fAechmea gamosepala

matchstick plant


Aechmea gamosepala

Wittm. 1891

pronounced: EEK-mee-uh gam-oh-SEP-uh-luh

(Bromeliaceae — the bromeliad family)

common names: matchstick plant, gamos bromeliad

Aechmea s derived from the Greek αιχμη (aichmé), the point of a spear; gamosepala is from the Greek γαμεω (gameo), to marry, and the French word sépale, coined by N.J. de Necker in 1790 based on two Greek words σκεπη (skepé), a covering, and πεταλον (petalon), a leaf
The Aechmea is a very diversified, hardy, extremely popular, and very easily cultivated bromeliad genus. The often very coloured and striking foliage is generally rather stiff, and forms vase-shaped rosettes to hold water. Some species have spines on their leaf edges for protection, and others feel almost smooth. They range in size from a tiny 15 cm to more than 3 m in height and 2 m in diameter. The colour of their foliage varies from lime greens, yellows, reds, burgundy to black, and incorporates many patterns, spots, stripes and bands. The foliage may be matt or shiny, and the colour of the underside of the leaf may be different from that of the top side. Some species have large multiple-bract inflorescences, while others are just single spikes. Some have vertical flower spikes, while others have long slender arching spikes, or even striking pendulous ones.

Aechmea gamosepala is an exotic-looking plant with a stunning flower spike that lasts well as a cut flower. It is very adaptable, tough, and easy to grow – a great beginner’s bromeliad as it is so hardy, and lacks the painful spikes that many species have.

This exotic tropical perennial from Venezuela and Brazil shoots out long spiked flowers of pinks, purples and light blues on top of its long green-leafed foliage. These are followed by round pink berries. The plant grows up to about 30 cm in height, needs partial to light shade, and is quite drought-resistant. It can be grown in containers, and even indoors.

It is best propagated from the offsets with attached roots that appear in the summer. These should be removed from the mother plant using a sharp knife. If the plant is kept inside, it should be misted with water at room temperature, and fed with a water-soluble fertilizer. To encourage blooming, the plant may be placed in a sealed bag with an apple for a few days. The plant should not be allowed to dry out, but should always have water in the cup of the plant.

There is a variegated Aechmea gamosepala, commonly known as ‘Lucky Stripes’. Its long, slender ribbon leaves are a rich green with margins from yellow to white on the edges.

Photographs taken 2009, Picnic Bay
Page last updated 29th September 2018