Collecting Bromeliads and Orchids in Florida

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            Welcome to Jacks Florida Bromeliads and Orchids

 

   Yes... You guessed right, I'm Jack and welcome to my website.



         (Check the bottom of this home page for ordering and visiting information)
                              Email me at... Jacks Florida Bromeliads

   I became interested in bromeliads some twenty plus years ago... and orchards much later.
Having been born and raised here on Florida's Gulf Coast, I was always aware of the importance Florida played in agriculture, especially going back to the days of picking "Wild Strawberries" out at old famer Bob's place for... what!.. a few cents a basket? The Picnic Lunch was always the highlight of a Sunday afternoon... especially going to Church on Sunday morning and again Sunday night.

   Back in the early 80s, after a sucessfull Cabinet and Trim busness turned into a full blown Kitchen and Bath remolding enterprise, I was finally able to devote more time to a new little hobby I started... growing and collecting epiphytes... bromeliads to be specific.

   I had always seen these (tillandsia) in the trees in and around the Tampa Bay area as a kid, but it wasn't until my first trip down the Soutwest Coast over to Miami on the old US 41... the 'Tamiami Trail'... that I really became fascinated with how much diversity there was within this plant family. 

   From the beginning I always liked the Tillandsias... but when I discovered all the different bromeliad genera out there, all the varities... that's all it took, the fever was on.

   Thinking back... I would have to say that it was one of our first visits to Selby Gardens, just a mere twenty minute drive. My wife and I went to one of their spring plant festivals over the weekend... every plant vendor from Florida was there, not the least of which was Sarasota's local Bromeliad Society. Having planned on just the Saturday vist, we wound up going back Sunday to finish the bromeliad selections that I had failed to bring enough funds for in the first place... it helped having a large van.

  

Now the hunt was on. I needed more space. One year later we  finished our shadehouse... I was fortunate to have the tools and knowledge to do the construction myself.
One year after that...
 of course it was now way too small so... the second and now the third and final chapter has now been done, 
the 04 and 05 hurricane season saw to that.

What was once a nice little hobby of sorts, has now become a full-time obsession of peace and enjoyment for both of us. Not to mention that our properity has been, over the years... become "Our Private Rainforest"...

The Biodiversity of Bromeliads

In nature, the presence of an organism in a ecosystem always provides an opportunity for the survival of other species. Members of a certain species living in a given ecosystem, allow their predators to become established also.

Many animals are hosts to parasites that live inside (endoparasites) or outside (ectoparasites) their bodies. A plant species provides a microhabitat where other species find shelter and feed on plants. Studies have shown that the more branches, twigs and leaves a plant has, the greater is its "Architectural Complexity" and therefore the more organisms that find shelter, food and mates there.

Each organism in an ecosystem provides a chance for other species to exist and that biodiversity will be greater or smaller, depending on how many species that organism can support.

The importance of bromeliads as organisms that act as true amplifiers of biodiversity in an ecosystem.

 Two characteristics of bromeliads are responsible for this: the complex and heterogeneous architecture of the plant and the ability of most species to collect water in their tank. The complex nature of bromeliads offers a wide range of microhabitats for organisms to find necessary conditions for their survival.

These organisms use the bromeliad in a variety of ways depending on their needs. Many animals seek shelter in bromeliads from predators or from the harsh weather outside the plant. Many invertebrate species are part of the bromeliad fauna and live their whole life cycle, or at least part of it, inside these plants. Some vertebrates such as lizards and frogs find refuge from predators there, and since bromeliads attract a large number of organisms, many predators like some snakes, also search here for prey.

The water accumulated in a bromeliad tank is a vital resource for many animal and plant species. Several invertebrates, such as dragonflies and beetles, and even some vertebrates such as frogs, depend on the tank water as a place to lay eggs and where the larvae can grow and complete their life cycle. Several other animals (small mammals such as marsupials and rodents) depend on the water stored in forest bromeliads to maintain a balanced metabolism.

The humidity found inside bromeliads is very important not only to animals, but to some plants as well. Seeds that fall inside a bromeliad during dispersal, find more favorable conditions for germination and development as seedlings than in the drier environment outside the plant. This happens quite frequently, especially in habitats where water is scarce and is concentrated inside the bromeliads, as is some coastal plain environment (restingas). Here, seed germination is rarer on the sandy soil than inside the bromeliads
These soils are poor in nutrients and exposed to high temperatures because of the sun shining on the sand so, its easy to find seedlings growing inside many terrestrial bromeliads in forests and restingas.

 However, it is not only the water in the bromeliad tank or among its leaves that other organisms live or find resources. Bromeliad flowers and their nectar draw a wide range of pollinators that find nutrition there.

So flowering bromeliads are an important source of food for pollinators such as bees, wasps, moths, butterflies and hummingbirds, among others. Organisms such as acarids also complete their life cycle in these flowers. Bromeliad flowers are a refuge for many acarid species that use the beak and nostrils of pollinating hummingbirds as a means of transportation from one flower to another in search of mates (Colwell 1998). The relationship is so specialized, that the flowers of one bromeliad species have only one acarid species. Although a hummingbird pollinates the flowers of many different bromeliad species, and therefore carries many acarid species in its beak and nostrils, each acarid gets off at the appropriate bromeliad species to find its mate and reproduce.

Of course, a relationship so specialized has taken thousands of years to evolve, but all can be lost in a few days when bromeliads are lost to forest destruction.

Recent Estimates

 Recent estimates from scientific studies give an idea of how important bromeliads are to the environment where they live. One of these studies estimated that an impressive two million liters of water are stored inside the tanks of just one bromeliad species..... (Vriesea neoglutinosa) in a 210 hectare (520 acres) area of restinga in the state of Espirito Santo. This estimate leads to imagine just how many other life forms would be lost if this water were to vanish with the destruction of bromeliads and their habitat.

Another recent study estimated that there are nearly 104,000 bromeliads in each hectare (2.4 acres) of Atlantic forest. If we estimate conservatively that each bromeliad may hold some 50 organisms of different species (disregarding those that are aquatic or microscopic) then every hectare of forest would have at least 5,200,000 organisms living inside of the bromeliads.

Futhermore, if we consider the thousands of micro-scopic beings that live in the water of the bromeliad tank and its flowers, this number would swell to hundreds of millions of organisms. Suppose that we now add the animals that seek out bromeliads in search of drinking water, or as a thermo-regulatory site to find prey, the result would be that a considerable portion of ecosystem biodiversity depends on the bromeliads for survival, making bromeliads key players in the ecosystem.

Imagine then, the huge amount of life that is lost when the bromeliads of a habitat are destroyed because of the way bromeliads act as amplifiers and multipliers of the local biodiversity. Biodiversity is one of Brazil's greatest riches but, at the same time. preservation of this wealth is one of the biggest challenges faced today... 
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References:

Almedia, D.R. 1997
Composicao, riqueza de diversidade das communidades
de bromeliaceas em diferentes ambientes da area
de Mata Atlantica da Vila Dois Rios, Ilha Grande

Alves, M.A. Rocha, C.F.D. & Van Sluys, M. 1996
Recomposicao de uma populacao
de Vriesea neoglutinosa 15 meses apos queimada

Colwell, R.K. 1998
Stowaways on the Hummingbird Express
Natural History 7(85): 56-63

Ecology Sector, DBAV, Biology Institute,
Rio de Janerio State University
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Contact Information

I am a Private Collector not a commercial grower.
I do though from time to time have a considerable
amount of extra plants, both potted and offsets
available for trade or sale.

I can be reached at the following
Email address:

> Jacks Bromeliads at MSN