Aechmea Ruiz & Pav.

Greek aichme – lance head, refers to the spiny points of the floral bracts and sepals.

Stemless epiphytes often with short runners. Leaves usually forming a funnel or tube although sometimes a dense rosette, usually spiny margined with a rounded tip terminating in a short spine. Leaves frequently cross-banded or spotted. Inflorescence well developed and either simple or branched. Floral bracts and sepals brightly coloured and sharply pointed. Petals not fused and usually with basal ligules. Ovary inferior. Fruit a fleshy, usually brightly coloured, berry.

Aechmea is an extremely variable genus that has been unclearly defined. Since 1979 a number of new genera e.g. Lymania, Ursulaea have been segregated. Aechmea is dealt with here in the broad sense. Streptocalyx has recently been included in Aechmea. Species belonging here are quite rare south of Sydney, however S. poeppigii (A. beeriana) or S. biflorus (A. biflora) may be encountered.

The following subgenera are recognised:

  • Podaechmea (Group 1)
  • Lamprococcus (Group 2)
  • Aechmea (Group 3)
  • Ortgiesia (Group 4)
  • Platyaechmea (Group 5)
  • Pothuava (Group 6)
  • Macrochordion (Group 7)
  • Chevaliera (Group 8)

By seed or offsets from the basal runners. Name pronounced Eek-me-a.

Approximately 170 species from C and S America and the W Indies, with a centre of distribution in Brazil.

Mostly as cultivated ornamentals however some yield fibre from the leaves for rope, twine etc.

Crossbanded or spotted leaves forming a funnel or tube, spiny margins; brightly coloured floral bracts and sepals; fleshy brightly coloured berry.

Keys: There is a key to the subgenera and keys for the subgenera. 

  • Podaechmea (Group 1) - Only two species in this group may be encountered due to the requirement for winter warmth – A. lueddemanniana and A. mexicana. These species are difficult todistinguish.
  • Lamprococcus (Group 2)
  • Aechmea (Group 3)
  • Ortgiesia (Group 4) - Plants in this group are very common in cultivation although many may be hybrids. Species of this group may also be grouped into four general categories: Triangular, stiff and erect leaves: piment-velosoi, recurvata

                                          Ligulate (strap-shaped) and leathery leaves: Inflorescence simple and dense: blumenavii, calyculata, comata, cylindrata

                                                                                                  Inflorescence simple and lax: apocalyptica, gamosepala, kertesziae

                                                                                                  Inflorescence branched at the base: candida, caudata, coelestis, gracilis, organensis, winkleri

  • Platyaechmea (Group 5)
  • Pothuava (Group 6)
  • Macrochordion (Group 7)
  • Chevaliera (Group 8) - This group contains large spiny plants which need winter heat to survive and are thus not popular in SE Australia.

Source: Christensen, T.; Butcher, D. (2005). Bromeliaceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 5. Flowering plants. Monocotyledons. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

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kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Lilianae
order      Poales
family       Bromeliaceae
Higher taxa
Subordinate taxa
species         Aechmea bracteata (Sw.) Griseb.
species         Aechmea bromeliifolia (Rudge) Baker
species         Aechmea calyculata (Morren) Baker
species         Aechmea chantinii (Carr.) Baker
species         Aechmea coelestis (Koch) Morren
species         Aechmea distichantha Lem.
species         Aechmea fasciata (Lindl.) Baker
species         Aechmea fulgens Brongn.
species         Aechmea gamosepala Wittm.
species         Aechmea gracilis Lindm.
species         Aechmea lueddemanniana (Koch) Brongn.
species         Aechmea miniata (Beer) Baker
species         Aechmea nudicaulis (L.) Griseb.
species         Aechmea orlandiana L.B.Sm.
species         Aechmea recurvata (Klotsch) L.B.Sm.
species         Aechmea victoriana L.B.Sm.