargem Alta to Guiomar, in the few forest areas that still remain. The native growth of the region has been destroyed in order to make way for the cultivation of coffee and black beans. We noticed that the plant grows as an epiphyte in trees near small brooks in very humid areas.

Aechmea racinae var . erecta

This variety differs from A.racinae var. racinae by having a short, erect scape. The variety erecta occurs in the municipality of Domingos Martins near the city of Paraju in a location somewhat higher than that of the village of Guiomar. We found it growing as an epiphyte and among quartz rocks. We found one plant that had a yellow inflorescence except for the base of the petals that was of a greenish colour .

A possible natural hybrid of Aechmea racine var. erecta and Aechmea warasii was given to us by a friend. Both plants grow in the same region around Domingos Martins and both bloom in August .

Aechmea racinae var . ?

In the state of Rio de Janeiro bordering Sao Paulo, in the municipality of Angra dos Reis, we found an unknown variety of Aechmea racinae. It grows in the mountains near the coast where there is heavy rainfall. There was no record that we could find of this plant having been found in this location. This possible new variety has reddish leaves and flowers with purple petals and brilliant red berries."

This started bells ringing. Whilst we may have suspected hybridization in the wild we now have some proof. Could our plant be a hybrid between A.racinae and A.warasii?

To add yet another dimension Kautsky found an intermediate plant in Domingos Martins which was named A.racinae v. intermedia but became A.warasii v. intermedia in 1985. See B.S.I. Journal Mar/Apr 1985 p.66. Now, I am really intrigued that the Latin diagnosis says that the variety' intemedia ' differs from A. warasii by having shorter pedicels BUT A.warasii has NO pedicel (flowers are sessile) whereas it is A.racinae that has the pedicel. Confused? Well, read on.

Was this intermediate variety the natural hybrid referred to by Carlos and Gurken? The inflorescence looks more like an A.racinae but with shorter pedicels so is not our plant.

What it does indicate is that there are variations on themes out there in the wild and we are still without a conclusive answer.

Let's bite the bullet. I have A.warasii and its more robust imposter in my collection and I find the "true" one harder to grow through winter. That is the only difference unless you happen to grow on self set seed . I intend adding an Aechmea ' Roberto Seidel’ , to my hybrid check list indicating that A.roberto seidelii and A.seideliana var. rubrafolia are synonyms of it, and of its tenuous links with A.warasii.

I am somewhat loth to give any names to the progeny because they may or may not be

throwbacks to A.racinae and a lost label will mean ultimately that A.racinae is put on it. You can, of course, change your label from A.roberto-seidelii to A.warasii and no one could doubt you (unless you gave them some seed) .

From a horticultural point of view, if anyone has grown selfset seed from A. warasii or A. seideliana var. rubrafolia please let me know.

From a botanical point of view it would seen that "the birds and the bees" are having a great time out there in the wild with what could be called the "racinae - warasii victoriana" complex and perhaps some botanist will look at these similarities so that we can see some rationalisation.

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