The colorful, vase-like plants growing in the soil and climbing up several of the palm trees nearby are part of our Garden Bromeliad Patch. Along the Rainbow Walk we have more than a dozen kinds of bromeliads growing together. There are over 3,000 species included in the bromeliad family, and many hundreds of varieties are grown as ornamental plants. With so many to choose from, we just do not have room for many more, although elsewhere in the Garden we have other different species growing. Some are usually in bloom and some display variously colored leaves, or both.
Bromeliads and pineapples are related, being in the same plant family–Bromeliaceae. Many Bromeliads are epiphytic—that is, they grow in or on trees or other plants—and many of them catch water in their central leaf whorl. In tropical rainforests, these tiny ponds nurture many kinds of organisms (e.g., algae, various insects, tree frogs) in a unique ecosystem, many feet above the forest floor.
Many different kinds of Bromeliads are sold in the nursery trade as beautiful flowering plants and/or strikingly colorful foliage plants that remain attractive for quite a long time before the inflorescence fades and the leaves of the mother plant wither. A few of the different species most note-worthy along the Rainbow Walk are: Guzmania lingulata, with its 12-18 inch tall yellow or red-orange inflorescence; Aechmea blanchetiana, with its long, wide coppery-bronze foliage and 6 foot tall red-yellow-orange inflorescence; and the numerous plants of Neoregelia caroliniae, with its pink center surrounded by glossy green leaves, that seems to be equally at home climbing a palm tree or growing in the soil.
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