The pineapple is the most commonly known bromeliad, a diverse group of plants in the family Bromeliaceae. Some grow in soil, some on rocks, and others—like Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides)—grow without any soil by taking water and nutrients from the air. Other than a single species in western Africa the bromeliad family is an entirely New World family. This diverse plant group contains over 3000 species and can be found growing from sea level to over 14,000 feet altitude in the Andes and from the wet tropics to dry deserts. Bromeliads are very ornamental, both for their unique foliage and flowers, with innumerable hybrids and cultivars.
Bromeliad-Frog Mutualism: Listen closely and you may hear the songs of frogs across the bromeliad garden. Frogs use the water reservoirs inside tank bromeliads to lay eggs and rear tadpoles. The ecosystem inside the water reservoir of a tank bromeliad is incredibly complex! Several hundred species of aquatic organisms can be found including fungi, algae, protozoa, small invertebrates such as insects, and spiders, and vertebrates such as frogs, salamanders, and snakes. Mosquito larvae serve as a good food source for growing tadpoles. The bromeliad benefits from this relationship through the increased uptake of nutrients left by all these living organisms.
Coast Live Oak tree (Quercus agrifolia): Madame Ganna Walska had her bromeliads arranged in the shelter of several large coast live oak trees. Bromeliads are well suited for landscaping beneath coast live oaks because they do not require deep watering, which is detrimental to the oaks. As you walk around this tree, stop and take a close look inside of some tank types of bromeliads, which have overlapping leaf bases that act as reservoirs. Do you see any signs of life inside one of these tanks?
Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides): Bring yourself close to a strand of this sliver-thread-like foliage. Epiphytic species such as this have tiny hairs, known as trichomes, that help to absorb atmospheric moisture. Spanish moss was an important economic plant in the years before the development of synthetic packing materials, serving not only to cushion goods and produce for shipment, but also to stuff pillows, furniture cushions and the like. It still serves these purposes in parts of Mexico, central and South America.
Pineapple (Ananas comosus): The pineapple was originally discovered in tropical areas of South America (mainly Brazil). During the 1500s and 1600s, this fruit was distributed around the world on ships and today pineapples are one of the most popular fruits in the world. This variegated specimen form is not typically grown for its fruit, rather appreciated for its beautiful foliage.
Rooster grotto: This stone grotto, topped by two lead roosters, was originally built for Madame Walska in the 1940s. The rooster is an unofficial symbol of France, and was a reminder of Ganna’s fondness for the time she spent living there. The benches were made by Mike Furner, a gardener at Lotusland who was hired by Madame Walska in the 1980s. The main wood came from a 130 year old Monterey cypress (Hesperocyparis macrocarpa) that was previously on the great lawn. The legs are rounds of eucalyptus.
Notable Species: Ananas comosus = Pineapple; Tillandsia usneoides = Spanish moss; Abranched pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii), Trithrinax brasiliensis palms, giant pony tail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata) border the garden.