Thursday, December 4, 2008

Aechmea 'Exotica Mystique'

Aechmea 'Exotica Mystique' is a very appropriate name for this cultivar. Out of several thousand seedlings of Aechmea lueddemanniana Rubra this dramatic hybrid arose. From an early age, it was different to the others, with much stronger growth and wide, well coloured leaves. Eventually it grew into a large plant more than a metre high and over a metre wide. At this stage I had no idea what it could be! At last a flower spike emerged, but this only confused things more. For the spike looked for all the world like Aechmea aquilega was the father, but as far as I knew in 1999 when the seed was set, I didn't have this species in my collection! The puzzle has never been solved.

Anyway, it is a magnificent plant and in high light the rich red leaves turn a deep maroon. The flower spike reaches over a metre high and has large stem bracts the colour of the plant. The flower clusters are arranged on the top half of the flower spike and consist of bright yellow waxy looking clumps, out of which the tiny orange petals appear. It is cold sensitive and doesn't cope with frosts. Full sun bleaches the colour out of the leaves, so best in strong but dappled light.

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