Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Fascicularia bicolor

Fascicularia bicolor subsp. bicolor
Photo (c) Gerald Luckhurst, Nov. 2008


This plant is found at both Monserrate and Pena, growing by the thousand in dense clusters under trees. It is easily, though strenuously, propagated through division; it is by this means that this bromeliad (pineapple family) has spread all over Sintra. For all that, it is a rare sight to see one in flower, as in the example photographed above. Flowering would be more profuse if these plants were not relegated to such poor growing conditions. They are so tough that they are found only in places where little else would grow. The occasional flowering specimen is found always growing atop a stone wall, or on a rock, and in reasonable light.

Fascicularia growing in Oak Trees in Wales

The Fasicularia was introduced to European gardens from Chile in 1851. It grows in the high Andes where it is generally terrestrial. It is also found on seaside rocks as at Tierra del Fuego.

Fascicularia bicolor subsp. canaliculata is found as an epiphyte in some regions of Chile. It is known as “Chupalla” which means a straw hat. Growing in evergreen forests where there is rainfall of 4,600 mm a year, it exploits and dominates an aerial habitat. The forest trees are covered by climbing plants and epiphytes. Vegetation is so dense that very little direct sunlight reaches the forest floor. During the winter months the region is covered with snow (980m altitude). It is one of the hardiest of all bromeliads.

The fruit, never seen in Sintra, is eaten in Chile. It is fleshy, sweet and refreshing when sucked on, hence the plants have another common name “chupĆ³n”.

Fascicularia bicolor (Ruiz & Pav.) Mez Monographiae Phanerogamarum 9: 9. 1896.

Formerly known as Rhodostachys bicolor, or litoralis,
The widely used synonym Fascicularia pitcairniifolia has been demonstrated to be invalid.

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