Brazilian Sunburst bromeliads for dry gardens

Use this forum to discuss matters relating to xeric Bromeliads such as Hechtia, Dyckia, Puya, Tillandsia and related species. This is where one posts unknown plant photos for ID help.

Brazilian Sunburst bromeliads for dry gardens

Post Number:#1  Postby Stone Jaguar » Fri Aug 04, 2017 10:05 am

Terrestrial bromeliads of the genus Sincoraea (formerly Orthophytum) with nested/sessile inflorescences are spectacular in flower and very rewarding plants for the succulent grower. They originate from the plateaus and foothills of the Chapada Diamantina in Bahia, Brazil, where they are commonly known as "Raio de Sol" or "Sunburst" bromeliads. In 2010, Rafael Louzada and Maria da Gracas Lapa Wanderley published a monograph in "Phytotaxa" on this group of plants that provided a detailed, well-illustrated description and key to 13 species. Subsequently, at least one new species of this group has been described and it appears likely that others remain undescribed. It is also probable that there are natural hybrids between several of the species. Of the species currently accepted by taxonomists, about a dozen are in cultivation outside of Brazil although only Sincoraea navioides is relatively common in the nursery trade,

Sincoraea is a generic name resurrected for these species from a taxon Ernst Ule used for his 1908 description of S. amoena. While the name change is somewhat controversial among some old school bromeliad growers, I happen to agree wholeheartedly with this decision since these plants never seemed a good “fit” for Orthophytum to me.

In coastal north-central California I have found that a surprising number of species are temperature tolerant to withstand brief overnight lows to -2.20 degrees C (28 F) and brief daytime highs of ~38 degrees (~100 F). Of five species trialed that were left fully exposed to the sky on concrete decks for several winters running, only fully-exposed S. navioides and S. burle-marxii var. “seabrae” consistently died following prolonged exposure to cold and rain this past winter. Duplicates of these same plants grown outdoors under the same conditions but with some overhead protection did show some light brown tipping of the leaves, but otherwise survived visibly unscathed. I am referring here to flowering-sized plants and their attached offsets. Recently-separated offsets and seedlings should be provided with minimum temperatures of 5 degrees C (~40 degrees F) and slightly drier conditions than well-established plants. The most cold-wet tolerant species that I cultivate is S. sp. “Bahia” from Tropiflora, which is very much like some S. burle-marxii forms, and the spectacular bigeneric hybrid xNeophytum ‘Galactic Warrior’. Relative hardiness aside, I doubt they could handle any sort of lengthy freeze in north Texas or thecooler parts of the southeastern US.

I grow all of mine in terra cotta bowls of various sizes and 15 cm (6”) plastic azalea pots in a medium with very sharp drainage, consisting of (by volume) ~50% pumice, ~40% fine conifer bark and ~10% milled peat with a bit of red lava chips. This mix is pH amended to a slightly acid reading and fertilized with nutricote 14-14-14+ micros. A number of other successful growers use a greater percentage of fine bark as a major component of their growing mix, so there is room for experimentation as long as it is very free-draining. Plants achieve their best color at moderate temperatures with near full sun exposure all day. They require frequent watering when grown hard but are somewhat drought tolerant if shielded from intense sunshine. Under my current conditions, I try not to let the media dry out completely between waterings. In spite of living in an area with very bright sunshine for much of the year, the plants in the Bay Area rarely achieve the color intensity of these same plants grown fully exposed on my deck in Guatemala at 1550 masl (~5,000’), presumably due to greater UV intensity and 11-13 hours of full sun exposure. I have found them to be generally good subjects for growers with very bright bay windows, although they do grow rather larger than the norm like this and the colors are quite a bit less intense at anthesis. Plants I have grown on a bench in a cool, shaded greenhouse in California are etiolated and rather uninspiring when in flower, so long periods daily of very bright light is almost a must to see them at their best. Photos of these plants taken in situ in Brazil and posted on the internet usually provide a good template of what to strive for in cultivation.

While not as hardy as other landscape suitable rosetted “spineys” like Hechtia spp., Ochagavia spp. and Fascicularia bicolor, they are far more manageable than those genera for pot culture and are quite a bit less hard on bare hands and arms. They are also, in my opinion, infinitely more striking than the average Dyckia spp., especially when flowering. Pretty much pest-free, but keep an eye out for mealies in the leaf axils. Most are 35-45 cm/14-18” across when mature.

In full color, they are outstanding in mixed, massed plantings. I am not sure how well these plants would do in areas with extended periods of daytime temps over 35 degrees C (95 F), warm nights and low RH (e.g. southern Arizona and parts of southern California), but my collection has been exposed for short periods of time to daytime highs of =>38 degrees C (~100 F) coupled with fairly low RH on quite a few occasions over the past three years with no visible damage to the plants. Plants grow in warm, humid greenhouses and/or shadehouses in Florida do surprisingly well, but their colors are quite a bit less intense than one would consider optimum.

Great companion plants for fantasy aloes and showy, dwarf cacti on a patio table.

All of these are plants in my personal collection in California. Tropiflora has permission to use the first of these images of S. burle-marxii on their VIP lists, so some may have seen it before online.

Orthophytum burle-marxii var. burle-marxii.jpg
Orthophytum burle-marxii var. burle-marxii.jpg (125.82 KiB) Viewed 190 times

Orthophytum b m burle marxii.jpg
Orthophytum b m burle marxii.jpg (126.88 KiB) Viewed 190 times

O burle marxii seabrae.jpg
O burle marxii seabrae.jpg (156.75 KiB) Viewed 190 times

Orthophytum ulei type.jpg
Orthophytum ulei type.jpg (110.63 KiB) Viewed 190 times

Sincoraea albopicta.jpg
Sincoraea albopicta.jpg (81.74 KiB) Viewed 190 times

Sincoraea albopicta var. albescens.jpg
Sincoraea albopicta var. albescens.jpg (146.78 KiB) Viewed 190 times

Sincoraea cf. amoena.JPG
Sincoraea cf. amoena.JPG (88.69 KiB) Viewed 190 times

...and a nice primary hybrid.
xNeophytum Galactic warrior clean.JPG
xNeophytum Galactic warrior clean.JPG (138.2 KiB) Viewed 190 times

Happy Trails,

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Re: Brazilian Sunburst bromeliads for dry gardens

Post Number:#2  Postby Azuleja » Fri Aug 04, 2017 10:46 am

Wowza, thanks for the great information and photos. You're right, much prettier than dyckia though I think our extremes would be too much for them here.
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Re: Brazilian Sunburst bromeliads for dry gardens

Post Number:#3  Postby Viegener » Fri Aug 04, 2017 4:37 pm

Very informative, thanks!
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