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Bromeliad Family

Aechmea nudicaulis (L.) Griseb., an epiphytic bromeliad in the subfamily Bromelioideae. Note the spines at the leaf edges and the fine parallel venation. Una bromelia epífita de la subfamilia Bromelioideae. Note las espinas en las márgenes y las venas finas y paralelas.

Description: Bromeliaceae are primarily epiphytic, but some are terrestrial. They are recognizable by their closely parallel-veined leaves and their dense rosette growth form, often with pools of water trapped in the leaf axils. These pools provide habitat for mosquito larvae, tadpoles, flatworms, and a host of other interesting flora (Richardson et al. 2000). The family is divided into three subfamilies (Morales 2000). Pitcairnioideae, the basal group, have serrate leaf margins (often quite sharp) and wind-dispered winged fruit. Bromelioideae can have serrate to entire margins, and always have fleshy fruits, dispersed by birds or mammals. Tillandsioideae (including the genus Tillandsia, “Spanish moss,” and the house plants known as “air plants”) have entire margins and wind-dispersed, tufted seeds.

Economic uses: Bromeliads are used as ornamentals in many tropical gardens. The pineapple is the fruit of a terrestrial bromeliad (Ananas comosus, subfamily Bromelioideae); fields of cultivated pineapple are common in the Zona Norte of Costa Rica.

Descripción: Las Bromeliaceas usualmente son epifitas, pero algunas son terrestres. Las bromelias se reconocen por sus hojas con venas finas y paralelas, usualmente formando una roseta densa. Muchas veces hay agua atrapados en las cuencas formadas por la base de las hojas. En estas cuencas viven larvas de zancudos, planarias, renacuajos, y otros animales interesantes (Richardson et al. 2000).

Hay tres subfamilias de bromelias (Morales 2000). El grupo basal, las Pitcairnioideae, tienen hojas con espinas (a veces muy agudas) en las márgenes de las hojas, y semillas aladas dispersadas por el viento. Las Bromelioideae tienen los márgenes serrados o enteros, y siempre tienen frutos carnosos, dispersados por aves o mamíferos. Tillandsioideae, incluso el genero Tillandsia (que en inglés se llama “air plants,” o plantas aéreas, porque obtienen nutrientes directamente de la atmósfera con sus hojas escamosos), tienen las márgenes enteras y las semillas con penachos, dispersados por el viento.

Usos económicos: Muchas bromelias se usa como ornamentales en jardines e invernaderos. La piña es la infrutescencia de una bromelia terrestre (Ananas comosus, subfamilia Bromelioideae) que se cultiva frecuentemente en la Zona Norte.

Genera/species at La Selva: 9/31: Pitcairnioideae: Pitcairnia (2) Bromelioideae: Aechmea (7), Ananas (1), Androlepis (1) Tillandsioideae: Catopsis (3), Guzmania (4), Tillandsia (9), Vriesea (1), Werauhia (3).

FIELD MARKS – mostly tank-forming epiphytes. Subfamilies distinguished by whether leaf margins and entire (smooth) or serrate and by whether the fruits are fleshy or wind dispersed.

Epiphytic bromeliads (Werauhia).
Epiphytic bromeliads.
Pineapple, Ananas comosus, is a terrestrial bromeliad.
Epiphytic bromeliads.
Guzmania in bloom.
Achmea nudicaulis is a member of the subfamily Bromeliodeae with spiny leaf margins.
Tank-forming rosette of Aechmea reginae.
Bromeliad flowers are often associated with brightly colored leafy bracts.


  • Richardson, B.A., C. Rogers, and M.J. Richardson. 2000. Nutrients, diversity, and community structure of two phytotelm systems in a lower montane forest, Puerto Rico. Ecological Entomology 25: 348-356.

< < Previous family: Boraginaceae
Next family: Burseraceae > >
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