After mentioning Billbergia x windii yesterday, I had to find some images for work and stumbled on some of another billbergia I have had for many years and that is also indestructible. I must have had it for at least 25 years and that is good going for a plant that has had t0 move with me. I don’t want to sound as though I don’t look after plants but this is one of those that really can survive neglect and bad treatment, though it will thank your for kind treatment. Like most billbergias it has relatively showy, short-lived flowers and unlike yesterday’s plant, this one had ‘normal-coloured’ flowers, in bright purple. I have not mentioned a name yet – that is a bit of an issue – but it may be derived from B. pyramidalis which has more-or-less upright flower clusters. And that would explain those one-sided, slightly zygomorphic flowers. You can just see a humming bird sipping from that upper flower and brushing pollen on its head.
So what is it? Well I have always known it as ‘Santa Barbara’ but a quick web search turns up some very different plants under that name. There is also a plant with the ugly name of ‘Foster’s Striate’ and this seems a likely identification – Mulford Foster lived in Orlando, Florida and bred many bromeliads in the 1940s and 50s. My plant is very variable and the leaves can be nicely striped with green and butter yellow. Very occasionally, plain green rosettes are produced but more often pure yellow rosettes form and I believe that these should be called ‘Gloria’.
It is a useful, unfussy and attractive plant that will be at home in most rooms but keep it away from net curtains – those hooks along the edge of the leaves will make mincemeat of them! If you live in frost-free climes then it should grow well outside.