Yard Oddities in Old Northeast: Imperial Bromeliad

Photo by Rick Miller

They say gardening takes patience. Old Northeast resident Rick Miller knows a little about that. He emailed the Northeast Journal to tell us about the bromeliad growing in his yard. It’s called alcantarea imperialis, and the plant rewards growers with blooms stretching up to eight feet high. However, you might pay off a 30-year mortgage and never see the awesome display because this plant can take at least eight years – and sometimes up to four decades – to send up its tower of flower. The flower can last up to a year, but when the bloom is done, the show is over. 

Miller explained, “There is no next year for this one as it will die after flowering. The bright side is it should throw off one or two pups at the base before it goes and then I’ll start them anew. I’ll remove the shoots and plant them and start the cycle all over again.” 

Alcantarea imperialis, also known as the giant bromeliad or imperial bromeliad, is native to Brazil, so it’s no surprise that it likes the climate in St. Petersburg. Seasoned residents might know that a bromeliad is a “pitcher plant” that can hold plenty of water, and, if left untreated, can breed mosquitoes. The largest imperial bromeliads can catch and hold nearly eight gallons of rainwater. For a plant that takes so long to reproduce, it makes up for it with a stalk that can produce 400 to 600 flowers and 80,000 seeds. 

Check out this specimen located on the right of way on 2nd Street North between 9th and 10th Avenue. See it before it’s gone, lest we wait another generation for the next display. Thanks to Rick for sending this in. 

Do you have a weird plant you want to see in these pages? Email jkilewrites@gmail.com