Bromeliads are perennial, flowering plants that belong to the pineapple family ... Bromeliaceae. Florida has 16 native species of bromeliads; all are epiphytes.

The seeds of epiphytic bromeliads are carried by wind, become lodged in crevices of trees, and begin to grow. As is true of all epiphytes, bromeliads attach their roots to the host plants for support only. They are not parasitic and get no food from the host.

A bromeliad traps water in the basal rosettes formed by its leaves. It absorbs nitrogen from the atmosphere and minerals from leaf, seed, twig, and insect debris that becomes trapped in its basal rosettes.

The bromeliads you will see along the Hammock Trail include several species in the genus Tillandsia. The photograph at right shows a blooming Tillandsia fasciculata (Stiff-leafed wild pine bromeliad). Although this photograph was taken at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, you will see individuals of this species growing on trees along the Hammock Trail.

Bromeliad rosettes provide habitat for mosquito larvae, other invertebrates, and small vertebrates. Consequently, bromeliads have many important ecological roles, including providing habitat and recycling nutrients.

Ten of the sixteen Florida native species of bromeliads are listed as threatened or endangered. The greatest threats are loss of habitat, illegal collecting from natural areas, and the Mexican bromeliad weevil (Metamasius callizona).

© Photographs and text by Susan Leach Snyder (Conservancy of Southwest Florida Volunteer).

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