Queen Aechmea
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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


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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:

bromeliad

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

epiphyte

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

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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.

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Several Queen Aechmea epiphytes on an understory plant

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