Queen Aechmea
A Queen Aechmea at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica

Common name: Queen Aechmea, Queen Mary, Corpus

Latin name: Aechmea mariae-reginae

Family: Bromeliaceae

Range and abundance: Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Columbia, Venezuela

Coloration and morphology: grows up to 2.5 m tall and has no stem; roots are hard and wiry to attach to trees; leaves alternate in a dense spiral, forming a spreading rosette; flowers are white with a blue tip, grow about 1 cm long, and are densely crowded on a cylindrical spike atop a stalk covered with bright pink strap-shaped bracts

A Queen Aechmea on a tree in the rain forest at La Selva

Classification: angiosperm; monocot—seedlings have one cotyledon (seed-leaf)

Reproductive cycle: dioecious—male and female flowers are on different plants; blooms from September through May; fruit is dry and red with a white inside

Habitat: epiphyte in wet forest canopy

Ecology, Interactions with other species:


has sepal nectaries—nectar-producing tissues in the walls of the ovaries that attract insect, bird and bat pollinators; overlapping leaves trap pools of water, which attract a variety of organisms including small salamanders, tree frogs and spiders


found primarily on tree trunks and branches; is non-parasitic, deriving moisture and nutrients from the air, rain and accumulated debris

A Queen Aechmea on a canopy tree

Personal experience: During my trip to Costa Rica, I was able to see many Queen Aechmea plants growing on a variety of other plants throughout the rain forest—from the tall trees of the canopy layer to the much shorter plants of the understory. I was surprised to observe several growing on a single understory plant. The Queen Aechmea’s bright pink bracts made it easy to spot amid the forest’s predominantly green vegetation.

Several Queen Aechmea epiphytes on an understory plant

Gargiullo MB, Magnuson BL, Kimball LD. A field guide to the plants of Costa Rica. New York: Oxford Univ Pr; 2008. p. 288.