Fascicularia sp - Plant of the Month Sept 2011
The genus Fascicularia is a member of the Bromeliaceae family and comprises around five species, all coming from South American Chile, where it inhabits rocky places, sometimes being seen as an epiphyte. The plant in question is available in commerce from time to time and can appear as either Fascicularia sp or quite often as Fascicularia bicolor (see below). This image was taken in my Essex garden, where this plant has been growing for quite a while and has experience at least -7C or lower over the past two or three winters; there are many other reports that conclude that this plant can be thought of as hardy throughout the UK.
The most obvious feature of this plant occurs in late summer/early Autumn, just prior to the onset of flowering. The foliage which surrounds the pineapple-like highly compact sessile cluster of flowers takes on an intense bright carmine-red colouration - any pollinating insect would surely need sunglasses to approach it! The gardener also needs to take care, as the leaves are firm, sharply pointed and spiny-toothed which can make weeding in the close vacinity a somewhat painful experience.
The tubular three-petalled flowers occur in succession, starting from the outer ring of the rosette and working inwards, each lasting for only a few days.
From the image it can be clearly seen that the turquoise blue flowers are longer than the floral bracts; the bracts exceed the flowers in F. bicolor (The revision of the genus in the Plantsman hasn't helped in ID'ing this, which is why this is best left as 'sp' for now). Although the flowers are somewhat fleeting, the intense colouration of the foliage remains right through until the following spring, making this an exciting accent plant when used in the right place.
Propagation is fairly straight forward; rosettes can be detached, preferably with a small amount of root and placed into any favoured rooting medium where they should form new plants fairly rapidly.