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Flowering habit at Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii (USA). March 07, 2011.
Origin and Habitat: Colombia and Ecuador.
Habitat: Guzmania wittmackii grows in the dense rain forests of the coastline and of the Andes zones, up to 2000 m of altitude
Ecology Guzmania wittmackii is a day-flowering, close relative of Guzmannia alcantareoides, produces a brilliantly coloured inflorescence to catch the attention of birds who are the main pollinator of this species.
Description: Guzmania wittmackii is an evergreen herbaceous epiphytic bromeliad. It is a relatively large Guzmania, with a tall flower spike and prominent lilac purple bracts. The bracts remain in colour for months. It is distinct from most other species of the genus Guzmania in having definitely carinate floral bracts.
Stem: Nearly acaulescent or with a very short stocky stem.
Rosette: Funnel-shaped with the leaves placed in way to form a rosette with central cavity usually full of water.
Leaves: Unarmed, glossy dark green leaves, up to 60-80 cm long and 2-3 cm broad.
Inflorescence: The short floral scape, at the centre of the rosette, is covered by bracts resembling to the leaves, and ends with an about 80 cm long inflorescence, formed by oblong, carinate, floral bracts, prominent and wrapping the base, of decreasing length towards the apex, usually magenta coloured which remain unchanged for about four months. The flowers, inside the bracts, are white with about 9 cm long petals.
Blooming season: Usually in cultivation it flowers fromlate winter to spring. It is a monocarpic plant (bearing flower/fruit only one time during its existence) and a rosette usually reaches the flowering size in three to four years and then fade over a period of one years.
Remarks:Across its range it is quite variable and it has been used for breeding as the primary parent for many of the variously coloured guzmanias widely used in interior scapes and tropical shade gardens. Cultivars produce blooms in a variety of differently coloured bracts, such as yellow, orange, red, mauve, and lavender.
Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Forest & Kim Starr Guzmania wittmackii (Guzmanea). Plants of Hawaii. <http://www.starrenvironmental.com>. Downloaded on 16 Sep. 2014.
2) Wikipedia contributors. "Guzmania wittmackii." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 21 Aug. 2014. Web. 17 Sep. 2014.
3) Hortipedia contributors. "Guzmania wittmackii." Hortipedia, The GardenInfoPortal <http://en.hortipedia.com>, 21 Aug. 2014. Web. 17 Sep. 2014."RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants." United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008
4) Gilmartin, A. J. 1972. "The Bromeliaceae of Ecuador." Phanerog. Monogr. 4: 1–255.
5) Walter Erhardt, Erich Götz, Nils Bödeker, Siegmund Seybold “Der große Zander” Eugen Ulmer KG, Stuttgart 2008
6) Christoper Brickell (Editor-in-chief) “RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants.” Third edition. Dorling Kindersley, London 2003
7) Giuseppe Mazza “Guzmania wittmackii” <http://www.photomazza.com> Web 17 Sep. 2014
8) David H. Benzing “Bromeliaceae: Profile of an Adaptive Radiation” Cambridge University Press, 06/apr/2000
9) Victoria Padilla “The colorful bromeliads: their infinite variety” Bromeliad Society, 1981
10) Amy Jean Gilmartin “The Bromeliaceae of Ecuador” Verlag Von J. Cramer, 1972
11) Francisco Oliva Esteva, Julián Alfred Steyermark “Bromeliaceaes of Venezuela: native and cultived” Armitano, 1987
Cultivation and Propagation: Guzmania wittmackii is a bromelid of remarkable ornamental value, both for the foliage and for the particular shape and colour of the inflorescence. As it is native to rainforests, cool evening temperatures with warm days and high humidity describes its best growing conditions, however it grows very well as a home plant too. Individual plants live three to four years.
Growing substrate: This bromeliad grows as an epiphyte or saxicolous and requires a well-drained, aerated, porous and moisture-retentive substratum which is rich of organic substance, but best results are obtained when it is grown epiphytically and roots are covered with moss or coarse crushed tree fern fibre encased in a container or wired to the surfaces of boulders, rough bark, rock walls, or tree branches. Living among the branches of the south American rainforests bromeliads need very little root space so do not place in too large a pot. Root rot can be a problem if the soil is too moist. Continue to depot annually in the spring until the bromeliad fills a 10-15 cm pot. Small pots can induce blooms in mature plants.
Exposition: Grow guzmania in bright filtered light both indoors and out. In the garden it prefers partially shaded areas and grow best where they'll get morning sun, or shifting shade throughout the day. It adapts very well to deep shade and dim interior rooms, surviving well on fluorescent lighting alone. Low light often intensifies the bract colors that develop.
Watering: It enjoys constant moisture from rain or sprinkler. In dry and hot climate, humidity can be increased with nebulisations utilizing water at room temperature and not calcareous. In summer, some distilled water can be left in the central cavity formed by the rosette of leaves, renewing it frequently to avoid the formation of a mosquito larvae nest, whilst in winter it is better to leave it dry, thus avoiding possible rottenness. In presence of dry air and high temperatures, humidity can be incremented with nebulisations, utilizing water at room temperature and not calcareous, in order not to cause anti-aestethic dots on the leaves. Requires complete and perfect drainage. If you have one that is not flowering then keep very warm in the spring and water sparingly. To remove excess salt build-up, leach bromeliad pot once during the summer.
Feeding: Apply a very weak liquid feed every month or so over the growing season and a mild solutions (one-quartet strength) of foliar fertilizer at 3-month intervals to both garden and container plants. Apply fertilizer to leaves, roots, and reservoir.
Hardiness: It must be grown in a frost-free situation in open air in the tropical and humid subtropical climate countries, with temperatures which it is good to keep over the 14°C, best 20-24°C. Its foliage gets damaged already with temperatures just over the 0°C.
Pest & diseases: It is susceptible to scale, trips and mosquitos that will sometimes breed in the pools of water that are trapped between the leaves. Mealybugs infestations are also a frequent problem.
Tip: Remove old leaves from plant base and dead ﬂower spikes only. Remove older plant crown when it begins to fade.
Use: The plant, and even more its hybrids, can be cultivated as a house plant or patio container filler, or under tropical shade trees as a groundcover or accent.
Propagation: When the flower spike fades, pups appear from axillary gemmae between the leaves near the base of the plants. The offsets can be detached and repotted when they have reached the dimension of one third of the mother plant. Be sure to provide high humidity for a month after propagating the offsets. It may also be grown from seed: remove seeds from inﬂorescence and lay them uncovered on a bed of crushed tree fern fibres; keep constantly but moderately moist. Starting from the seed, 5-6 years are needed for the blossoming, whilst at least 3 years are needed by division. The wide scale reproduction for commercial purposes is done by micro-propagation.
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