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Plants: Gardens: Bromeliad Garden

When you look at all the fantastically shaped bromeliads next to the Hummingbird Aviary at the San Diego Zoo, it's hard to believe that they are close relatives of the pineapple. While pineapples are the most well-known bromeliad, their plants look a bit mundane compared to the Zoo's more fanciful specimens.


There are about 2,000 species of this rain forest plant, all of which are native to the Americas except one African species. Most bromeliads collect a pool of water in their centers and flower above the cup. Then when insects and small animals stop by for a dip, or to eat the microorganisms and larvae growing in the cup, the blossoms also dip and pollination occurs. As you might guess, the water in these cups can get quite fetid. While insects may not mind, people do, so gardeners must wash out the Zoo's bromeliads periodically.