Aechmea nudicaulis var. cuspidata

urn plant


Aechmea nudicaulis var. cuspidata

Baker 1879

pronounced: EEK-mee-uh noo-dee-CORE-liss variety kuss-pid-AH-tuh

(Bromeliaceae — the bromeliadfamily)

common name: urn plant

Aechmea is derived from the Greek αιχμη (aichmé), the point of a spear; nudicaulis is from the Latin nudus, naked, and the Greek καυλος (kaulos), the stem of a plant; cuspidata is Latin, pointed like a spear (again!).

The species is native to Central America, the West Indies, central and southern Mexico, and northern and central South America.

Four varieties are recognized:

  • var. aequalis, from Espirito Santo;
  • var. cuspidata, from Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela and Ecuador;
  • var. nordestina, from north-eastern Brazil; and
  • var. nudicaulis, from most of the species range.

There are also available quite a few cultivars derived from the species, both selected forms, and hybrids arising from crosses with other species.

These are epiphytes, naturally growing non-parasitically on another host such as a tree. However, they are usually sold in pots, and often planted in the ground, as are the plants photographed. Their root systems are quite small, and not really designed to hold the plants up, so those planted out will often droop with the weight of the inflorescence.

The foliage grows without a stem, the leaves forming a rosette shape at the centre of the plant. The plant takes in water through this rosette, which is often referred to as a tank. The plant has the ability to store water in this tank, and in houseplant or garden conditions it is important to keep some water in the tank, but it needs to be flushed out periodically, as water left to stagnate there can lead to bacterial infection and other problems. Nutrients are also taken in through the tank, in the form of dust, insects and particles of fallen vegetaion from other plants.

This plant does not have the spines on the leaf edges that many bromeliads have, but the edges can be quite sharp.

The plant prefers to grow in full sun or partial shade, and in soil of neutral acidity. It usually grows from 15 to 30 cm tall, when standing erect.

The inflorescence is a spike of yellow to cream flowers which contrast strikingly with the pink stalk from which they grow, and the reddish pink bracts at the base of the stalk. The flowers last only a few days, and give way to ovoid-shaped fruits that ripen to orange or red-brown in colour.

The Urn Plant is propagated from offsets, or from seed. Seed is produced prolifically, and the seedheads should be bagged when approaching maturity, in order to capture the seed. The seed is best germinated in a damp paper towel.

Photographed in Picnic Bay 2011
Page last updated 5th December 2019