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TAXONOMY (Science of classifying plants)

Closely related species are grouped into a genus.

Genus names are always in capitals eg Neoregelia. Species names always start with a lower case & are italicized eg Neoregelia carolinae. Hybrids are in capitals & single quotes eg Neoregelia ‘Purple Star’.


The bromeliad family of plants contains around 3590 well described species in 75 genera. As well there are thousands of hybrids, many registered as well as many unregistered. 


They are divided into 8 sub groups related to their genetic similarities:


Pitcairnioideae (pit-cairn-ee-oy-dee-ee): With a few exceptions, all of the members of this subfamily are either terrestrial (grow in the ground) or saxicolous (grow on or among rocks). Common to arid & high altitude regions, this family contains the most ancient bromeliads, more closely resembling its grassy relatives than the bromeliads in the other subfamilies.

Most have fleshy leaves with heavily spined edges & resemble Agave. Their blooms contain dry capsules with small, wingless seeds. Unlike most other bromeliads, this group has a developed root system to gather water & nutrients. Thus not all leaves grow in a cup formation to catch water as in the other subfamilies. Leaf trichomes (specialised cell groups which form scales on the leaves) are present but not as effective in gathering nutrients.

There are 5 genera in this subfamily which are: Deuterocohnia, Dyckia, Encholirium, Fosterella & Pitcairnia.


Tillandsioideae (til-land-see-oy-dee-ee): This group contains the greatest number of species (approx 1,277)  & accounts for about 40% of known bromeliads.

Most are epiphytic (plants that absorb water and nutrients from the air and rain) or lithophytic (grow on rocky or stony ground) & thus grow in trees or on rocks.

The trichomes occurring on Tillandsioideae may cover the plants so completely that they appear grey or white like ‘Spanish Moss’ (Tillandsia usneoides). In addition to absorbing water & nutrients, the trichomes may serve to insulate the plant from frosts.

Bromeliads in this group have smooth leaf edges, unusual colour & markings, with many producing fragrant flowers. All their leaves are spineless & their fruit is a dry capsule containing winged seeds which are usually dispersed by breezes. Feathery seed plumes help them to adhere to a suitable epiphytic surface for germination. This subfamily is probably the most evolved with special adaptations for survival in very dry conditions, with many described as xerophytes (plants adapted to living in a dry, arid habitat).

The genus Tillandsia is the largest in this subfamily accounting for approximately 600 of the species.

There are 22 genera in this group which are: Alcantarea, Catopsis, Cipuropsis, Glomeropitcairnia, Guzmania, Mezobromelia, Racinaea, Tillandsia, Vriesea, Werauhia, Barfussia, Goudaea, Gregbrownia, Jagrantia, Josemania, Lemeltonia, Lutheria, Pseudalcantarea, Stigmatodon, Wallisia, Waltillia & Zizkaea.


Bromelioideae (bro-meel-ee-oy-dee-ee): This subfamily is the most diverse & contains the most genera (38) but the least species (approx 1140). Most are epiphytes, though some have evolved in, or will adapt to terrestrial conditions.

They generally have spiny leaves & most grow to form a rosette with a water holding tank.

The 38 genera in this group are: Acanthostachys, Aechmea, Ananas, Androlepis, Araeococcus, Billbergia, Bromelia, Canistropsis, Canistrum, Cryptanthus, Deinacanthon, Disteganthus, Edmundoa, Eduandrea, Fascicularia, Fernseea, Greigia, Hohenbergia, Hohenbergiopsis, Karawata, Lymania, Neoglaziovia, Neoregelia, Nidularium, Ochagavia, Orthophytum, Portea, Pseudaechmea, Quesnelia, Ronnbergia, Ursulaea, Wittrockia, Wittmackia, Forzzaea, Hoplocryptanthus, Rokautskyia, Lapanthus & Sincoraea.


Brocchinioideae (bro-kin-ee-oy-dee-ee): There is one genus which is Brocchinia.


Lindmanioideae (lind- man- ee- oy-dee-ee): There are 2 genera in this subfamily which are Connellia & Lindmania.


Hechtioideae (hec-tee-oy-dee-ee): There is one genus which is Hechtia.


Navioideae (nav-ee-oy-dee-ee): There are 5 genera which are Brewcaria, Cottendorfia, Navia, Sequencia & Steyerbromelia.


Puyoideae (pu- yoy-dee -ee): There is one genus which is Puya.


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